You Ask, I Answer: Identifying and Using Audience Slang?

Kristi asks, “What slang does your brand use on social media? Any you avoid?”

Slang is an interesting challenge, because often it’s not just generational, it’s also contextual to a specific group of people. Why would you use it? To relate better to your audience? If that’s something you want to do, and it’s appropriate for your brand to do it, treat it like an anthropology project, an ethnography project. Go “live in nature” with your audience on Reddit or even better, on Discord, in the community your audience participates in. Listen like crazy, vacuum up data, analyze it, and understand its use.

For example, someone using the term egg could mean VERY different things depending on what community you’re in, some of which have potentially offensive connotations if used incorrectly. They could be referencing a transgender person who hasn’t come out, an idiot (New Zealand slang), or a white person with a strong affinity for Asian cultures, among others. Only a well-designed ethnography project will tell you what you’re dealing with – and whether you should even use the term or not.

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In today’s episode Christie asks what’s slang does your brand us on social media any you avoid? slang is an interesting challenge.

Because very often is not just a broad audience like a generation, a lot of people will say like, using the language of the kids these days, right? They’ll get off my lawn.

But slang is really tricky because it isn’t just generational.

It’s contextual to a specific group of people.

Every individual group, including your audience, has its own slang has its own lingo.

In b2b, for example, we have tons of jargon in, in marketing, we have tons of jargon, we talk about things like customer journeys, and cx and and UX and all this stuff, that somebody outside of our group will wouldn’t know if the acronyms are inscrutable.

And we do this because as humans, it’s a way for us to be able to identify other people in our group, identify people that are tribe.

And the the rationale of a brand using this obviously, is to say like, Hey, we’re one of you too, if you actually are.

Now, if you’re not trying to use slang is fraught with danger.

Because, again, using the terminology, it is incredibly tricky unless you’ve done extensive study.

So if you want to use slang, to relate to your audience better, you’ve got to understand the all the cultural context that goes with it.

There’s a process called ethnography, it’s from anthropology that effectively does this where you You know, kinda like Margaret Mead, or Jane Goodall, you you embed yourself in that society in that group.

And maybe you don’t participate at all.

You just listen, you listen, you study, you vacuum up data, you analyze it, you understand the different terminology, the different contexts that certain words are used in.

If you are, if you have an audience that has a community to someplace that’s publicly accessible, or is accessible with, you know, minimal invitation.

That’s the place to start.

If there’s a Reddit subreddit out there on Reddit, if there is a slack group or discord group, you can join, go live in nature, like an anthropologist would.

in that community and listen, listen to see how language is used and how how people are using it to convert convey meaning it’s really tricky.

And it may require you to actually sit down and talk to people and ask them and understand what things mean in the context of that community.

Because even sites like Urban Dictionary, which are great and fantastic resources, I strongly recommend having it your bookmarks in your browser.

Even those will not necessarily tell you how your group is behaving or the context of your society that you’re trying to study.

Really simple example, when somebody uses the slang term egg, they could mean very different things depending on what group you’re in and the context being used in.

They could mean somebody who’s transgender who hasn’t come out, they could mean somebody who’s an idiot which is a slang term in new in New Zealand.

It could mean Somebody who is ethnically white, but behaves in a manner that is, let’s say they have a strong affinity for Asian cultures, right? And you can see how these terms could be very offensive if you use them incorrectly.

You know, one of the things that we always advise marketers is, before you roll out a marketing campaign, somebody should do an urban dictionary check to make sure that, you know, key points are not inadvertently offensive.

slang is even more tricky because you’re, you’re trying to use the language.

And you may or may not have the context correct without a lot of study.

Give yourself budget for yourself, months, weeks, if not months, to learn this stuff.

Now, you say, Well, that sounds crazy.

I’m just not going to use any because I don’t want to spend months studying something just to use certain terminology on social media.

It’s more than that.

If you do an ethnography project correctly, you gain a very good deep understanding of the audience in ways that simply just skimming posts on Reddit would never get you.

And there’s a lot of value in that because it helps you guide your marketing.

ethnography projects are something I have strongly recommended for marketers for years, years and years and years.

Because when you understand your audience, you will create marketing that is much more personal, much more in depth and much more meaningful to people, again, with without the slang just knowing that, for example, there are people who are ethnically one group that associate and have an affinity for another group is an important context.

It’s something that as long as it’s not offensive, you might want to figure out how do you work that in to the conversations you have with people in in this target group.

So there are a bunch of frameworks out there that are really good for understanding sort of all these different ethnography things Dr.

James Bradley probably has the the most thorough network, most thorough framework when it comes to ethnography.

So check out his papers over on Google Scholar you can read about house Bradley’s framework works.

It covers things like space actors, activities, objects, Acts, events, time, goals, feelings, and anthropologists use this to document what they’re doing in a in a different society that they’re studying.

And most likely, create interactions try to interactions between all these different things.

so that you understand how this group of people approaches all of their interactions with each other.

And you can use technology for it.

But a lot of is qualitative a lot of is just sitting down and listening, maybe doing one on ones, with key members of the community.

That’s how you make progress in this sort of thing and how you eventually learn a, whether the slang exists or not be what it means and see whether you have any right to use it or not.

So we could spend a whole lot of time on this, but I will say go study, don’t use it without study and give yourself the time to do it right.

And to do it thoroughly, and it will have a much bigger effect and impact on your marketing than just slapping on social media posts.

It will help you really understand your customers or your potential customers.

So well.

If you have follow up questions, leave them in the comments box below.

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I’ll talk to you Soon Take care.

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