Social Media Professionals, Stop Using Big Words!

social mediaSocial Media Professionals, Stop Using Big Words!

Seriously. Stop it.

I know this is easier said than done because it feels good to use big words. You have worked your entire life developing an extensive vocabulary. You have gone through school and college honing your craft and now you are a communication professional. Using big words is how people can tell that you’re intelligent. They don’t need to see a degree or search online for your blog to realize you know your way around the English language when you use complex words. Not only have you earned the right to use big words by paying college tuition and spending your entire life practicing writing, but some big words just feel nice rolling off of the tongue. Believe me, I do sympathize with you. As tempting as it is, however, once you log into Twitter or Facebook as a “professional,” you have to cut it out.


Social media plays by different rules.

Here is why you need to play by them too:

You are trying to make friends

Don’t forget about the “social” aspect of social media. People connect to companies and organizations on social media because they want human interaction. If they wanted to read information and technical jargon, they would go to the company website. You are using social media to help your company bond with its consumers on a deeper level. People who go to a restaurant once and enjoy the taste will go back. What if a competitor opens up shop closer and the food is nearly the same quality? What is the incentive to drive further for a similar product? Now picture that the first restaurant has made an effort to make genuine and meaningful interactions with that consumer. That consumer will see that restaurant as her restaurant, her FRIEND. She will feel an emotional attachment to that restaurant. That brand loyalty will transcend that extra distance she has to drive. Isn’t that the goal?

But how do you make friends as a company?

Easy. You talk to people like they are your friends in real life. Picture having a conversation with your family. Do you use big words when you talk to your mother or sibling? Think about the vocabulary you use when you discuss the weather with a stranger at the bank or your local sports team with your friends. Those are the words you should be using. Treat your social media fans like friends and they will become friends. That is a pretty basic concept, but not everyone does it. People think it seems more professional to open a thesaurus and throw everything except the kitchen sink at their fans.

People don’t go on social media platforms to feel stupid

Social media is very tough for marketers to figure out. The truth is that there are millions of profiles across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and the other platforms. People only have so much time in a day, so there is a finite amount of profiles each person can keep up with. It truly is tough to make people care about your company enough to where they will follow your activity and want to respond to your messages. You cannot afford to push them away because they will not come back.

Fun fact: Insulting your followers’ intelligence pushes them away.

Many consumers didn’t go to college. Many consumers don’t claim to be the smartest people on the planet and are just hard-working people trying to provide for their families. The average consumer wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting down to with a snobby bookworm who forces his intelligence and worldliness down your throat every sentence.

Don’t be that person!

People don’t want to have to go to just to understand what you’re trying to tell them. They also don’t want to be in a position where they have to feel embarrassed because they think they are the only ones who don’t know a word. Maybe some people could figure out some of your big words with the context of the words around it. Maybe some people don’t want to. This isn’t a reading comprehension class. People are going on social media platforms for entertainment. They are interacting with their favorite brands and organizations because they want to. They’re not being paid. Remember that. Make them feel welcome and make them want to stay. Making them feel inferior with complicated words is the wrong method of communication, even if you aren’t meaning to do it.

You want to have your message received the way you intended

This one seems like common sense, but this is probably the biggest oversight social media professionals make.

If the rest of this article showed you anything, it is that it’s tough to get consumers interested in your social media profile and even harder to get them to stay. It takes a huge amount of work to get someone in the exact position where they can read your post that will inform them about something very important to your company.

Why would you then blow it by writing it in a way they can’t understand it?

Seriously, that’s like fishing for hours, then as soon you finally get a fish on the line, you just pull out some scissors and cut the line. Normal people don’t care about your industry’s jargon and they don’t want to know it. In the medical field, there are probably over a thousand different words for diseases, syndromes and medical tools. We never have to hear them. Can you imagine how many words chemists have that we have never even heard? How would you like it if you had to interact with your favorite candy bar brand through a jargon-using chemist? I wouldn’t and I don’t think you would either. Don’t put your audience in that position.

Social media is interesting in the fact that you could spend every second of every day and hypothetically never gain an ounce of influence. Yet, at the same time, someone else could spend 30 minutes per day and become an industry influence leader. Some of that is “right place, right time” but it is also controllable in some senses. Part of controlling that is keeping the fans you get. If you’re interacting with normal people, talk to them like you’re a normal person. It’s as easy as that. Talk about ROI, SEO and influence analytics at the social media conventions. Be a social human being on your social media profile.

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  1. Well that was empowering.

    You know, there was an age (and there have been regimes) when certain individuals were accosted for being gifted, for excelling among their peers, for studying in an environment where it was socially undesirable. Girls and boys had to hide their talents, had to suppress it.

    Now, we’re advised to “talk to people like they’re my friends in real life”? You don’t know my friends in real life: what you mean to say is “dumb it down”. I thought ProjectEve stood for something more uplifting, something to strive for.

    I contribute articles online frequently, so I’m well-acquainted with the concept of writing for one’s target audience. I get it. But it’s also fair to ask your readers to rise up to the occasion: they may surprise you. The real insult of intelligence is how little faith you place in your audience. Try a “big word” every now and again.

    Stephen D. Forman

  2. For the purposes of clarity, how would you define a “big” word? One with multiple syllables? Something above the reading skill of a 6th grader? I am appalled. Frankly, I talk to family and friends with the same “big” words I use at work. So far, no one has complained. That’s not to say that I always have conversations that sound like an annual report, but I take full advantage of the richness of the English language to express myself.

    It is a slippery slope to “dumb down” communications to the lowest common denominator; what happens when the audience needs to “smarten up?” This is not unlike what I have witnessed with table manners; if you don’t have the kids practice them at home, they won’t remember to use them when they are in public.

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