Social media terms your small business should know

We’ve all heard them, and most of us have even used them — but how many of us are confident about exactly what some common social media terms really mean? Here are some quick definitions to help you avoid a social faux pas.

Profile vs. Page

Facebook explains the difference as:

  • Personal profiles are for non-commercial use and represent individual people
  • You can follow profiles to see public updates — even if you aren’t friends with that person
  • Pages look similar to profiles (and are managed by people who have personal profiles), but offer unique tools for businesses, brands and organizations
  • You can “Like” a Page to see updates in your News Feed

What this means for a small business: You should have a Page for your business — yes, even if you’re the only employee, and even if your company name is, well, your own name. You can still have a profile to connect with friends and family (and you’ll need a personal profile to create and manage your Page), but you should take advantage of the additional features you get with a Page to reach and interact with your customers.

Like vs. Share

“Liking” something that’s posted by a Facebook profile or Page is a great way to acknowledge that you saw their content — or even tell them how you felt about that content using the Like/Love/Laugh/Wow/Sad/Angry buttons.

“Sharing” is a more active option: you’re making sure all of your friends and followers (or a specific segment you select) can also see that content, with or without your additional commentary.

Your friends and followers are more likely to see something you “Share” than something you “Like.”

What this means for a small business: Any “Likes” or “Shares” are good! It means your content is reaching your audience and that they’re taking time to interact with it. But for you to reach a larger audience — the friends and followers of whoever saw your content — you really want them to “Share” your posts. That means that you have to think two steps ahead: first about what your followers would like, and then about THEIR friends and followers would like — after all, that’s who they’re “Sharing” your content with.

Tweet vs. Retweet

A tweet is a message you post on your Twitter account. A retweet is when someone re-posts your tweet — making it visible to all of THEIR Twitter followers (and putting in front of an even bigger audience).

What this means for a small business: Retweets show that your tweets are resonating with your existing followers…being picked up on (and shared with a wider audience) by non-followers…or both! Essentially, they’re a vote of confidence in what you’re saying.

Hashtag vs. @ mention

A hashtag is a combination of the # symbol and text (#likethis) that creates “trends” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. It essentially “groups” your content with other content that uses that same — which users can search by or stumble across organically.

An @ mention (@username) allows you to tag a specific user in your Facebook post, tweet or Instagram post. It can be used as a “heads up” to get their attention (they’ll be notified that they were mentioned), a way to give them credit, or a way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know yet.

Many large companies now let you @ mention them on Twitter, Instagram and other social channels to start a conversation around customer service issues.

What this means for a small business: Like “Shares” and retweets, someone @ mentioning your business is something you need to pay attention to. They may need help, advice, or just be thanking you for services you already provided.

You can @ mention your customers to share success stories, and hashtag your posts to potentially reach a larger audience interested in that topic.

PM or DM

A “private message” or “direct message” is requested when you’re talking about something sensitive — like a transaction — on a business’s public profile or page. When someone says “PM me the details,” that means it’s time to contact them directly and confidentially.

What this means for a small business: Sometimes discretion is key — especially when you’re talking about handling a customer’s sensitive information (like credit card numbers). Don’t be afraid to take a public conversation “offline” by asking a customer or prospect to PM you.

Ready to expand your vocabulary? Check out our lists of website terms your small business should know and SEO terms your small business should know.