5 Social Media Terms You Need to Know

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Social Media Terms You Need to Know

Social media marketing has its fair share of jargon, terms that marketers seem to know and use often, but to the layperson, the meaning isn’t always clear. Getting familiar with some of the key concepts of social media can help you better understand what you’re able to accomplish through social media marketing and how to better measure your progress.

Here are five social media terms that you may have heard, how they are typically used, and how you can leverage them to optimize how you’re engaging in social media marketing.

1. Engagement

The term "engagement" in social media may seem obvious to most people. Engagement, on the surface, means connecting with your followers. You could say that connection should be "engaging." However, engagement in social media marketing has several stages to it:

React - Capturing someone’s attention in the crowded social media feed and getting a basic reaction, namely a "Like." The act of clicking a "Like" button can feel meaningful, but more often it is a reflex reaction of acknowledgment as the person moves on to the next post. Reactions look good on the surface, but in general, they don’t impact your bottom line.

Interact - A better form of engagement is the interaction, the comment that leads to a dialogue online. Interactions help strengthen relationships. If you are serving your current customers or looking to connect with prospective customers, fostering relationships is valuable.

Act - The next form of engagement takes interacting to the next level. The individual takes action to solidify the relationship, such as giving you permission to stay in touch with them through your email subscription form or signing up to receive more information about your products or services. Acting takes effort, and while it doesn’t translate immediately into a sale, you’re on your way.

Transact - The ultimate form of engagement is the transaction. Closing a sale, getting hired, or otherwise engaging in a way that positively impacts your bottom line is the pinnacle of engagement but takes time.

Engagement in social media is the cultivation of a relationship. While you want to close the sale, the enduring value of that relationship includes repeat sales and, even more valuable, referrals to new customers.

2. Influence

You may have heard the term "Influencer Marketing," but what is an influencer in social media? Keeping in mind the stages of engagement, an influencer is an individual who speeds up the path to transactions because their audience trusts them. In some ways, an influencer in social media is someone who others admire and want to emulate. If that influence praises a product and encourages their followers to buy it, transactions happen.

Can you be a social media influencer? Maybe not a celebrity influencer however, studies of influencer effectiveness show that "micro-influencers" can be far more effective than mega stars. That means that you could have great influence over a smaller number of people but a greater percentage of them act and transact.

Creating value for your followers in social media takes a lot of time to create the content that attracts them to you and engages them. You also need to spend a lot of time strategizing how you’ll usher your following through the journey from Reaction to Transaction. Professional social media influencers are laser focused on the image, from their looks to the look of their environment and what each feature in each post they publish reflects.

Even through all the efforts, the staging, the perfect lighting, the carefully chosen filters, the influencers who tend to have the most impact are the ones who have gained the trust of their followers. How can you gain that kind of trust? Through Transparency and Authenticity.

3. Transparency and 4. Authenticity

Transparency is an openness about one’s process to build trust. A business can be transparent by peeling back the curtain and letting followers in "behind the scenes." While transparency could be as extreme as revealing financial data to demonstrate integrity, it could also mean demonstrating how a product is made sustainably or introducing followers to the humans who work at the company. Authenticity boils down to being heartfelt and real. By showing the people behind the scenes at your company, you are humanizing your business in the eyes of customers and prospects.

But what do your followers really think and feel about you? That’s where Sentiment comes in.

5. Sentiment

If you’re using a social media dashboard to manage your social networks and monitor what people are saying about you, your company or brand, most paid services include a Sentiment Monitor. Sentiment in social media is typically broken down into three parts: Positive, Neutral, and Negative. While sentiment analysis software isn’t perfect, measuring sentiment is a good way to analyze how people feel about what you’re doing.

If you decide to use Sentiment Analysis, spend the time sifting through the messages to ensure the assessments are correct. In some cases, words like "bad" and "killer" may sound negative but are actually compliments.

Understanding key terms in social media helps you better interpret how you’re really doing when you post to social media. Posts are introductions. What happens next is the real value for your business.