I’m happy to republish a very interesting piece written by my colleague @AmyJColgan who is a Social Media Analyst at DG COMM in the European Commission. This post was originally published in Waltzing Matilda blog.

Social media, like any field, comes with its own vocabulary. I don’t mean RT and PM and YOLO (LOLCATZ!), but the words people working in an industry use to describe the job they do. These words, specially coined to fit a very specific purpose, are sometimes helpful and often maddening, if you’ve got strong feelings about, you know, grammar and meaning. (My favourite example of business speak was being asked by someone to “travel the idea and revert to me by COB.” What was wrong with “think about it and get back to me by the end of the day”? Only he could tell you. But then you might not understand the answer. It’s a vicious circle.)
But leaving that calmly to one side, it’s certainly useful to be able to decipher the vocabulary if you’re venturing into a new world, and as social media is rapidly becoming part of more and more people’s jobs within international/organisational communications, we thought that it might be useful to provide a basic lexicon for 10 social media terms that you may often find yourself hearing and using.

Community Management

This is what used to be called moderation, but with a little more… love… thrown in. A community manager is the person who runs a social media account. They are responsible for choosing and tailoring content, replying to questions, encouraging debate. In other words, the idea is that they build and maintain a ‘community ‘ or audience of people interested in a specific thing, who’ll comment and share ideas, or tell other people about you. When done right, it’s a very challenging task, especially for an institution – but one that pays off.


This is something we talk about a lot – how to do it, why do it, how we need much more of it. But what is it?
In its most basic and self-explanatory sense, engagement means talking to people – getting ‘engaged’ with what people are saying on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you are, and joining in. In practical terms, this can mean replying to questions, sharing tweets or posts from other people, and seeking out conversations by tweeting directly to other people or mentioning them in your posts.
Engagement can also mean the extent to which people are reacting to what you’re doing on social media. Are a lot of people commenting, sharing or liking your post? Trying to improve your engagement in this second sense can mean producing content (messages, pictures, videos – a catch-all term for what you put out on your social media channels) that will catch people’s attention and make them want to say something or do something about it.


Broadcasting, as you might expect, means putting messages out into the world hoping someone will read them. It’s like walking into a party and simply addressing the room instead of talking to someone in particular. Now, if you’re famous or well-known, everyone will stop and listen. If you’re not, they won’t. So too for broadcasting on social media – if you’re very well-known and have lots of fans/ followers, broadcasting might be ok. It’s what @pontifex does, But if you’re not the Pope, may not work so well. So if someone tells you you’re a broadcaster, they probably mean you should start engaging more.


Not creatures that live under a bridge, but people that hang out on the internet trying to get on other people’s nerves and start arguments. You’ve probably seen them in action. They comment a lot, argue with everything, agree with nothing, and much like the ones from the fairy tale, are mostly simply trying to get your goat. Don’t feed them.


Again, something we say all the time without always explaining what it means. Having influence on social media generally means that when you say something, a lot of people listen. You can become influential by sharing content that a certain audience really needs or wants, by frequently answering questions so people know you’re a good source of information, or simply by having lots of followers.


Analytics is the measurement and analysis of the data that we generate on social media, and how we get meaning from it. From how fast your follower numbers are growing or your most engaging post, analytics should shape your future use of social media use by giving you a solid understanding of what is working and why. There are lots of different online social media analytics tools – ask us, have a look through our tool reviews, here’s a quick list that might be helpful.


Crowdsourcing is a form of collective or distributed problem-solving. From throwing a question into the online world and asking people to help you find the answer, to searching for ideas or skills, it’s a way of using online communities to source what you need.


This is a confusing one as it’s used to mean a few different things.
‘Tagging someone’: to tag a person in a post means to mention them by linking to their social media profile
Tagging a video or blog: to add ‘tags’ to a YouTube video or a blog is give it labels or keywords so that it can be found by people who are searching for something on this topic.


Live-blogging, is, well, blogging, but live. A live blog provides a real time commentary on something, usually an event that’s happening at the same time. It can include tweets, commentary from around the internet, photos etc., and the idea is that it will give someone who isn’t at the event a good impression of what’s going on. The Guardian does it well, and the European Commission is using live-blogs more and more, particularly for the Citizens’ Dialogues events taking place across the EU – here’s one example from Heidelberg, have a look!


A hashtag looks like this: #. It’s added before a word to make that word a ‘tag’, denoting a tweet or Facebook post as being about this subject. Check out @marcoRecorder’s great post on them.

Of course, there is a plethora of other terms out there, especially for Twitter, and for the more technical side of things (APIs, SEO) but these are ones we get asked about a lot, so we thought it would be a good start, and if you’re eager for more, here’s a handy link.

What are your most used social media terms, or the ones that drive you mad? Share them in the comments!


2 thoughts on “10 terms to help you decipher ’social media speak’

  1. Great article. It can get a little frustrating sometimes keeping up with the terminology, for example content marketing, inbound marketing and digital marketing. They seem to mean the same thing in certain cases, but not always. Furthermore people often use these terms interchangeably as if they all mean the same thing. And of course hashtags are the worst simply because very few people seem to use them for their actual intended purpose, however the whole world has found a different use for them so who are we to say they’re wrong?

    1. marcoRecorder says:

      Hi Julian,
      Thanks for commenting. I agree on the hashtags point. Since tweeps are proliferating it becomes hard to channel conversation via hashtags. A possible solution would be to make them temporary. Some sort of “countdown” hashtags, but this would make it even more complicated. That’s why people should “keep calm,… and hashtag” https://marcorecorder.com/2013/02/26/keep-calm-and-hashtag/

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