CTR, CPC, SEM, CVR, PPC, CPM – in the digital marketing world, there are tons of acronyms that just become second nature. The problem is that sometimes one person’s definition of an acronym differs from the next. We can all agree on which words comprise the acronyms but we don’t always mean the same thing when we use them in conversation.
In fact, as the industry changes, sometimes the definitions do, too – for some people, at least – while some people continue to use the same definition that they’ve always known. For example, in the past, many people used “PPC” to describe paid search. As the industry as grown, many people now use “PPC” to encompass display, paid search and paid social – while others still use it in reference only to paid search.
So Why Does It Matter?
As with any other potential communication barrier, it is important to make sure that both the sender and the recipient are understanding the other’s use of terms and definitions so that they can be assured that they are on the same page. This becomes especially important when speaking to someone who may not be as well-versed in the industry because they may not be able to pick up on other contextual cues to understand certain references.
Communication Theories & Miscommunications
There are interesting communication theories about whether the message is truly determined by the person who sends it (sender) or the person who decodes it (receiver). If you’ve ever disagreed with someone about something that was said in an dispute that resembled anything along the lines of “You said _______” and a response of “No, I said ___, ___, ____” then you can probably appreciate these theories. To super-simplify communication studies, some say that the sender gives the message and if the receiver doesn’t understand, then that’s the sender’s fault. Others say that it’s the receiver’s perception that truly matters and if the sender wasn’t clear enough in their message – that’s on the sender.
What we can take from this is that every conversation has two different messages: what was meant to be conveyed and what was understood. In most conversations, those two messages are close – if not the same – but there are sometimes inconsistencies which lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.
So What Can We Do?
Well, we have a few options. One we can spend a lot of money to make sure that we all agree on super-specific definitions with very specific parameters and then more money to campaign and educate that the whole world use only these definitions for the remainder of eternity.
Or… we could be sure to be careful not to take for granted another person’s use of what I’ll call semi-flexible terminology. We can take ownership both as senders and receivers of messages to ensure that we’re communicating effectively. Option two requires effort from everyone but still less effort than option one – and hey, it’s free. 🙂
So Now For The Fun Part…
All that said, we’re interested to see how our industry friends define and use various aspects of digital marketing terminology. If you have a quick second: please take our poll! (Really, it will only take a second!)