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Key Terms for the Modern Marketer: Social Media Edition—Part Two

Our Key Terms for the Modern Marketer series defines words every marketer should have in their vocabulary. As relevant terms change and buzzwords are redefined, we offer up the most current definitions so you can maintain your modern marketer status.


Analytics Edition
Content Strategy Edition—Part One
Content Strategy Edition—Part Two
Marketing Automation Edition
Social Media Edition—Part One
Social Media Edition—Part Two
Social Media Edition—Part Three
Strategy Edition
UX/UI Edition
Web Redesign Edition

Social Media

Social media is a beneficial content publishing platform for marketers, consumers, and everyone in between. Every social media action takes place on a social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.) Social media content is much shorter (e.g., Twitter only allows a maximum of 140 characters) than most content formats and often contains a few sentences and a link, photo, or video. Social media is a hosted platform and a borrowed audience, so it is often used in tandem with a website, blog, and other content formats.

Social Network

Social media networks are hubs for every social media action (e.g., sharing, messaging). Each social network hosts customizable pages for individuals, brands, organizations, etc., to connect and communicate. Brands use social networks to post original or curated content, engage with audiences, and build a brand following. Every new social network offers unique ways to communicate and top social networks have the ability to completely change how we relate to one another through social media. Common social media networks include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the practice of dedicating a portion of your overall marketing strategy to optimizing social media efforts. It often includes posting targeted content, growing and maintaining a following, communicating with leads, and, ideally, maintaining a positive ROI. It’s important to avoid a siloed social media marketing strategy. Marketers should uphold their brand story and voice through all social media efforts. Any disconnect between social media and other sectors of your marketing could cause confusion among prospects, leads, and customers.


An avatar is a visual representation of an individual or brand on social media. Avatars are typically a photo, illustration, or logo that appear prominently on the user’s profile. They can even appear as GIFs on social networks, such as Twitter, or Snapcodes on social network Snapchat. In addition to a user’s profile avatar, each network typically has smaller avatars that represent users within the timelines of their following. Avatars vary in size for each social media network. It’s common for users to change their avatar occasionally. Brands often update their avatar when they rebrand or design a new logo. Avatars are a way to express brand identity.

Boost/Boosted Post

Boosted posts are a paid advertising opportunity on social network Facebook. Facebook users can boost a new or existing post on their profile to reach an expanded, targeted audience and get increased impressions and, ideally, interactions on their post. You can either select a unique target audience or choose to have your post delivered to more friends or followers. The latter option is beneficial, because, given Facebook’s algorithm, your regular posts will not always appear in the timelines of your friends and followers. For the tailored audience option, you can specify a city and maximum number of miles around that city, age range, gender, and interests. The final step to boosting a post is choosing your maximum budget. Facebook will make your post viewable to as many friends or followers your budget will allow.

Clickthrough Rate

Clickthrough rate is the rate at which users take a step beyond viewing a social post. Clickthrough rate actions can include clicking on a shared link, photo, video, or other media, clicking your profile name or handle, clicking a hashtag shared within the post, clicking to expand the post, or clicking any other field within your post. Clickthrough rate is the percentage of people who click anywhere within your post, out of the total number of people who saw your post. Calculating this rate helps determine how effective your posts are at engaging users.

Crisis Management

Social media can be a unique tool for brands going through the crisis management process. When a brand goes through a crisis or important PR event, they can immediately announce key information from their social media accounts. This can often get news out faster than a press release and allows brands to be the first point of contact in a crisis. Businesses can shape how people respond to their crisis event by getting that information out before news outlets or word of mouth. When a brand is transparent about a crisis on social media, it can build trust in light of negative events. Social media profiles can act as a hub for people to learn about a crisis and also share news, thoughts, or opinions about a crisis. Brands can interact with people through their social networks to keep two-way communication open. When people feel they’re being heard in a crisis, it can help build trust and strengthen a social relationship.

Direct Message

A direct message, abbreviated as DM, is a message delivered directly and privately to a user on Twitter. Unlike tweets, which are featured on the poster’s Twitter profile, DMs are only featured within the DM inbox of the recipient. Users can DM anyone who follows them. Businesses can choose to receive DMs from anyone, even those who don’t follow them. Businesses use DMs to provide customer service and act as a personable way to grow social relationships.


Users follow other user accounts or profiles on social media so they can interact with that profile and view their posts in their newsfeed. Following someone on social media is often the first step to building a social relationship. Individuals and businesses can choose to make their account public or private, to control their following. On public accounts, users can follow someone without being approved. On private accounts, users must be screened by the holder of the account. Following on Facebook is how users connect with brand pages. Following on Twitter or Instagram is the primary way to connect on those particular social networks. Someone who follows your brand on social media is deemed a follower.


An individual or brand’s following is the group of social media accounts that choose to follow them. Building and maintaining a quality brand following is important to ensure you’re creating meaningful connections on social media. A brand’s following can provide insights into a brand’s social media audience. Growing a following on social media is a way to increase organic reach and is often one of the main goals a brand strives to achieve through social media marketing.


Becoming friends on Facebook is a mutual decision to connect on social media. Users can request to become friends with a user and that user must approve the friendship. Once users become friends, they can view the other’s full profiles and view their content within their newsfeed. Becoming friends on Facebook is a stepping stone to building a social relationship. Friending is similar to following someone on other social networks.


GIF is an abbreviation for Graphics Interchange Format, which is a file format, just like PDF and JPG. GIFs can be static or moving images. These image files support up to 265 colors for each frame and are compressed to reduce file size while maintaining image and motion quality. They’re most frequently used for their animation abilities. A common use of a GIF is a brief clip from a movie or show and text overlay to express a particular emotion. Some social media networks support GIFs as image types you can upload to a post and, in some cases, an avatar. Support for GIFs on social networks continues to grow.


A handle is a user’s name on social networks Twitter and Instagram. While an avatar is a user’s visual identity on those networks, a handle is a text-based identity. Handles begin with the “@” symbol and are followed by a name the user creates. Brands often choose to use their brand name as the handle. A handle can only exist once on each network, so every handle is unique. Users can tag other users, which means inserting their handle into their post so the owner of the handle is notified when someone mentions them in a post.

Live Stream

A live stream is video broadcasted in real time on a social media profile. It has become more prominent in recent years due to the inception of streaming applications Meerkat, Periscope, and Livestream. With those applications it’s often possible to view a video after a live stream has ended. For brands, live streaming is a video marketing opportunity.


Notifications let social media users know when someone has interacted with their social media content or if there are other updates within their social network that are relevant to them. Users can choose which types of notifications they receive or they can opt out of receiving any notifications at all. You’ll commonly receive social media notifications when someone tags you in a tweet, or retweets one of your tweets, posts on your Facebook wall, favorites your post, repins your pin, requests to be your friend, or follows your account. Notifications keep businesses and individuals alert to when someone is interacting with them so they don’t have to consistently browse social media.

Organic Reach

Organic reach is reaching an audience through social media without paid promotion or advertising opportunities. Organic reach is a top perk of social media for brands as it is one of the few marketing opportunities that incur any sort of placement costs. Organic reach is connecting with other social media users through friending and following, communicating through posts and messages, etc. Brands often work to maximize their organic reach to get the most out of their social media efforts.


A social media post is an entry on social networks, including Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. Twitter’s version of a post is called a tweet and Pinterest’s version of a post is called a pin. Posts typically include copy and, often, a photo, link, video, or GIF. Users can post on their own social media profiles or on the profiles of their friends or connections. Users can also post on others’ posts, photos, events, articles, etc. If someone posts on a brand’s wall, tags them in a post, comments on a post, etc., they’re interacting with that brand’s social content.

Promoted Post

Promoted posts, pins, or tweets are an advertising opportunity within social networks. Individuals, brands, pages, can pay to have their post, profile, or page promoted so more users are exposed to their brand. Promoted posts are labeled as “sponsored” so users know that they’re viewing an advertisement. This is different from boosted posts, as those are not labeled as advertisements.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is featuring current events in your marketing, as they’re happening. Marketers typically employ real-time marketing during key events, such as the Superbowl. Real-time marketing is especially prominent on Twitter due to the fast-moving feed. Successful real-time marketers incorporate the current event while staying true to their brand identity and voice.

Response Rate

Response rate is a metric used to measure a brand’s effectiveness at responding to interactions on social media. It’s calculated by dividing the number of responses to people who mention your brand by the total numbers of mentions received. A quality response rate is an indication that they’re working to build quality social relationships and provide supreme customer service to their friends and followers.


A robot (or bot) in the social media realm is a computer that automatically posts to someone’s account, follows or friends users, or manages a social profile. Common reasons individuals create robot accounts are to spam users with advertising, increase the rate at which they post, grow a large following, or win contests. Users often view robot profiles as impersonal and typically do not follow them. While some refer to profiles who use marketing automation as robots, one can still use a computer to expedite the social posting process without losing the personal element of their profile.

Social Media Buttons

Social media buttons are often added to websites to connect users to the external social media pages of a brand or business. There are two main types of social media buttons: social sharing buttons and social following buttons. Social sharing buttons are typically attached to website content, such as blog posts, and make it easier for the reader to share content on their own social media channels. Once clicked, a popup box with the content link, title, and sometimes the brand’s social media handle, typically appears where the user can add their own thoughts to the content link. Some indicate how many shares the content has already received. Social follow buttons typically take the form of each social network’s icon. These signify to users which social networks the brand has a presence on, and make it easier for a user to follow a brand. Upon click, they either prompt the user to follow the brand directly from the website or take the user to the brand’s social media profile. Social follow buttons can often be found in the header or footer of a website.

Social Relationship

Social relationships are the relationships formed through social media interactions. For brands and businesses, these are bonds created with social media followers, connections or friends, and could turn into business leads or customers. Building a social relationship can be a step in the sales cycle, often early, to build trust with leads. Once that trust is formed, a social relationship can transform into a business relationship, leading to a sale. Social relationships can also form or grow after a sale. Offering quality content, conversing with customers through social media, and responding to customer inquiries are all ways to grow a social relationship. When quality social relationships are built with customers, they can even become brand advocates for a company.


Transparency is an important quality for brands to embrace on social media. Brands that are transparent on social media uphold their brand identity and voice through social media posts and profile information. Transparent brands are honest about happenings within their company. They notify social connections when they have information of value. This is especially important when posting for crisis management. Transparency leads to trust, which often leads to quality social relationships.


Trends are popular topics or hashtags on social networks. Twitter and Google+ feature trending hashtags and Facebook lists trending topics. Trends are listed on a user’s social media dashboard, or home screen. Users can view Facebook trends by topics including top trends, politics, science and technology, sports, and entertainment. Users can view tailored trends based on their location or general Twitter trends. On Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, trends act as a means to understanding what others are talking about on social media. Users can click on a trending topic or hashtag to view posts on that topic or hashtag.


A tweet is a post on the social network Twitter. Tweets need to be 140 characters or less and can include images, videos, GIFs, locations, links, or polls. Tweets appear on an individual or brand’s Twitter profile and also within the Twitter timeline of each of the profile’s followers. Retweets, often abbreviated RTs, are shares of another’s tweet. Retweets also appear in one’s Twitter profile and their followers’ timeline. Retweets are labeled as a retweet in profiles and timelines. Twitter offers the option to to add a comment to a retweet so an individual or brand can add their own thoughts on another’s tweet. Retweets with comments show the comment over the original tweet.

Katie Yohn
Katie Yohn
Forever a student of marketing and the written word, Katie is always on the lookout for new ways to connect with audiences. She enjoys learning about emerging trends and sharing what she's learned. She also has an affinity for alliteration.