When it comes to social media, 2013 was a pretty watershed year for brands and platforms alike.

Oreo won widespread praise for the way it took advantage of the power outage at the Super Bowl with its “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet; Google’s nascent Google+ platform broke the 500 million user barrier; and social channels continued to play key roles in political uprisings, as witnessed in Brazil this past summer.

However, with all the positive steps of a maturing social media comes an inevitable byproduct: overhyped buzzwords. From prefixing (and suffixing) the word marketing, to feel-good soundbites that had little real-business benefits behind them, 2013 will be remembered as the year that social media became home to some of the most annoying and overhyped buzzwords online.

Here are the top five as crowdsourced from across the Web.

1. ‘Lessons Learned From’ Blog Posts

Whenever there’s a crisis on social media channels—or an offline crisis that’s amplified via social media—you can pretty much guarantee that within 24 hours there will be a batch of blog posts published with titles such as, “What Crisis X Can Teach Us About Business” or “Lessons Learned from the Brand X Social Media Crisis.”

While some of these posts may offer value, many are simply jumping on the bandwagon to drive traffic to their blogs, without actually offering any deep or insightful lessons. This has led to a strong feeling of apathy and sarcasm directed toward the authors of these posts.

“Everything is not a lesson, especially natural disasters, terrorist threats, and anything that happens to a bunch of people at once. Stop exploiting tragedy for profit.” Tinu Abayomi-Paul, chief visibility officer at Leveraged Promotion

2. Everything Is Dead!

You’ve probably heard the conversations online: SEO is dead. Print is dead. Advertising is dead. PR is dead. Email is dead. And so on. It’s almost impossible to browse your Twitter feed or Google+ stream and not come across a blog post or update with one of these statements being made.

And yet, here we are. SEO is still here; print still has its audience; advertising continues to profit; PR is still a core part of any brand’s strategy; and email continues to lead the way as the preferred communication channel for business. Despite the naysayers—or perhaps, in spite of them—it would appear the demise they write of hasn’t quite happened.

“We need to stop implying that a certain practice is dead. Nothing really dies, it either adapts or recycles. The adoption curve goes from innovators to laggards and all need something at different stages.” —Ann Marie van den Hurk, principal at Mind the Gap PR

3. Go Viral

Perhaps it’s no surprise that brands want a viral hit, whether that’s a YouTube video that gets millions of views, or a piece of content that gets shared across every channel. After all, if you can come up with the next Old Spice Guy sensation, everyone can retire.

The problem is, the allure of viral—mass uptake by your target audience and those not yet aware of your brand—is the very thing that’s made viral overhyped, and hurts your chances for success.

“The allure of going viral is ultimately a distraction for brands because it focuses on marketing to the crowd. When you chase an elusive crowd you have no connection to in the hope of going viral, you’re setting your business up for failure. Viral campaigns tend to be one-offs with limited shelf life, and quickly fizzle out.” —Allyson Kapin, founding partner at RAD Campaign

4. Social Business

One of the most overhyped and overused social media buzzwords in 2013 was the term “social business.” A complete industry seemed to appear overnight, with agencies and consultants offering multiple definitions—a business that places equal value on employees as it does stakeholders; the culture, connections and participation of a brand; and being part of a “collaborative economy.”

However, this merely diluted the definition of what it means to be a true social business—one that is created and designed to address a societal problem, and is a non-dividend company where profits are reinvested in the business or used to start another one with the aim of increasing social impact. That’s a far cry from the corporate definition being touted in 2013.

“A hijacked phrase, and nobody can agree on the definition of the new version.” —Doug Haslam, senior account director at Scratch Marketing

5. Brand Storytelling

People like stories. From early cavemen sitting around a fire to the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, stories have the power to captivate audiences and keep them lost in that moment. It’s into this arena that brands have started to promote their own history and goals through the medium of storytelling. At least that’s their attempted goal.

The problem is, storytelling needs that emotional impact to truly connect. And many brands who are now telling their stories miss that key tenet, and instead of captivating an audience, drive it away through clearly forced and weak attempts to connect.

“Storytelling is a true art, an essence that’s hard to capture. You can’t expect others to see it or feel it unless you deliver it properly. When we try to market through storytelling, I don’t think many know what that really means—storytelling is not interchangeable with copywriting.” — Julie Pippert, founder and director at Artful Media Group

Saturation Before Maturation?

When polling for this article, there were many other popular phrases that people consider overhyped: Web 3.0, content marketing, influence marketing—pretty much anything marketing that wasn’t simply marketing—big data and more.

While social media matures as a business solution as well as a societal one, it continues to go through growing pains. Overcoming overhyped buzzwords is clearly going to be one of those pains.

How about you – what buzzwords got your gander in 2013? Share them below!

A version of this post originally appeared on OPENForum.

Sign up for free weekly content

Enter your first name and email below to get my free weekly newsletter with the latest posts, recommended reading, content tips and more.

(I respect your privacy and will never spam you)

Blog consulting with Danny Brown

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. says

    Yes, please! My one tweak / disagreement, I actually like brand storytelling, can we instead just say goodbye to brand storytelling by marketers? IMHO marketers are rarely amazing storytellers, but some brands are engaging journos/writers and design creatives to help tell engaging/inspiring stories.

  2. wbsmith200 says

    KevinGonsalves DannyBrown Actually the whole list of social media buzzwords have to be killed, preferably with fire. #jargon #annoying

  3. says

    What is lessons learned are meaningful and not taking advantage of a crisis or tragedy? I’ve what I learned from a homeless man, what I learned from playing arcade games as a kid, and what I’ve learned from high school. All personal, all candid and all tied to a valuable business lesson. 
    If the real ask was not for every blogger to jump on a timely piece by associating the event in the title, then I agree and commend you for not posting this around the new year! 😉

  4. wbsmith200 says

    KevinGonsalves DannyBrown I dare you to reply back to someone using social media jargon, “Do you speak english?” #pulpfiction

  5. says

    tamcdonald  That’s a fair point, mate. I learn every day from my kids – bless innocence and wonder-filled minds, can teach us adults a thing or two, for sure.
    But yes, primarily on about all the newsjackers that always fail to live up to the title of the post. :)

  6. says

    JoeCardillo  Hmm, I’ll have to disagree with you on the “rarely amazing storytellers”. Whenever a great launch happens, or a brand is taken to the heart of its customers, it’s more often than not through the marketing effort (initially), coupled with the user experience effort (customer service, for example). While not “storytelling” necessarily, that does mean engagement (of both mind and hearts).
    Perhaps we can settle for “brands that hire the wrong people to tell their story”?

  7. RichBecker says

    SteveS1 Context matters Steve. Sure, lessons can be learned but not from media consumer drawing conclusions from tragedy. DannyBrown

  8. SteveS1 says

    RichBecker Indubitably. There are many “lessons learned” posts based on actual lessons from teachable events. DannyBrown

  9. says

    Not sure what street you dragged these commentators off…but my guess it was a seedy alley way in a barrio in a place no one ever dares to go… I mean WomenWhoTech lures innocent women from the noble life of stay at home mom into wealthy indentured corporate servants creating the next great tech platforms….. tinupeddles imitation hermes scarfs to unsuspecting tourists… doughsits in seedy bars drinking coors light while playing Keno until all hours…. amvandenhurkswaps corp logos just to great PR fiascos…..and the worst of the bunch jpippertruns a gambling den where big losers often are never seen again.

    Aside from that as you probably know I love all 5 to be killed especially social business. I will add number 6… The Agency of the Future.

  10. mdyoder says

    kamichat  @DannyBrown “Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…” Dan Ariely, Duke University. I think it pretty much says it all. :)

  11. says

    Danny Brown tamcdonald  That’s a good point! I’ve written “lessons” posts before, one recently about what a garage sale taught me about marketing. There are valuable lessons (which I think is the consensus of most people here), but I’m with you – tragedies, deaths, disasters, etc., shouldn’t be used for marketing lessons. It’s a cheap attempt at newsjacking (ahem, buzzword…), and should be put to rest (but wouldn’t that mean “newsjacking is dead?”) :)

  12. remarkmarketing says

    If I hear one more knucklehead state “Content is King” I will go insane.  Also, the me-too blogjacks ranking the “most influential marketers” when the list is full of trade show speakers and not people who actually do anything.  

    Whew. I feel better now.


  13. says

    Craig McBreen  Consider yourself on the sheep blacklist! 😉
    The thing is, some brands can tell great stories (look at JoeCardillo ‘s example below). But that doesn’t mean every single brand needs to tell stories to market their business – yet the advice out there is to do exactly that. Grr…

  14. says

    remarkmarketing  You mean like the usual crappy lists on Forbes and Huffington Post? :)
    Yeah, good addition with the content is king example, mate – because I suppose strategy and execution are just the jesters dovetailing from the content producers, right? 😉

  15. says

    Howie Goldfarb “Agency of the future” – great addition, mate. Because, yes, no-one is interested in results today… WomenWhoTech tinu dough amvandenhurk jpippert

  16. says

    Hey Danny Brown thanks for including my nitpicking in this list. I’ve made a vow not to read any “BS we can learn from this sad thing that happened” post until they get vetted by another trusted party. It’s that or stop reading them altogether. Sometimes they are really great Most of the time they are marketing pablum.

  17. says

    Danny Brown Craig McBreenJoeCardillothere once was a Scotsman from Kazoo. In the wind his kilt blew. He ran quickly inside a house. And drank his Famous Grouse. And penned a Social Media Haiku. The end.

  18. says

    Tinu Hey there miss, thanks for contributing your smarts, and agree – we only encourage crap by giving it a reason to “live” (i.e., traffic and eyeballs). Hopefully linkbait and dramatic titles that have little to do with the actual content will become a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

  19. says

    Hey Danny,Thanks for this nice post. The idea of going viral
    drives me crazy, and the quote you included pretty much said exactly
    what I was thinking, but much more eloquently :) Anyway, I wanted to let you know
    that I included your post in my roundup of February’s best social
    media, SEO, and content marketing articles.
    Keep up the good work. Cheers!

  20. says

    Daniel Page  Hey there Daniel,
    Cheers for the inclusion, and yes, the viral promise is enough to send anyone crazy, except the shills pushing it, that is. 😉

  21. kesbutters says

    BoKnowsMarkting Great piece and agree with it all, especially ‘everything is dead!’, storytelling and social business – well put! Thanks :)