Best Practices

Has internet slang led to the demise of language in business?

8 March, 2016
2 min read
Veronika Vebere

With an increase in the amount of content we consume every day, our attention spans are becoming shorter than ever and it is tough to keep up, both as a business and a consumer. We consume content on the go, whether it is on our phones on our way to work, while we wait for our take-away coffee or even just before we go to bed.

For marketers, the challenge is to write content in an engaging way that appeals to our audience at any time of the day and will entice them to read the content all the way through. For the reader, the challenge is to choose which content pieces to read - and this decision is made based on how much the writer has connected with the reader.

With content being so widely available coupled with the changes in how we consume it (compared to how it used to be), has this impacted language and the way we put our messages across? Further, has this online world of open access to content affected the way we communicate in general, and has the outcome led to negative consequences.

For example, while it is completely acceptable to send an emoticon or abbreviated expressions such as LOL (laughing out loud) to a friend or fellow internet user (or even when writing content for a specific audience who uses this in their everyday speech), it is not always appropriate when done by brands, especially those that deal with other businesses.

Internet slang and its impact on our lives - online and offline

In a recently published article for Small Business UK, Sendible CEO and founder, Gavin Hammar, discussed how the modern way of communicating, including the use of smartphones and character limitation on social media networks such as Twitter, has affected the language used in business. "People are becoming less concerned with grammar, spelling and sentence structure, and more about getting their message across," says Gavin. In order to achieve this, abbreviations, images and emoticons are used, and while these are useful for communication on the go, they would still be largely unacceptable in a meeting with senior executives and would be labelled as internet slang. With the clever use of emotional triggers on social media, businesses can potentially reach a bigger audience and most importantly, increase engagement through their content. The problem arises when people are not able to differentiate between situations where it is appropriate and where it is not.

So does this shift in communication even matter? Gavin highlights that changing online language has the greatest impact on millennials and younger generations, both in the short term and long term. The latter is particularly true for those who are not exposed to the formal style of the business world and could struggle when starting jobs, networking or posting on social media for their employer.

Advice for great online communication 

When posting on social media or representing your own brand, it is important to know your target audience. Once you know the tone of voice, it can be adapted to particular events and clients. It is good to learn different styles of communication as this can help when you have more than one audience to cater for. Remember - social listening is key to improving your marketing strategy as your customers and your ability to solve their problems are essential for succeeding in business.

Starting off formally and then matching your client's tone is a good strategy to begin with. Once you establish rapport with a client, it will become clear whether using abbreviations or emoticons is appropriate, or even beneficial. Using short messages can give your company a warmer personality, but always proceed with caution and do not presume your client will read your post or email with the exact same tone you had in mind.

The full article on whether internet speak is hijacking our business language can be found on the Small Business UK website.

We would love to hear how internet slang has affected you as a consumer or a business owner. Let us know in the comments below.

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