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This is how we want the world to work because it makes our jobs easier.

This is Paul Adams talking about influencer theory in his book Grouped.

We want the world to work in such a way that our content flows from us via influential hubs to mass audiences (for free).

But that which makes our lives easier does not make our work work. Paul Adams devotes much of his book to exposing hubs-to-masses influencer theory as hubs-to-masses influencer myth.

To talk about “targeting influencers” is to give sloppy advice. At best.

In fact it borders on the disingenuous.

In the same way that “we’ve written a viral” is disingenuous. At best.

In most cases, “we’ve written a viral” is outright falsehood.

The viral you’ve written almost certainly won’t go viral.

A tiny proportion of branded content genuinely goes viral. That which does usually has a substantial seeding effort to help it clear the tower. And viral seeding is just advertising by another name.

If you use the word “community” in a branded context you’re probably being sloppy or disingenuous too.

Community is a disingenuous term if you use it as a collective noun for the people who have liked your Facebook page.

A Facebook page is a central hub with several thousand independent spokes. Some of the people who have liked your page may know each other, may talk to each other, may even help each other but I doubt very much that they do it on your page or around your content.

Your Facebook “fan base” isn’t even a fan base. It’s a loose, rag tag collection of people who once pressed a Like button.

It has very little in common with genuine communities.

The last member of the disingenuous marketing Gang Of Four is engagement.

According to Martin Weigel (and he’s right) the term “engagement” is beyond sloppy. It’s bankrupt.

As he says in that must-read post, engagement means nothing because it means everything.

Which makes it an incredibly versatile piece of strategic shorthand. Everyone knows what it means because it means everything. But it rarely means the same thing twice. If you say it in a meeting there will be as many personal interpretations as there are people in the room.

Influencers, viral, community and engagement.

Sloppy, disingenuous, bankrupt and insidious.

Making life easier, making meetings easier. But getting in the way of work that works.

Every time we use these words we kid ourselves and we kid our clients.

And we use them a lot.

(Yes you do.)

Pointing this sloppiness out in a meeting can be awkward.

You are made to look like a nit-picking pedant.

It’s hard to be tactful when pointing out that the viral idea just presented by partner agency won’t go viral.

It’s hard to be diplomatic when you’re pissing on someone’s community chips.

It’s not easy to offer a constructive alternative to engagement.

No one likes a patronising clever-clogs.

Your well-intentioned professional precision is as welcome as a skid mark on a hotel towel.

A lot of people in this business can’t or don’t want to handle the truth about digital marketing.

Done properly it’s harder, more subtle and more expensive than it looks.

But, done properly, it’s much more rewarding than the disingenuous, easy-life alternative.

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