I’m Done With Social Media

“Social media” is out. So is “microblogging.” No more “social bookmarking” either.

What am I talking about? Clear writing. Plain language.

I’m not pulling the plug on all this stuff. However, I am going to start to write about it in terms that the average person on the street can understand.

Out with the old, in with the new

Huh? What are you talking about?I often hear people say we should write so our grandparents can understand what we’re writing. Well, my grandad certainly wouldn’t have a clue about blogging, vlogging or unconferences.

So, next time I chat to someone about the stuff I’m up to, I won’t throw out the latest jargon that we’ve conjured up. I’ll use short, simple words to describe these complex ideas.

Will I dumb down the way I communicate? No. Far from it.

I’ll open up my conversations to people who don’t live in our little bubble and who don’t know our terminology, but who want to know about this stuff.

It’s not easy to cut out these words and phrases, but I guarantee to you that far more people will understand you.

This is the kind of thing that visitors to the Social Media Training Wiki need. Simple, direct language.

Here are a few simple starters:

  • Out: my blog
  • In: my website
  • Out: social media
  • In: online tools that let you have two-way conversations
  • Out: URL
  • In: website address
  • Out: RSS feed
  • In: website content you can subscribe to

What web jargon would you like to eliminate? What would you say instead?

(photo credit: ~k~)

  • Get out of here! You maniac!

  • Haha, it’s about time! Here’s mine:

    Link-baiting: Creating valuable content that others will want to save, share, or link to.

  • Bravo! Talking about what we do with average folks is what we need to be doing. Popping off buzzwords to everyone inside the bubble gets us nowhere in the short or long-term because without growing participation, our bubble bursts. Hat’s off to you for declaring to do what we all should.

    Besides, I hate the word “blog” anyway.

  • What I really hate is the word vlog. Can’t anyone come up with something better??

  • zoe

    can we also stop putting ‘2.0’ on the end of everything?

  • Hallelujah!

  • Problem is though, how far back do we go? I’m not at all sure my grandparents would have understood ‘my website’ either. If I regress too far back, I end up communicating in a language of gestures and grunts (more so than usual in fact). Also, we do need words to differentiate and get across unique concepts. A blog is *like* a website, agreed, but there are critical differences, such as the use of feeds to deliver content. If I were a doctor I’d imagine it would help patients if I referred to ‘that funny groovy bit between your mouse and your nose’ instead of a ‘philtrum’, but it would ultimately make for some extremely long-winded consultations. Having said which, I do applaud the cause. We do need to be clear – but clarity necessitates that we adapt language for the audience.

  • Out: Microblogging
    In: Clear, succinct writing

  • As communicators, we’re supposed to be able to tell stories jargon-free. However, as social media types, I agree that it’s a bit too easy to get caught up in the latest ping or tweet. Which is to say that those would be two of my entries.

    I think I’d also add ‘conversation’; a generally good word that’s slipping into overuse.

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  • Amen.

  • I’ve been, in part, doing this sort of thing for a while now. It’s refreshing and empowering to explain things in English rather than in this foreign language called Consultantese.

    But the extent to which these words are a problem depends on your audience – real or intended. If you’re trying to teach the uninitiated, “microblogging” and “RSS” aren’t your best choices. But if I’m having a conversation with Chris Brogan or Shel Holtz or Albert Maruggi, it’s not only true that I can get away with using these buzzwords, it’s probably more meaningful and accurate to use them.

    Additionally, if we’re calling “my blog” by the simpler “my Web site” – a change with which I wholly agree – let’s not refer to “social media” as “Web sites that allow for two-way communication.” Let’s simply say “good Web sites.”

  • Great ideas folks!

    Brendan – you’re right – it could result in long-winded consultations. I’d say two things to that. One – we can continue to use the terms when they’re really needed, but we should be sure to explain them first. The physician in your example could refer to ‘that funny groovy bit between your mouth and your nose, which is called the philtrum…” and then refer to it as the philtrum for the rest of the conversation – the person then knows what it is. Second, you’re right – you do need to adapt for the audience. Still, it doesn’t hurt to remove some of the jargon that we’re increasingly filling our posts with.

    Mike – another good point. You’re right about one-on-one conversations. The difference here is that in those you know you’re talking to someone who knows the terms. On my site, while I have a reasonable idea who’s reading, I also hope that people who aren’t familiar with this stuff come across it. I’d hate them to be disuaded because I lazily used a bunch of cliched terms.

    Great point about “social media” though!

  • While I agree, most of the planet doesn’t speak geek, and we need to find a way for others to easily understand what we’re saying, I don’t like the new terms to be wordy. Many of the terms we currently use a short and sweet, others may not understand just yet, but they will catch on.

  • I think this is a great point. After having followed web trends for the last couple of years, I notice I’ve gotten caught up in the lingo, which makes it hard to explain what on earth I’m working with. Considering most of our clients aren’t even remotely as wired as those of us that follow the a-listers out there, we really need to “nerd it down” a few notches.

  • I agree with you on “social media” and “RSS Feed” but the geek in me needs to disagree about URL as it is a term with a specific definition already.

    I hate the term “social bookmarking” too but we need some sort of term to define connectivity to services like Delicious.

    Actually we need terms for just about every little feature on a website, so that we can quickly explain and describe sites to people. Yes, it would be a lot easier to just call social media, “online tools that let you have two-way conversations”, but that seems even more vague to me than “social media”. A discussion forum is a way to have two-way conversations. So is a Shoutbox. Are they social media tools? I don’t know to be honest. But I know I will come across a lot clearer if I refer to tools by their specific types rather than being vague.

  • “The X space”. The software space, the steganography space, blah-de-blah.

    You’re not in a space. You’re in a market, a sector, a something, but not a space. Drives me barking mad.

  • Right on. I agree that we are not speaking clearly nor encouraging frank and open dialogue, especially for those who are familiar with what is being spoken about.

    I think the quote, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” is pretty appropriate relative to the topic.

    However, we also have to be aware of the fact that sometimes as much as we hate some of the terms that we are using (and I am with you on your list), in the name of clear communication we need to call things what they are. Take the term vlog (a term I could live without), if we brake it into it’s constituent parts we have video blog, still not simple or explanatory enough because it has the term blog in it. We could use your suggested replacement for blog: website. But all we end up with is video website which, while simple, tends to overlook the intricacies and true meaning of what a vlog is.

    Perhaps it’s a matter of slowing down and spending the time necessary to actually explain what it is we are talking about. The whole purpose of social media (don’t like that name either) is to empower people to have a voice and give them a way to express it. Since the premise is based on the concept of participation and conversation, maybe we need to actually slow down long enough to say what we actually mean and ensure understanding instead of trying to say what we mean as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    So if I were referring to my vlog in terms that my parents or grandparents would understand I’d probably have to revert to using a definition as opposed to a term: video-based journals posted online.

    As for me, I want to see Web 2.0 (and any 2.0 term) go bye-bye.

  • Interesting topic, Dave.

    As others have noted, the level of jargon used defines the audience (or more accurately alienates those who aren’t in on the lexicon).

    If your goal is to be inclusive and bring those who aren’t in the using-websites-for-self-expression fold, then yes, simple language is key.

    However, if you are appealing to the echo-chamber crowd and looking to further existing concepts or otherwise “talk geek”, then liberal use of social media jargon is actually a good thing, since it alienates those who likely wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    Jargon can be a serious barrier when overused, but when used appropriately can make a point much faster and more precisely than a lowest common denominator description.

    So what is your goal, to be populist and understood by the maximum number of people or to be academic and appeal to those with the most knowledge?

    One Warning: Taken too far, you end up with copy that talks down to your audience, like most ads do.

  • You could be on to something with this clarity thing. Getting buy-in from bosses and clients is tough when there’s too much threatening lingo to learn. Using the web and online conversation tools sounds far more pragmatic and do-able.

    See you this weekend at the sound-on-the-web gathering (formerly known as Podcamp Toronto).

  • USERS is my favourite! Why, oh why, do so many smart people still use a label that suggests we’re pimping our audience drugs? Aren’t they just PEOPLE like you and me? lol

    CONTENT is not far behind…

    “We need more content!”

    What kind?

    “User generated!!!”

    barf…

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  • Sorry, I’m late to this post (courtesy of http://twitter.com/zenaweist/statuses/764546249).

    Doesn’t it ultimately depend on your audience as to how you communicate?

    Why be wordy and say “online tools that let you have two-way conversations” when “social media” will suffice?

    If your audience understands social media, say (or type) it. If it’s a broad audience, then why not educate them a bit and say social media, which are “online tools that let you have two-way conversations.”

    I’m all for plain language, but the ultimate goal is to communicate clearly and, often, concisely.

    And, how you do that depends on your audience.
    Mike

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  • Ike

    You’re my brother from another mother!

    That’s exactly why I announced that I was no longer “a blogger.”

  • c

    Microblogging only works when thoughts are clear, concise and coherent. The problem isn’t microblogging. The problems are authors inability to cut to the essence of points / data.

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  • I agree with a lot of it. I don’t use URL, I use URI – but I use ‘address’ when talking to non-technical people. I want to consign the phrase ‘social graph’ to the dustbin – it’s stupid and pointless and doesn’t describe anything useful that ‘social network data’ doesn’t, but allows a lot of so-called ‘social media experts’ and so on to prattle on pointlessly.

  • I like what you have said, it’s taken me sometime to understand the same thing gotta make it so anyone can understand.

    Thanks,

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