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Social media glossary of terms

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social media glossary of terms

For anyone who’s not a digital native, social media can sometimes feel like a foreign language. This blog serves as your translation–the social media glossary of terms you need.

Between all the platforms, new and old, and all the updates, it can be hard to keep up with the latest social media features. Plus, there’s the whole culture of speaking on the platforms that can change at any moment as well (reset the room on Clubhouse, anyone?)

It’s no wonder that it’s hard for people who spend less time on social media to keep up. And it can feel embarrassing to ask. But if you need to use social media marketing to grow your practice or business, stop worrying and ask anyway.

Last time I checked, most people don’t have a degree in social media agility. Plus, if you’re like most of the clients I work with–healthcare providers–you likely have advanced degrees in your speciality.

Know this: if you survived grad school, you can master social media.

Here’s a social media glossary of terms to help you out.

I update this list periodically as terms change or new ones are added.

General social media glossary of terms

Caption: On any platform, with the exception of the Clubhouse audio only platform, an update is typically made up of a caption and an image as well. LinkedIn updates often feature a caption only. Captions can be as little as just an emoji or hashtag, or it can be as long as the platform allows. On Facebook, the character limit is a generous 63,206. On Twitter it’s a mere 280.

Carousel: You can share a series of image (or images and videos) in style that will make them swipe left and right. Carousels are typically on Instagram, but you can use them on Facebook ads as well. They are becoming more common on LinkedIn now too. These posts will have arrows to indicate there are multiple images that pull together as one long strip. The more people who slide to view your images, the more engagement you get. What’s nice is that each time someone sees your carousel post, the platform will show them a different image than before.

Clicks: Clicks are counted when someone clicks on a website url in your post. This is counted differently from when someone merely clicks on your image to get a closer look.

DM: Short for direct message, this just means you contact one another privately on the app. It’s used interchangeably with PM.

Engagement: Every time someone takes some action on your posts counts as engagement. Actions can vary slightly on each platform, but in general it means they clicked a reaction button, watched your video, clicked on your photo(s), shared the post, saved a post or commented. If mom clicks on your image to get a closer look, hits the like button and comments once with how brilliant you are, this counts as three engagements.

Feed: Your feed is made up of updates based on the accounts you follow. You can refresh your feed by pulling your finger down and going back to the top. It’s sort of like a slot machine, and part of why social media is so addictive.

Gifs: Gifs are moving images with no sound that repeat indefinitely. They’re often taken from 1-2 seconds of videos, including movies and TV. YourSocialTeam does a great job of using pop culture gifs in fun ways that are still on brand.

Handle: Your handle is your address on the platform, indicated with the @ sign. The url for my Instagram account is https://www.instagram.com/wendy.margolin/, so my handle is @wendy.margolin (Go on and click ti to follow me, will ya?!). People usually use the term when they are talking about Twitter and Instagram.

Hashtag: Hashtags are made up of the number our pound symbol (#) as a way to categorize content. They were first developed on Twitter in 2007, and they’re now used on all channels. Once you use a hashtag it becomes a clickable link that helps your posts be found in each social media channel’s search bar. Search #birthdayideas, and you’ll find millions of posts on the topic. Each platform allows for a specific number of hashtags, which can increase the engagement on posts. On LinkedIn, most users stick to 3-5 hashtags.

Users also use hashtags to establish or reinforce brand recognition with something catchy like Nike’s #justdoit. Or hashtags can help brands organize a contest where they develop a specific hashtag for people to use when they enter a giveaway or contest.

Impressions: Impressions are an indication of how many times someone saw your post. Impressions can count multiple views from the same person. So, if mom sees your post 7 times, that counts as 7 impressions from just mom alone.

Insights: These are the metrics of how your posts, videos and followers count performed over a period of time. Each channel highlights different metrics. To get more detailed insights, businesses will use a social media scheduler, like Hootsuite or Later, to help track progress.

Post: A social media post is anything you add as an update. This can be an image, caption, video, gif or some combination of these.

PM: Short for private message, this just means you contact one another privately on the app. It’s used interchangeably with DM.

Profile: Your profile is your bio on each of the channels. The style and length for these varies on each channel. This blog explains how to use your bio to reach more potential clients on Instagram.

Reach: This is the number of individuals who see your post. Reach is similar to impressions, but each person is counted only once (sorry, mom!).

Stickers: Stickers are moving images you can add to stories that actually look like a cutout sticker. They’re similar to gifs except they are cut out. Here’s one I added to my Instagram Story on my birthday.

An Instagram engagement sticker

Stories: Stories are temporary posts you can add to Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. They’re most popular on Instagram. They last 24 hours, and they appear at the top of the apps in a circle around each person’s profile photo. Among younger social media users, keeping stories fresh and updated is an indication that you are home. Stories are 15 seconds long, and you can add a series of them throughout the day.

Tag: A tag links a person or brand to your post. If you share a photo together with my mom and me, you can tag each of our faces. We will get a notification that you tagged us (unless we have strict privacy settings on–which we don’t). You can also tag a person in a post by using the “@” symbol and selecting heir username.

Thread: A thread on any channel is the back and forth comments on a post. Someone might even run out of room (on Twitter, especially) and write “continued on thread.” This just means they’re continuing the post caption in the comments. May daughter’s tae kwon do coach did this here. The top of the thread is the rest of essay. The comments continue in the thread.

User generated content (UGC): User generated content is a way for brands to show “social proof” from real people using their products. Brands typically use contests and hashtags to encourage users to share their product or service, like Lululemon’s #thesweatlife.

Instagram glossary of terms

Here’s a labeled image of how my personal page appears to me when I go on the app.

instagram glossary of terms

Highlights: These are stories people saved onto their profile and categorize. Once you post a story, you can press the “heart” highlight button and then save it to your profile page. It’s a great place to save a series of 15-second stories that show what it’s like to work with you, promote a product or service or meet your team.

how to add an Instagram story to your highlights

IGTV: Short for Instagram TV, IGTV are videos over one minute. You can post up to one minute of video as a regular post on Instagram, but once it’s longer, you will post it as IGTV. You upload it the same way as a regular post. Once Instagram sees your video is over one minute, the app will prompt you to add it as IGTV.

Instagram takeover: Takeovers can happen on any channel, but they are most common on Instagram. This typically means someone from the brand’s audience or a business partner gets to submit posts, videos and stories that the brand will share on their behalf for a day. Colleges often do this to show a day in the life of a student.

Reels: Reels were new to Instagram in 2020 and are the channel’s version of TikTok. For a business or practice, Reels are essentially 15 or 30 second commercials. They can include dance and silly antics, or it can be a few seconds of talking or pointing. Therapylux does a great job of sharing Reels that are fun and silly, as well as more serious. All of them are educational for her audience.

Facebook glossary of terms

Boost: This is Facebook language for a quick ad. You can go deep into ad options in the Facebook Business Manager, but you can also simply click “Boost” on the blue button and indicate your goal and how much you want to spend.

Groups: Groups on Facebook can be private or public and are organized around a specific topic. Anyone can start a group, and they tend to get a lot more engagement than Facebook business pages. Join mine on Everyday Marketing for healthcare providers.

Page: Businesses set up their profile as a page so that anyone can “like” or follow the business. If people have to “friend” you to connect with your page, it is set up wrong as a person and not as an organization. (No worries, you can fix it!)

LinkedIn glossary of terms

Articles: These are essentially blogs you publish directly on the platform. You can actually duplicate your website blogs and post them on LinkedIn as well to get more viewers on it. None of the platforms want you to jump off their site to go to a url, so they do what they can to keep users on (to see ads) as long as possible.

Company page: This is where your business or organization can share company information, products and news. Employees can indicate on their personal profiles that they work at a specific company and then it will hyperlink to the company page. Users can also search who works at a company on its company page.

Headline: Your headline sits just below your name and can have 120 characters. It’s the most important real estate and should be memorable and informative enough to get your prospects to read further into your profile.

InMail: This is LinkedIn messages to people you aren’t a first degree connection to. Without LinkedIn Premium, you won’t have full access to this. (You can instead connect to them and send a short intro message with the connection request.)

Degrees of connections: LinkedIn is a business networking platform, so it breaks people around you down by who you know and who they know. Your first degree connections are the people you already connected with. Second degree is all the people in their first degree connections that you aren’t connected to. So, for example, you can request to connect with my mom (my first degree connection) and name drop that you are reaching out because you both love me. (Just kidding! Mom’s retired and not on LinkedIn.)

Premium: LinkedIn Premium is the paid version of LInkedIn that offers a few more features than the free one. I’ve yet to see why this is worthwhile.

Profile: Your profile is where you display your skills, experience, professional background and how to reach you. It’s basically your LinkedIn resume, and many jobs will allow you to apply directly with this.

Recommendation: This is an endorsement written by a LinkedIn member to recognize or commend another member. Recommendations are displayed on your LinkedIn profile and can be organized according to previous positions and activities. Offer a recommendations to others before asking for one yourself.

Skill endorsements: This lets you and your 1st-degree connections identify one another’s skills and expertise with just one click.

Twitter glossary of terms

List: This is something Twitter does better than the other apps. From your own account, you can create a custom list of other Twitter accounts by topic or interest (e.g., a list of potential clients, celebrities, journalists). Lists create a custom feed of Tweets that you can watch. Others can follow your lists if you make them public.

Retweet: Sharing another person’s tweet to your followers.

Timeline: This is your stream of Tweets based on the accounts you follow, similar to your feed on Facebook or Instagram

Tweet: This is an update you post on Twitter. It can only be up to 280 characters and may contain photos, GIFs, videos and text.

Clubhouse glossary of terms

Clubhouse: Clubhouse is a new app, so I won’t assume you know what it is. It is invite only and only available on iOS at the time of this blog. The audio only app is similar to attending a giant conference where you can wander the hallway to find out what’s happening and then enter specific rooms to hear about any topic you can imagine. It lets you chat with other live using only your voice.

Clubhouse app is invite only

Closed room: This is like a private conference room where you can talk one on one to someone on the app.

Club: This is the Clubhouse version of Facebook groups where people can organize around specific topics, industries and interests. Clubs have a founder who can invite people and set the rules. Members can add other members and start rooms within the Club. Followers get notifications when there is a club event.

Hallway: This is what you seen when you open the app. You can browse what’s happening at the time in the hallway. It’s similar to a conference corridor before you commit to a particular session.

The Clubhouse hallway
The Clubhouse hallway

Moderator: This is the person or people in charge of moderating the discussion and managing who comes up on stage (and who gets off).

Party hats 🎉 : This appears next to the names of new members on Clubhouse. While you have this hat, you can make all sorts of blunders on the app, and no one minds.

Reset the room: Pull down on your screen within a room so that everyone is in the correct order of speakers (similar to refreshing the screen)

Room: This is a space where people can gather to discuss a specific topic. Rooms occur in real time and can last a few minutes to a few days (with people in different time zones taking over). People in the room are organized by the speakers on top (on the stage), followed by those the speakers follow and then “Others” at the bottom. People are displayed in the order that they join. Rooms can be private or social.

Social room: This is a public room open to anyone.

Stage: These are the people at the top who have the ability to speak to the room. They keep their mics muted unless they are actively speaking.

clubhouse app chart of terms
A labeled room in Clubhouse

Tapping mics: Tapping your microphone on and off when you are on stage is a way to show approval, similar to clapping.