Sunday, August 2, 2015

Acronyms Gone Wild (AGW)

OK folks -- this has got to stop somewhere. Some of us in marketing need to step back and review what acronyms are supposed to accomplish.

There is reason for using acronyms -- judiciously -- in technical fields where terminology is difficult or lengthy and will appear in a document often. A three-letter acronym is a considerable saving of space over a 25-letter subject phrase in a page-limited government proposal, where engineering style dictates that the subject be repeated at least several times on each page. 

Where acronyms do not need to be is where there is no complexity and no space limitation; where the intent is purely to try to give a technical flavor to something that ain’t.

“Content marketing” is filled with examples of that already:     you see CX and UX and CTA for the perfectly pronounceable and un-technical “customer experience,”  “ user experience,” and “call to action.” 

(Those “experiences” are an odd concept to begin with; often they posit a relationship to a company before the individual has bought the company's product. But wouldn’t it seem the customer's experience (the CX) happens only after he or she finds whether the product works or it doesn't and the customer service department is helpful or isn't? But that would be logic, not Content Marketing.)

So the acronym generator grinds on.

I have now seen the acronyms WOMM and UGC. Oddly, while they appeared in unrelated articles, they mean the same thing.  

The first appeared, unbidden, like a toupe in the punchbowl, in an article on a website called Econsultancy. This is a venue in which I’ve had disagreements before. Contributors there are concerned with furthering the idea of ”content marketing” and the industry grown up around it. This is something I’ve railed against in more than one previous post. Anyone who’s been listening, if there is anyone, will know I think it’s snake oil in new bottles, if I can mix a metaphor.

I have also noted in earlier posts my distaste for acronyms as a species, acquired over a dozen years in the defense/aerospace industry, where they run rampant and are invariably over-  and incorrectly used. Here, then, we have the worst case: the combination of acronym and “content marketing.”

The first phrase being acronym-ized is a well-established one often used in the past, that comes up exactly twice in the thousand non-technical-word article in which it was found. So how much has really been saved? Since it had to be written out the first of the two times to define the acronym, the author saved 19 characters in the whole article using WOMM instead of word-of-mouth-marketing. But look: we have another excuse for a glossary!

“UGC” is the discovery of another breathless article that reveals what it is, why it’s good, and how to create it and use it in marketing. It’s based on the premise that the marketer’s “content” will be so intriguing that people reading it will feel compelled to talk and write about it themselves. 

It's not that hard to get people talking, if you aren’t particular about the type of response you get. I myself have responded to marketers’ "content" and discussions about it. I’ve done it in the “Comment” sections of numerous websites. I’m doing it here.     But is this the kind of  user generated content -- the WOMM -- marketers really want?