At first it's just one buzzword here and there. But soon, whole groups worm their way into your messaging and campaigns.
"Data visualization doesn't sound so bad," you might find yourself saying. "What's the problem?"
And then someone will throw "enterprise data visualization to optimize the ripple effect and hyper-connectivity of your key influencers" into an article.
That's the danger of letting industry buzzwords run rampant.
Here are 10 words or phrases industry pros have used once too often. They can be unhelpful, unrealistic, irritating, confusing and vague. Can we all please cut back on using them?
Whoa, slow down! Did I say "mobile"? "Mobile" is a great buzzword—everybody and their dogs are on mobile these days.
"Mobile" means we can reach consumers whether they're at home on their couches or on the sidewalk looking for a restaurant. "Mobile" is where we have to shrink our ads and forfeit our click-through metrics. "Mobile" puts the "Mo" in SoLoMo (social-local-mobile).
The problem with "mobile" is that it's restrictive; you automatically think of a smartphone, tablet, or mini tablet. Trying to sum up and address all of those in one word might cause you to cut your efforts short.
A more flexible and accurate alternative for addressing "mobile" efforts is "multi-screen." There's definitely a time and place to use "mobile," but not as frequently as we use it now.
We've optimized everything from advertising campaigns to waffles. According to Merriam-Webster, "optimize" means "to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible."
Wait a second. All of that other work we've been doing hasn't been to make things as functional as possible? Non-optimized campaigns haven't been pulling their weight? We've made non-optimized waffles with a less-than-perfect syrup-to-butter ratio?
Face it: "Optimize" is burnt out. Give it a break, or someone might decide that everything you haven't called "optimized" isn't as effective as possible.
3. Game changer
I admit this article might be a real game changer, but please stop using this term for every update, release, startup, feature and cat meme that comes across your desk. (Though I must admit, Grumpy Cat was a game changer.)
If we don't reserve this buzzword for actual game-changing innovations, Grumpy Cat is just one in a sea of equally amusing cat memes.
4. Digital ecosystem
I get it. We need a term to distinguish all those things we do online in the digital ecosystem from … the non-digital ecosystem? The outernet, maybe?
But the term "digital ecosystem" has a more substantial meaning than what many so often use it for. For example, it's a helpful term when you define specific online communities or processes, such as the "Twitter ecosystem."
Go ahead. Say "digital ecosystem" when you mean it. But make sure you attach a meaning to your usage. And stop tossing it around when all you really want to say is "online."
5. [Insert noun] marketing
Tablet marketing, mobile marketing, Facebook marketing, app marketing.
Where do we draw the line? Mini-tablet marketing?
While it's sometimes helpful to note distinct efforts or platforms (see "mobile"), we don't need a special marketing term for each screen or platform we operate on. It's a slippery slope that ends with you writing a mile-long list just to say "marketing."
Unless you think society is going to abandon its devices and online connections en masse, "hyper-connectivity" is a worthless concept for digital marketers. It describes current and future audiences that every business needs to learn to target and communicate with.
Primarily because of this sheer inevitability, we need to get over this term and move forward. We can't address "hyper-connectivity," but we can address changing online behaviors and decision-making patterns. Being connected is not the future; it's the present.
7. Data visualization
This is one of those buzzwords that we need to re-appropriate. While it means a visual display that communicates information clearly and effectively, it's come to be more synonymous with "infographic." Yes, "infographic" and "data visualization" go hand-in-hand, but they're not synonymous.
Yes, Apple does some cool stuff. But as recent patent battles have demonstrated, it doesn't have claim to everything hip and innovative. Do we really need an entire adjective to blame other companies for mimicking Apple? This really speaks to the industry's penchant for setting Apple apart from the standards it applies to everyone else, and for believing Apple did everything first. (It didn't.)
Apple has often successfully combined features into something innovative and progressively useful, but the problem with buzzwords like this is that they're part of an innovation-stifling culture. Apple wouldn't be the Apple we love today without some borrowing and tinkering along the way, and we shouldn't punish other companies trying to improve existing products or processes by labeling them "Apple-like," and therefore copycats.
9. Social media guru
"Master ninja keeper of the social media secrets," "whale tamer of Twitter," "the pin master," and "filtered photo virtuoso" also fit into this category.
No, you don't want to label yourself "social media butterfingers" on your LinkedIn profile, but these unconventional titles have been repeated far too often to retain originality. And many of them have little to no meaning, which in any other industry would be unacceptable. ("What did you say your job title is? I'm sorry, we're not hiring for a plastic surgeon grand master.")
A little shameless self-mockery and true originality are always welcome. Just don't use your job title or Twitter handle as an opportunity to be as unique as everyone else.
10. Low-hanging fruit
This term was such a low-hanging fruit I couldn't leave it off the list.
It's annoying, overused, and sells some of your best efforts short. It's an acceptable way of saying something is so obvious and easy that it requires almost no thought or effort. Is that really what you want to say? That you're going after the easiest—not the ideal—target?
To be fair, all of the terms on this list mean something and can be useful—if you use them appropriately. But they go from conveying industry-specific knowledge to worthless buzzwords when we overuse or throw them around as easy alternatives to solid explanations.
What buzzwords do you think are overused, vague, or utterly worthless?
Kaitlin Carpenter is a marketing associate at Carousel30. A version of this article originally appeared on iMediaConnection.