A beginner’s guide to social media jargon

When you start using social media for business you hear a baffling array of new terminology. What does it all mean? And what do you need to pay attention to? This blog is here to explain about posts, hashtags, reach and impressions.

What is a social media post?

A photo of a woman having her picture taken on a smartphone. Photo by Josh Rose.
Visual content works well on most social media platforms except LinkedIn, which prefers text. Photo by Josh Rose.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn all enable you to share posts. This is where whichever platform you are on asks you “What’s happening?” or “What’s on your mind?” On Instagram, it’s the button in the middle with a + symbol. On Pinterest, posts are called Pins. It’s the same thing, it’s content you share with your audience.

What makes a good post is different from platform to platform. On Instagram, a post is always a picture and you can write a caption to go with it. On Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, a post can be text, pictures, or video. You can share links but on Facebook and LinkedIn, posts with links get shown to fewer people because both platforms don’t want you to go off to another site on the internet.

Twitter is a great place to share links to content you’ve enjoyed and your own website, as well as commenting on the news of the day and what’s happening in your life.

Pinterest is also a good place for linking to content you have found useful but, like Instagram, you need to think visually. People like to pin visually appealing images on their Pinterest boards. People will be looking for useful images or useful content. Image can be useful if the person is researching new clothes, hairstyles or are looking for a new kitchen or want to redecorate. You can give them inspiration. Pinterest works as a giant search engine so it’s also good to post to useful content. Pinterest pulls in images from the web page you are looking at for you to pin. If your website doesn’t have a suitable one, you can upload your own.

What is a hashtag? Should I be using them?

A hashtag looks like # and is a way of marking up posts relating to the same thing. If you are an author, you might use hashtags like #amwriting, #author, or #writerslife, for example. They are a great way to find relevant conversations and on Twitter, they can bring people together for Twitter chats, where people can all join in a discussion on a particular topic at the same time.

A photo of Pinterest's metrics dashboard. Picture by Igor Ovsyannykov.
The performance of your social media posts can be measured in many ways. Picture by Igor Ovsyannykov.

Whether you use hashtags depends on which social media platform you are using. As you will have gathered from the last paragraph, they work really well on Twitter. Hashtags help you cut through the noise and find posts about topics which interest you. People tend to overuse them though. Studies have shown that less is more, it’s better to only use 1-3 hashtags in your posts or they look spammy.

Hashtags also work well on Instagram. Here, you can use up to 30. Whether you put them in your post or in the comment below is up to you. It’s a question of neatness and whether you mind seeing a lot of # at the end of your post. While you can use up to 30, there’s no need to. Experiment and find what works for you.

If you’re wondering which hashtags to use, look at posts you like and see which hashtags the person has used. Some hashtags will have thousands of people using them at once, some will be used by a few hundred. You want a mix of popular hashtags and less used ones in your Instagram post to get your images seen. With the really popular posts, you will fall down the image list within a matter of minutes or even seconds.

Don’t use hashtags on Facebook. They don’t work. LinkedIn recently reintroduced hashtags. I am still getting used to seeing them but like everything in social media, experiment and see if they work for you.

What is the difference between reach and impressions?

You may have heard the terms reach and impressions and they may sound interchangeable but they are not.

Reach refers to the number of people who actually saw your content. Impressions is the number of times your post was shown in the newsfeed. It can appear but if someone has scrolled straight past it without looking, it’s an impression but of very little value. A post can also appear in someone’s newsfeed multiple times and every time it does, it counts as an impression. Reach is more valuable because the person looked at your post and ideally, engaged with it.

What does organic reach mean?

Organic reach refers to the number of people who saw your post without it being an advert. Good organic reach is what everyone aspires to. You want to create great content which people enjoy and engage with.

Paid reach is the number of people who have seen an advert. On Facebook, this is what happens when you hit the boost button as well as when you create a proper advert. If you are going to pay for people to see your content, always go to the adverts manager because then you can target your audience and define your goals.

What does engagement mean?

Engagement on social media is when someone ‘likes’ your post, comments on it or shares it with other people. Some social media platforms have more complicated engagement measures than others. Some also use engagement to determine how many people your content will be shown to.

Facebook is notable for the way it uses engagement in this way. Not only does it want to see that people are engaging with your posts but it values some interactions more highly than others. If someone hits the ‘like’ button, that’s good but if they go to the trouble of selecting another emotional reaction like ‘love’ or ‘haha’, Facebook will rank that as higher engagement. Facebook recently announced it would be valuing content which sparks conversation more than any other so you need to be creating conversation on your Facebook posts. Getting people to actively engage in conversation rather than passively ‘liking’ something is much more difficult.

Do you have a question about social media which isn’t covered in this guide? Put it in the comments below.

Rachel Extance is a communications consultant who can help you get to grips with social media. Get in touch for training or help with your social media strategy.

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