No, your customers do not know what you mean

I saw this terrific info on Google + from my long-time Twitter friend Steven, and I just had to get permission to share it here. –Becky 

Social Media Marketing Tip: Define Your Terminology

By Steven E. Streight

How often have you seen a post like “Our annual Founders Day Beacon Quest will be held on June 5. Sign up now.” ?

Special event ahead
Could you be a little
more specific?

Are you assuming that everybody knows what Beacon Quest is? Is it a formal affair? A festive occasion? Is there music or food involved? Is it a family activity? Does it cost anything to participate? Is it public or for members only?

Or how about this: “We just received a fresh shipment of lychee, rambutan, and mangosteen. Supplies are limited. Get yours today.”

Even one sentence explaining how these are sweet Asian specialty fruit would be helpful and could spark a lot more interest — and probably more sales. (Link to some good online recipes or preparation tips too).

Including a description on an item, a link to more information, or a Wikipedia article on the subject, could also be a good idea.

Often when a business participates in social media, they make the mistake of speaking in terms customers can’t understand. Words and phrases are tossed around, with no definition, and customers may miss an important message or idea you wanted to convey.

For example, in the computer security realm we speak of DDoS, password sniffing, botnets, Trojans, social engineering, backdoors, buffer overflows, dictionary attacks, keystroke loggers, and phishing.

Phrases we use daily could be entirely alien and mysterious to our audience. We can still use them, but not in a stand alone manner. We should attempt to provide a brief definition and possibly an analogy from a more familiar realm.

“A keystroke logger is malware (malicious software) that acts like a spy who watches everything you type on your computer keyboard, in order to steal your passwords and possibly commit identity theft…”

“An algorithm is a set of instructions for obtaining a desired result or initiating a specific action…”

It’s good to use special words, to show your expertise, or to speak with technical accuracy — but it won’t have much impact on customers if you don’t explain what they mean.

You cannot assume that your entire audience comprehends your terminology. It’s better to clarify what a special word or phrase means, so everybody can make sense of what you’re saying.

This way, you accomplish two goals at once. You speak on the higher level of the advanced customers and peers, while you educate the less trained customers and help them grasp what you’re communicating.

For example, I often use the term SEO (search engine optimization) — always giving the words that the letters SEO stand for — and I will also say “methods for driving traffic to a website” to help people understand more precisely what SEO means.

Keep this technique in mind as your business engages in social media. Sometimes all it takes is a parenthetical description or a sentence or two. But that little bit of extra effort will help your social media communications be far more interesting and effective.

The more your customers understand, the more they may buy.

Steven Streight is a web content developer and social media strategist. He’s been blogging about blogging since May 2005. Formerly known as Vaspers the Grate. His blog is

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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