8 Content Marketing Terms in Need of a Performance Review

4 minute read

Upland Admin

Image Credit: Trevor Pritchard

Like people, sometimes you have to let words go.

We do this all the time, even if we’re not aware. Try telling someone to do anything “outside the box” or to “keep it real” and see if you don’t inspire a nauseous cringe. These phrases meant something at some point. They were even cool. But mishandling and overuse has forced them into retirement.

Other times the words continue to be used, but really say nothing. If a colleague tells you their trip was “nice,” what does that tell you? It was pleasant. The listener’s eyes glaze over, and they don’t know anything they didn’t know before they asked. “Nice” has been used over and over in so many different circumstances that any meaning packed away in the word has been depleted.

Here, I’m suggesting we consider the performance of some of the most commonly used words and phrases in content marketing. Do these words need to be fired from our lexicon and replaced with something more powerful? Or are they still getting the job done? Let’s see.


Social media folks use this to describe how you should develop followers that will spread your brand’s gospel. Frankly, it’s a messy metaphor with bizarre associations. Perhaps not time to retire it – it still expresses the power of building a fanbase – but send it to the basement and use it sparingly.

Pipeline and Funnel

These terms to describe stages in the sales process are overused but for good reason. We must stay vigilant in identifying where prospects are in the process. But can we pick one? Two terms seems redundant. I suggest sticking with funnel, since it starts large and gets more narrow, which is a lovely visual representation of the marketing and sales process.


This word is underutilized and needs to be given more responsibilities. It’s a rock star performer. Everyone must build personas of who it is they want to attract with content marketing, and message directly to them. This goes hand-in-hand with the funnel, since personas are in different stages. If you’re not using this word, your content is not performing at its best.


Used to be marketing and sales departments were separated into two different vertical containers, like silos. This kind of compartmentalizing is bad news for businesses looking to benefit from content marketing. If you find this is still the case in your organization, bring this word to a meeting and use it to break down the barriers it represents.


The “social” in “social media” is not entirely accurate anymore. When the desktop computer made its first wave into homes, older people would say you were “playing” on the computer. “Social media” has similar connotations. The media we use to spread our message plays a role greater than mere social exchange. Let’s give it that credit and hire a new word.

Thought Leader

Once, this phrase was an amazing performer, but it’s been overused to the point of ineffectiveness. We should still use content to position ourselves as respected experts in our fields, but let’s stop calling ourselves “thought leaders.” It sounds pompous and has subtle connotations of a cult leader.


Overused yet still important, “engagement” is the hard worker in the office that’s too often overlooked. It manages to be used constantly without eliciting that glazed over look. But it’s a broad term. It covers a lot of territory and could use some help. What kind of engagement?


Like the saying “we kill to dissect,” it kind of kills authenticity to build a strategy for being authentic. When content marketing first exploded marketers had to learn how to drop the sales and marketing speak and develop an “authentic” tone in order to relate to target audiences. By now, we should just be authentic without having to describe ourselves as such, which is kind of inauthentic.

As content developers, words are our foundation. The point of this little exercise is a reminder that our word choice is at the frontline of our message. It helps from time to time to step back and consider if the words we most commonly use are performing at their best. Simply replacing words everyone uses with your own will help you stand out. You may even become a thought leader – err, idea general.

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