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Every Tuesday we share a few social media vocabulary words from the social media and digital marketing world. This week we’ve decided to switch things up a bit and specifically share a few phrases and ideas that brands should not use. Of course employing any of the following phrases depends heavily on your brand voice: generally speaking these should not be a part of your brand’s social content strategy. Please note that this story mentions #WhyIStayed, which was a Twitter campaign started by domestic abuse survivors.

Reach out: “reaching out” is a phrase commonly used by recruiters and (often proactive) customer service teams. While it’s still perfectly acceptable to use between colleagues, it can come off as borderline formal for engaging on social.

When to use it:

  • Corporate communications between professionals in a professional setting.

Example: “Hi [Potential job candidate on LinkedIn], I just wanted to reach out to see if you’re still looking for consulting opportunities?”

When not to use it:

  • During most interactions with your audience on social, unless your brand voice is somewhat formal.

Example: “@techuser Hi Bob, we @techco just wanted to reach out to see how everything is going with your new Phone Gadget+?”

Better: “@techuser Hi Bob, we saw that you recently picked up the @techco Phone Gadget+. How are things going with you two so far?

LOL & lol: we get it: you literally laughed out loud. Or maybe you’re trying to strongly (read: egregiously) imply that you wrote something in jest. If your copy is on point you shouldn’t need to indicate that something is funny. This also includes LMAO, LMFAO, ROTFLMAO (RIP AIM), ROFLCOPTER, and all other variations. If you want to indicate that you found something amusing, consider using “hah” or some similar variation.

When to use it:

  • Communications between friends and family.
  • 2009.

When not to use it:

  • Almost any professional communication.

Slide into my/our/your DMs: we’ve already written about this phrase, and while it’s still in common usage, most brands ought to avoid using it unless your brand voice is very casual, sassy, or regularly employs innuendo.

When to use it:

  • Between friends, family, or romantic partners.
  • When you’re being overtly playful (and maybe covertly sexual).
  • If your brand voice is generally playful.

When not to use it:

  • Pretty much any other time.

Viral: viral is a description that is granted to popular content after it becomes popular. What becomes viral is dictated by the audience through sharing. In other words don’t describe something as viral unless it has already gone viral. If you tell your marketing team to create a “viral video,” you’re doing it wrong. Of course you want your content to go viral, and a sound strategy and marketing plan will increase the odds that your content will go viral. Remember: “viral” is not a marketing tactic.

When to use it:

  • After content has gone viral.
  • When describing an infectious disease caused by a virus.

When not to use it:

  • As a goal post-metric for measuring your content’s success.

AF: you likely already know what this abbreviation indicates, so unless your brand is incredibly casual and kinda edgy (like, edgy AF?), you should definitely avoid using this on your brand’s social.

When to use it:

  • Between friends, family, and in other casual settings.
  • If your brand voice is edgy or a little salty.

When not to use it:

  • When engaging from your brand’s social accounts.

Memes: the internet is a fantastic mess, and there are a lot of ways to become part of a conversation and connect with your target audience. Some marketers choose to capitalize on what’s already out there, specifically trending memes and hashtags. This doesn’t always go well, so if you use a meme research it thoroughly beforehand. There are several examples of brands erroneously using a hashtag or meme before properly understanding it. The internet doesn’t forget, and there are plenty of sites documenting these failures: you don’t want your brand on one of those lists.

When to use it:

  • After you have thoroughly vetted the meme or hashtag you intend to use through multiple sources, including Twitter, Instagram, Know Your Meme.com, and maybe even Urban Dictionary.com  
  • You’re part of an ingroup
    • Speaking to the same ingroup, on behalf of that ingroup, or in support of that ingroup
    • Using a hashtag or meme created by that ingroup.

Example: Domestic abuse victims used #WhyIStayed to share stories of why they remained in abusive relationships. If your brand were demonstrating support for domestic abuse victims, it may be appropriate for your brand to tactfully publish content using #WhyIStayed.

When not to use it:

  • Before doing your research and understanding the origin of the trend.
  • You’re not a part of the ingroup or subculture that created the meme or hashtag.

Example: Back to #WhyIStayed, DiGiorno Pizza used the hashtag to promote pizza with seemingly zero knowledge or concern for #WhyIStayed’s importance to domestic abuse victims. Because DiGiorno did not have a connection to the movement, they were lambasted by the internet for appropriating the hashtag.

Is your brand guilty of using any of these? Agree or disagree with our list? Jump into the comments and let us know. Hopefully the list doesn’t ruffle too many feathers, LOL.