Every year, new words enter our vocabulary from different sources. In 2005, people would have thought you were spouting gibberish if you talked about tweeting your planking photos or using cloud applications to organize e-lancers. In this article, we’ll look at some of the terms that have gained traction in 2011 and will probably get bigger in 2012.


Clicktivism refers to the use of social media and the Internet in general to advance social causes. This buzzword follows the rich tradition of taking two words, "click" and "activism", and smashing them into one (see adminispam, fauxtography and anything that includes the term "cyber"). Clicktivism is simultaneously lauded for bringing social issues to the forefront of the Internet (wherever that is) and lambasted for reducing activism to an online petition. The buzzword is here to stay, however, and gives us rich phrases like "post-clicktivism activism." Try saying that with a fake German accent!


Crowdfunding is another two-word smash, but without losing any letters. Crowdfunding refers to appealing to a lot of people for relatively small amounts of money. It is seen as an alternative way of financing art, music, projects, and so on. Instead of getting the whole sum from one source, crowdfunding goes the micro-financing route by using the Internet and social media to make a broad appeal for funds. Somewhere in the world, there is someone willing to pledge $5 toward anything - including a screenplay that is a spiritual sequel to "Snakes on a Plane."


The last of the Oxford trio may be the most interesting because of how widespread it has already become. Gamification is basically the use of game design principles in marketing and sales to increase customer interest. Just like in "World of Warcraft", eager consumers can support their chosen brand in forums or on social media platforms in return for badges and titles like "Top Contributor" or "Trusted Source." Moreover, consumers can get on the reward schedule treadmill by "checking in" at retail locations a given number of times in exchange for a special offer. Gamification is the real deal and it is already here. (For related reading, check out 5 Psychological Tricks Video Games Use to Keep You Playing.)

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing isn't a new term but it's as hot as ever. This term refers to the use of Web-based applications and resources for your computing needs. Have a Web-based email account? Welcome to the cloud. Use Google docs or Dropbox? You are pretty much leading the way in the cloud computing revolution. (To learn more, read Cloud Computing: Why the Buzz?)

Software as a Service

Software as a service, better known as SaaS is a close cousin of cloud computing. It refers to any application available in the cloud accessible via a browser. The idea is to purchase software more like a utility. No need to install anything locally, just access the applications you want via your service provider. Of course, this means your cloud provider has your data, so there can be security and privacy concerns. Coming to terms with these concerns is the tradeoff for the cost savings compared to installing and managing software locally.

Social Media Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is still an active buzzword, but it is calming down into an actual science. Enter social media optimization (SMO); it hasn't been wholly defined yet, but early indications suggest that it centers around creating shareable content and, well, sharing it. This content, in turn, will bring social media users back to a particular website, which generally aims to sell them a product or service.

Social media optimization is similar to viral marketing, except that it doesn’t put so much emphasis on going viral. In fact, the emphasis on shareable (but not necessarily viral) content makes it a lot like social media marketing (SMM). (Learn more in Viral Marketing: What You Need to Know.)


Even the non-technical know something about HTML. HTML5 is another issue. The perfect storm of marketing buzzworthiness and a never-endeding series milestones to formalize the specification has made HTML5 somewhat of an enigma for most. Despite the marketing slant, HTML5 is a technology with the potential to change how we use the Web. On the other hand, it's not something you can implement tomorrow. At the very least, ready your dumbed down definition so you can explain it to your boss when he hears about it from his nephew. (To learn more, check out Moving from Flash to HTML5.)


2011 was the year of the tablet, but that is so last year. Now, some people are saying that Ultrabooks are the next big thing. An Ultrabook is a special breed of laptop computer. Think of it as being somewhere in-between a regular laptop and a tablet. Sounds a bit like a netbook, doesn't it? In a sense, it is - but with more power, a larger screen and a solid-state drive to boot. The term is actually a trademark of Intel, but many of the major manufacturers are preparing their own spin on the concept.

X-Relationship Management

Buzzwords are often coined so rapidly that they overlap with existing ones. This phenomenon can clearly be seen in enterprise software. In fact, a C-suite executive somewhere is probably puzzling over whether to get enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) software, enterprise relationship management (ERM) software or the old business relationship management software. The poor exec will need a dictionary and a buying guide when you add in partnership relationship management (PRM), supplier relationship management (SRM) and all the other enterprise applications in this area.


Bring your own technology - also known as bring your own device (BYOD) - is a trend that has been building for a while now and might be reaching critical mass in terms of adoption. BYOD refers to a corporate IT department allowing employees to use their own devices for work, especially when it comes to mobile computing devices like tablets, smartphones and so on. In the old desktop world, nobody wanted to supply their own computer for work. Now, however, bringing your own tech has become more common because the average user has experienced and purchased superior technology for their personal use. This "consumerization of IT" is great - unless you are the IT manager who now needs to oversee a plethora of devices.

Even though the meanings of many tech buzzwords can shift according to the context in which they are used, it is worth learning to talk the talk - even if only to confuse coworkers at the water cooler.