Web words can be scary, but they needn’t be

No one likes being scared

No one likes being scared

In the past I’ve written about how we need ‘friendlier’ words to describe this online world, and I’ve commented on how such bizarre words can make social media seem more surreal than need be.

So, what do you do if you want to get a message out, but you know you’re operating in an area where misinformation abounds, or where there are deep sensitivities that you quite rightly want to avoid triggering? Surely the scary web world is the last place you’d want to venture?

Take two famous episodes in the UK media: Frankenstein foods, and the triple Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) jab.

The former was – and still is – a terribly unfortunate phrase for genetically modified foods. Whether or not you’re for or against, the phrase is so ingrained in our public consciousness that any advantage to be gained from any development in this area already has huge barriers to overcome.

Likewise MMR. Despite scientists trying their best to overcome public near-hysteria over MMR, it looks like the link between autism and MMR is raising its head again. Worse still, such misunderstanding can have material consequences: in 2005, cases of mumps in England and Wales soared by 12,000 to 16,436. And still today, in the UK, just the letters ‘MMR’ conjure images of anxious parents and vulnerable children.

The reality is that any story can, and will, and does, creep online. So you need to have an online presence at the very least so you can present your side of the story.

So if you’re getting the heeby-jeebies about pushing messages out, then don’t. Let people pull them instead. Use good keywords that help your story appear alongside others and, hopefully, achieve some sort of balance. Provide resources with enough search juice that enable people to find your stuff, and make their own minds up. Be where your audience is – and, as I’ve said before, your audience is going to be at a search engine at some point.

And if you’re giving people the heeby-jeebies when you’re talking about social media, then don’t. Just use good old words such as communication and relationships. Everyone can relate to that, right?

So while I may have switched from copywriting to social media, the same themes appear. It’s still true that we need better words, because they’re so powerful, and they can be used for good or, well, not-so-good. The trick lies in making the right words appear in the right place, at the right time, and in the right manner.

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