Anyone working with social media or digital marketing knows the pain of too many terms and acronyms.
What’s the actual difference between impressions and reach? Dark posts versus dark social, what are the correct definitions? And don’t even get me started on the acronyms: CPC, CPA, CTR, PPC…life as a marketer these days sometimes seems to require a degree in social media terminology.
So here’s a hand.
To set the record straight, we’ve put together this glossary of the most common social media buzzwords, keywords, terms and phrases…plus their definitions. It’s sorted in alphabetical order, so if you’re looking for a specific social media term, just click the links below:
Social media glossary
A/B testing, also known as split testing, measures two social media posts against each other to see which performs best. The most common way of using A/B tests is to only change one element of the post between the two versions (headline, image, CTA, etc) so that you know any difference in performance is because of that change. You can A/B test with both organic and paid posts.
Ads Manager is Facebook’s tool for creating, running and analyzing social ads. It can manage your ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, or Audience Network. It offers a wide variety of features for ad targeting, budgeting, and optimization as well.
Also see: The Evergreen Guide to Facebook Ads
In general, an algorithm is a defined set of rules used to solve a problem. In social media terminology, however, people often use ‘algorithm’ as a shorthand for ‘feed algorithm’, which is the set of rules a social network uses to automatically decide which posts come first in your feed. For example, if Facebook decides that it wants to prioritize posts with lots of comments (as it did with recent algorithm changes), it adjusts the rules of its feed algorithm to push those posts up.
Also see: How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works in 2021
Analytics is the way you interpret and find patterns in data. In a social media context, analytics is the process of following metrics on your social media performance and using that data to improve your strategy. For instance, watching your engagement rate over time to see if your posts are becoming more or less compelling to your followers is one way of using social analytics.
For more in-depth info on social analytics, see Instagram Analytics Explained.
Application Programming Interface (API)
An API is a set of building blocks that programmers can use to develop computer programs. As far as social media is concerned, all the major social networks have their own APIs that let programmers create their own software that works with the networks. Third party social media tools such as Falcon rely on social media APIs to integrate with platforms like Facebook.
Your audience on social media is the group of people you’re able to reach with your content. This includes all your followers plus anyone who sees or interacts with your posts in their feed. Growing your social media audience is one of the best ways to spread brand awareness.
Your social media avatar, also known as your profile picture, is a small image that represents you on a social network. It can be a real photo of you, a corporate logo, or anything you want your followers to identify as ‘you’ on social.
Average response time
Average response time is a social customer service metric. It is the average time it takes a brand to reply to questions or complaints on social media. Consumer expectations of social customer support response times have become more and more demanding in recent years, with 42% of customers now expecting a response within 60 minutes.
A B2B business sells products or services to other businesses, like a consulting firm or a business software company. On social media, B2B brands frequently attempt to position themselves as thought leaders in their industries and provide professional advice to their business peers.
A B2C business deals directly with consumers, like a hotel or retail store. In social media marketing, B2C companies often focus on creating a community around their brand and providing excellent social customer care.
Your social media bio is a short description in your profile that tells people who you are. It’s also a great place to share links to your website or other accounts. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s simply called a bio, while on LinkedIn it’s called a summary. Airbnb’s Instagram bio offers an example of how to describe your brand while plugging key hashtags and landing pages:
For advice on crafting the perfect bio, see How to Create a Professional IG Bio.
A boosted post is a Facebook post that you put money behind to increase its reach. Also known as promoted posts, boosted posts differ from Facebook ads in that they start out as organic posts and then get additional paid reach based on your spend. Also, you can launch them directly from your Facebook Page without using Ads Manager. Like Facebook ads, though, boosted posts allow you to target a specific audience and set an exact boost duration and budget.
A brand advocate on social media is a customer who posts positive messages, leaves positive reviews, or otherwise supports your brand on social. Brand advocates may also encourage other users to use your products or services through word-of-mouth marketing.
For tips promoting brand advocacy, read How to Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates.
Brand awareness is the level of familiarity consumers have with your brand. It’s often considered one of the main goals of social media marketing. It’s also one of the objectives you can select for your Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns in Ads Manager. Brand awareness can be measured through impressions or reach, or more accurately through ad recall lift (an estimation of how many users would remember your brand after seeing the ad).
Facebook Business Manager is a software that helps organizations manage their Pages, ad accounts, and team members. It serves as a hub to connect a business’s advertising, finances, users, and Pages and allow for easy administration. It also ensures that company data and account access is legally and practically under control of the company instead of an individual user.
A chatbot is an artificial intelligence program that can automate customer interactions for a company. Chatbots can be implemented on a number of social messaging apps, from Facebook Messenger to Slack. They can provide customer service, answer questions, and even set up appointments automatically. Here’s an example of what a Facebook Messenger chatbot can do:
For more insights, read our thoughts on How to Set Up a Chatbot in 30 Minutes or Less
Clickbait is content that uses manipulative copy to convince users to click on it. Clickbait tends to rely on exaggeration and withholding information to push people into clicking. For example, an article with the headline “Doctors HATE him for using this one WEIRD TRICK…” but just says you should work out regularly is considered clickbait because it compels people click it to learn more while being thin on actual content. Social networks like Facebook consider clickbait spammy and lower its reach accordingly.
Clickthrough rate (CTR)
On social media, the clickthrough rate is the percentage of people that see your post who click on it. What counts as a click and what counts as ‘seeing your post’ vary by social network. On Facebook, CTR is equal to (link clicks / post impressions) x 100%.
For more details on social media ad metrics like CTR, CVR and CPC, check out Facebook Ad Costs Explained.
Conversion rate (CVR)
In social media terminology, conversion rate is the percentage of users who see your post or ad who then take a specified action. That action is called a conversion, and it could mean purchasing an item, signing up for a newsletter, downloading an ebook, or a variety of other acts. If your social media marketing goal is to increase conversions, your CVR is an important metric for analyzing how effective your post or ad is.
Cost per click (CPC)
Cost per click is a social media advertising metric that tells you how much you’re paying for each click on your ad on average. If your social media marketing goal is to drive traffic to a landing page or a piece of content, a low CPC means you’re getting more traffic at a lower price, while a high CPC means you’re paying a lot for traffic. CPC can vary based on many factors, including who you’re targeting with your ad, what locations you’re targeting, and how relevant your ad is to your target audience.
Cost per mille (CPM)
Cost per mille is another social advertising metric. It refers to how much you pay per 1,000 impressions (‘mille’ means 1,000 in Latin). If your goal is to get your ad in front of as many eyes as possible and spread brand awareness, CPM is an important metric to follow. Like CPC, CPM varies based on your targeting options and the quality of your ad.
Social media crisis management is how you handle events or interactions that could potentially damage your company’s reputation. Inappropriate posts by someone at your company or a social media boycott against your brand may qualify as social media crises, while a couple of angry comments from customers would not. Crisis management requires social media managers to respond quickly and follow a plan in order to de-escalate the problem at hand.
For tips on crisis management, here is How to Avoid a Social Media Crisis.
In social media marketing, each network (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is also a marketing channel. Something that is cross-channel, then, goes across all your different social networks. For example, a cross-channel social strategy is a strategy that aligns your objectives across all the social networks your brand is present on.
Crowdsourcing on social media means using a large group of people to generate ideas, services, or content via a social network. It lets followers feel involved and engaged with your brand’s activity while generating ideas or content for your brand. Examples could be inviting your followers to vote on names for your new product or asking them to send in song submissions for your upcoming commercial.
A dark post is a social media ad that doesn’t appear on the advertiser’s timeline. Unlike organic posts or boosted posts, dark posts only show up in the feeds of users they’re targeting. “Dark post” is an informal term—on Facebook, they’re officially called “unpublished page posts”, on Twitter they’re called “promoted-only tweets”, on LinkedIn they’re called “direct sponsored content”, and on Instagram, all ads are dark posts by default.
For more information on dark posts, we recommend What Are Dark Posts on Social Media?
Dark social is often confused with dark posts, but the two social media terms actually have nothing in common. Dark social is web traffic coming from social media that analytics tools struggle to track. This is often due to users sharing links privately on social in chats or direct messages. One study found that 84% of consumer content sharing happens on dark social.
Direct message (DM)
A direct message on social media is a private message sent directly to a user’s inbox. DMs exist in contrast to public forms of interaction on social media like commenting on an image or posting on a user’s timeline.
Disappearing content, sometimes called ephemeral content, refers to posts on social media that delete themselves automatically after a set amount of time has passed. Instagram and Snapchat Stories are notable examples, as these sets of photos and videos disappear after 24 hours. In social media marketing, disappearing content is used to be spontaneous and timely while motivating users to engage through FOMO.
For predictions about the world of disappearing content, check out Are Facebook Stories the Future of News Feed?
Employee advocacy is when co-workers at your company support and promote your brand on social media. This may include sharing branded content, amplifying your company’s brand message, or frequently liking and commenting on company posts. One study found that branded messages obtained 561% more reach when shared by employees than when posted through branded channels.
For additional insights, read How to Harness Employee Advocacy on Social Media.
Engagement rate is a social media metric that tells you much a post is motivating people to interact with it. It’s defined as (number of people who engaged with your post / number of people who saw your post) x 100%. Typically, a higher engagement rate means your post was more compelling (or at least more likely to provoke a response). Engagement rate is difficult to compare across social networks, as what counts as an “engagement” and what counts as “seeing your post” is different on each network. “Seeing your post” could refer to reach or impressions, while “engagements” may include likes, comments, shares, reactions, and more.
In content marketing, evergreen content is content that ages well and maintains its value over time. Evergreen content is ideal for recycling and repurposing on social media since it does not lose relevance based on the date it’s posted. For example, an article on the challenges of being a social media marketer is more likely to be evergreen than an article about Tik Tok’s latest feature update.
For tips on getting the most out of evergreen posts, see our on-demand webinar: How to Build a Content Machine When Resources are Thin
A feed on social media is a generic term for the stream of content you see from other users. On most social networks, the feed functions as a homepage and is the most common way to see people’s posts and engage with them.
A follower is a user on social media who has subscribed to see your posts in their feed. Both personal and business accounts can have followers. Your number of followers, or follower count, is a key metric for seeing how your audience on social media is growing or shrinking over time.
FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out. On social media, FOMO is the feeling users get when seeing posts about events or opportunities they want to be a part of. Social media marketers often use FOMO to their advantage by making exclusive or limited-time offers that users need to jump on quickly to avoid missing.
Frequency is a Facebook/Instagram advertising term that refers to how many times your ad was shown to the average user in your target audience. It’s calculated by dividing total ad impressions by total ad reach. Frequency over 1.00 means at least some users saw your ad multiple times. This may be positive if your goal is to raise brand awareness and ad recall, but if your frequency is very high you may be wasting your budget and advertising too many times to each user.
In social media marketing, geotargeting is the technique of adjusting your ad content based on the location of a user. In Facebook ads manager, users can be included or excluded from a target audience based on their region, country, state, city, postal code, or address. This means advertisers can create and target ad sets to appeal to users in a certain geographic location.
A hashtag (#) is a way of connecting your posts on social media to other posts on the same subject or trending topic. By searching for a specific hashtag, users can find all public posts that have it. For example, users seeking content about the World Cup might look for posts with #WorldCup or #FIFA. Social media marketers often follow the popularity of hashtags over time to see what’s trending on social media.
Your header image, or cover photo, is the visual you place at the top of your social media profile. Often in landscape format, header images are much larger than your profile picture/avatar and can be used to introduce you or your brand to your profile visitors. They can compliment your profile picture, show off your personality, or show off a product or event you’re promoting.
For tips on sizing your header image, see our Social Media Image Size Guide.
Impressions are a social media metric that measures how many times your post has been shown in users’ feeds. Unlike with reach, you may count multiple impressions for a single user if they have looked at your post more than once. Each social network counts impressions differently—on Facebook and Instagram a post.
Key performance indicator (KPI)
A key performance indicator, or KPI, is a metric you use to measure your progress toward business goals. In social media marketing, KPIs are the most important stats to track in order to see if you’re meeting the objectives of your social strategy. For example, if your primary objective on social was to raise brand awareness, post reach or ad recall lift might be your KPIs.
A listicle is a list-based article. This type of content is often popular on social media because of its quick, easy-to-digest format. For example, an article like 21 Tips to Massively Increase Instagram Engagement would be considered a listicle because of its point-by-point breakdown.
While the term ‘meme’ (rhymes with ‘team’) originally meant any idea that spread, multiplied, and changed in a viral way, it means something more specific in a social media context. Memes on social media are funny pieces of text, videos, or images that go viral and let users get in on the joke by creating their own variations and sharing them.
Brands often try to hop on the latest meme to connect with younger audiences, but this can backfire and make them look out of touch if they don’t get the joke. If brands are self-aware enough and have a healthy sense of irony, though, they can pull off ‘memejacking’ once in a while:
— Freeview (@FreeviewTV) March 29, 2018
A social media metric is a statistic that measures the performance of your posts, ads, or overall account. Social media managers use metrics to see which content or strategies are working and which aren’t. Metrics may include impressions, reach, followers, engagement rate, link clicks, and more.
For more on metrics, see The 5-Step Social Media Marketing Plan
Native advertising on social media is the method of showing paid content to users in a way that looks organic. Promoted Facebook posts and promoted tweets are good examples of native ads, as they appear similar to standard posts in users’ feeds while having their reach extended with an ad budget. A recent study found that consumers looked at native ads 53% more often than display ads.
Newsjacking is the technique of hopping on current events with your social media content. Social media managers often engage in newsjacking to seem timely and relevant while gaining exposure by tying their content to key hashtags and conversations around the latest news. For instance, during a power outage at the 2013 Super Bowl that millions across America were following, Oreo got tons of engagement with this real-time tweet:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
In social advertising, objectives are the results you want to achieve through your ad campaign. These objectives are used to determine which key performance indicators to follow and optimize ad spend. In Facebook Ads Manager, you can select from a variety of marketing objectives including traffic, engagement, conversions, brand awareness, and more.
Pay per click (PPC)
PPC is a social media marketing term for an ad model where you pay each time a user clicks on your ad. This is typically associated with a traffic objective, as it makes the most sense for advertisers to pay based on clicks when their primary goal is to increase visits to a website or landing page.
The term social media platform is often used to mean the same thing as “social media network” or “social media channel”. However, a social media platform is technically the software behind a social network, including its API, backend, and markup language. The phrase “social media management platform”, meanwhile, refers to a set of software tools that help SMMs organize their social media accounts.
Reach is a social media metric that tells you how many people have seen your post. It differs from impressions in that even if a user sees your post multiple times, they still only count as one person reached. Reach is an important metric for understanding how large the audience for your content is and measuring your progress toward spreading brand awareness.
Relevance score is a metric available in Facebook Ads Manager that tells you how well your target audience is responding to your ad on a scale of 1 to 10. The score is based on several factors, including positive feedback such as clicks or likes, negative feedback such as users selecting “I don’t want to see this ad”, and overall ad performance. The higher your relevance score, the more relevant your ad is to your target audience and the more likely it will be selected over other ads to be shown to your audience.
In social media advertising, retargeting is the technique of targeting ads at users who have interacted with your page or website before. A social media marketer may retarget a user who clicked a Facebook ad for new boots, went to the checkout page, and then didn’t complete the sale, for example. Retargeting can be done by either tracking user activities with the Facebook Pixel or uploading a list of past or potential customers to target.
Sentiment analysis is the way software analyzes the attitude of a piece of text. On social media, sentiment analysis tools can be used to automatically detect whether customer feedback is positive, negative, or neutral. Social media marketers can also look at the average sentiment of their customer interactions over time to see the general mood of their audience or the overall response to their content.
Shareable content on social media is content that’s likely to get users to share it with their networks. Many factors affect what makes content shareable, including how useful, entertaining, and inspiring it is. Content that evokes strong emotions and reactions is also more likely to be shared.
Social customer service
Social customer service (or social customer care) is customer service via social media. This may include answering customer inquiries, handling complaints, and offering support. Private messaging apps are your best bet for social customer service in 2020, with 70% of people now preferring a “message us” over a “call us” button.
Social listening is how social media managers track conversations around key topics, terms, brands and more, often with a specialized software tool. Social listening software gathers mentions, comments, hashtags, and relevant posts from across social media to provide insights on what users are talking about and how. Brands often use these insights to tap into key trends and see what people are saying about them and their competitors.
For further advice, read How to Use Social Listening.
Social media monitoring
Social media monitoring is often confused with social listening, but there are some important differences between the two. Social listening involves actively setting up projects to seek out conversations on specific topics and gathering data on them. Social media monitoring, on the other hand, is the more passive technique of keeping an eye on your mentions and following what your audience is saying.
Social media ROI
Social media ROI, or return on investment, is a measurement of how much revenue your activities on social media are generating for your company versus how much you are spending on them. Because many brands’ social media objectives are more about generating brand awareness than leads or sales, social media ROI is notoriously difficult to estimate. In abstract, this is the formula to calculate it:
Social selling, put simply, is using social media to make sales. Often, this takes place when salespeople interact with potential customers on social, establishing a relationship they can leverage for a future sale. This could be done by answering prospects’ questions, sharing company content, or mentioning their brand in a post comment.
Targeting is a social media advertising term that refers to how you select the potential audience for your ads. Most social advertising platforms allow you to select which users should see your ads based on age, location, gender, interests, and a variety of other factors. Targeting options are one of the most important aspects of creating effective ads on social media.
Traffic is the number of users who visit a given website or page. In a social media context, increasing traffic is a common marketing objective for SMMs who want to drive their audience to a blog, landing page, or other URL outside of the social network.
A trending topic is a subject or event that has a sudden surge in popularity on social media. Several social networks track the top hashtags or subjects people are posting about and include a “trending topics section”. On Twitter, this section is currently called “Trends for you” and is personalized and localized, while Instagram has an “Explore” section which lets users see relevant content that is trending in their area.
User generated content (UGC)
User generated content, or UGC, is fan-created content promoting a brand. UGC can come in the form of videos, images, posts, audio, reviews, articles, and more. Brands often rely on UGC to get users engaged with their social media campaigns and build trust and loyalty with their followers. Toyota, for example, called on their audience to submit videos of them performing street music as part of their Feeling The Street campaign:
A vanity metric on social media is a statistic that may look like a positive indicator of performance but doesn’t actually provide you with valuable insights. Impressions are a classic example as they are often larger than reach, but only tell you how many times people scrolled past a post in their feed without revealing the bigger picture of how popular or engaging the post was.
Viral is a term describing content that spreads exponentially on social media. This typically occurs because an increasing number of people share the content with their followers, then their followers share the same content to their followers and so on, creating a snowball effect. Creating content that goes viral is the holy grail of social media marketing, as it means you get a huge audience without spending a cent.
Social media buzzwords: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em
Learning social media terminology is like learning a new language. It can feel frustrating, but once you become fluent you’ll become a much more effective communicator in the world of social media management.
While all these key social media words and phrases may seem overwhelming, they make it a whole lot easier to discuss and plan your social media strategy. Plus, you need to know social media jargon to have any hope of understanding SMM-speak. So don’t hesitate to hit the books (or blogs) and study up!