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Social Media Glossary

05 June 2012

Following on from the series of articles about choosing the right social media applications, [link to:] setting up your accounts [link to:] and generating content [link to: /articles/step-3-creating-social-media-content-without-the-headache], this article explains the most commonly used terms in social media.



API (application programming interface)

An API allows users to get a data feed directly into their own sites, providing continually updated, streaming data.


This term is ubiquitous now with the iPhone. Essentially an app is an application that performs a specific function on your computer or handheld device. Apps can be anything from games to specific programs like digital recorders, online chat functions or music players.


A term coined from the joining/mashing up of “web” and “log”, a blog is an online journal that’s updated on a regular basis with entries that appear in reverse chronological order. Blogs can be about any subject, and typically allow readers to leave comments.

Cloud computing

Also called “the cloud”, cloud computing refers to the storing and accessing of data on remote machines, rather than the data only being available on a particular machine.

Creative Commons

This is a not-for-profit organisation and licensing system that offers creators the ability to fine-tune their copyright, specifying the ways in which others may use their works.


Embedding means to add code to a website so that a video or photo can be displayed directly, even though it’s hosted on another website. You’ll often find YouTube videos embedded on a website; site owners prefer to do this as it keeps the visitor at their site.


A feed is a data format that provides users with frequently updated content. Content distributors syndicate a Web feed, enabling users to subscribe to a site’s latest content.


A hashtag (or hash tag) is a format of adding additional context to Tweets (i.e. Twitter posts). They are added in the Twitter post itself by prefixing a word with the hash symbol (#) and help users to organise and find relevant content.


A blog, video or podcast needs a hosting service before it can appear online. Companies can host their blogs, videos or podcasts on their own servers, or on a service such as YouTube etc.


Mashups have several meanings. A music mashup is a combination of two or more songs. A video mashup is the result of combining two or more pieces of video, such as news footage with original commentary. A Web mashup results when information from a database or another source is overlaid on top of an existing website, such as homes for sale taken from a real estate website plotted on a Google Map.


Metadata refers to information — including titles, descriptions, tags and captions — that describes a media item such as a video, photo or blog post.

Open source

In software terms, open source refers to code that is free to build upon. Well-known projects include the Linux operating system, the WordPress web publishing system and the Firefox browser.

Paid search marketing / Search engine marketing (SEM)

This is the placement of paid ads on a search engine results page (i.e. Google). In the traditional model, an advertiser pays the search engine company only if the visitor clicks on the ad (pay-per-click or PPC).

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of designing your website to give it the best chance of appearing near the top of search engine rankings. Optimising a website primarily involves editing its content, identifying high-traffic keywords and improving the site’s layout and design.

Streaming media

Unlike downloadable podcasts or video, streaming media refers to video or audio that can be watched or listened to online but not stored permanently. Traditional media companies like to stream their programs so that they can’t be distributed freely onto file-sharing networks.

Web analytics

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data to understanding who your visitors are and optimising your website.


Short for Web-based seminar, a webinar is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is delivered over the Web. In general, participants register in advance and access the presentation in real time and listen to the presenter either through computer speakers or a telephone connection. Webinars are generally one-way and can involve chat or polls.


A widget, sometimes called a gadget, badge or applet, is a small block of content, typically displayed in a small box, with a specific purpose, such as providing weather forecasts or news, that is constantly updating itself.


A wiki is a collaborative website that can be directly edited by anyone with access to it. Small teams often find that they can accomplish a task easier by creating a collaborative online workspace. Wikipedia ( is the most well known example of a wiki.


WordPress is a free and open source blog publishing and content management system (CMS). As at August 2011, 22% of all new websites are built on WordPress.



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