Social Media Glossary v.1.0



ACL (access control list):  a data table providing access rights to pages on a website for security purposes.  For example, in a wiki, certain users may have permission to add and edit content, while others may only be allowed to read content.

Aggregation: the process of gathering content from various sources to create a customized user experience.

Alerts/alert messaging/alert notification: automated notification using e-mail or SMS that communicates content to users, usually with permission.  Example:  Google Alert lets users know when a word, phrase, or tag is mentioned on the Web and notifies them by e-mail.

App: application, typically used in the context of mobile devices (such as the iPhone) but can also be a program on a social media platform or a website.

Applet: Small program module typically used by a larger programs like web browsers.  Examples: QuickTime or Flash multimedia.

Archive: older content that is indexed (blogs); online discussion topics that are closed to new comments but saved and indexed (discussion groups; forums)

Asynchronous: interactions online that do not occur in real time, i.e., time may lapse between responses

Authenticity: perception that something or someone is “real”

Avatars: icons serving as graphical representations of users


Back channel: private messages (PM) or communications that are sent in the context of social media that are not transparent to all

Bebo: Social networking site.  Relatively more popular in the UK.

Blogger: Blogging website owned by Google.  Blogger hosts blogs on or allows software to host a blog elsewhere

Blogosphere: the universe of blogs, bloggers, and readers

Blogroll: list of blogs often on a sidebar (left or right margin) of a blog that serve as recommended reading

Blog: short for web log.  A form of online communication where a user generates content for an audience.  Blogs can be public or private.  A photo-based blog is a phlog.  A video-based blog is a vlog.

Bookmarking: storing the address of a website in a browser.  Social bookmarking sites are online places that allow users to store bookmarks on the web, give them tags (see tag definition), and share them.  Example of a social bookmarking site is  Plugins/applets for certain browsers are available allowing users to do this as they visit a webpage.

Bulletin Board: see Discussion Groups


Cached (Google Cache): Web content saved by Google and stored (cached) so it may be viewed even after a page is deleted.

Chat:  social interactions on a site where users add text responses one after another in real time.  Also called synchronous chat.  Contrast with discussion groups or forum, where conversations need not be in real time, i.e., asynchronous.

Chatrooms: features on a website with pages where chat is a feature.

Chiclet:  icon with logos used to link to social media sites or denoting an RSS feed.

Comments: user content that allows for conversations on a blog or other social media site.  Moderated comments appear only after approval by a moderator or content producer.

Content: digital text, images, video, multimedia, etc.

Content Sharing: Use of websites to upload, share, and use digital content.

Creative Commons: A nonprofit organization that promotes free public licenses to content.  Creative Commons provides specific guidelines on how content can be used, reused, and repurposed, using attributions, links, or other notification methods to identify the original source.

Crowdsourcing: harnessing the skill of users by having them volunteer time, data, and/or expertise to generate content or solve problems.

D A social bookmarking site that allows users to save links on the web, where they and others may access them.  The links can be given tags (see tag definition).

Digg: a social news website that allows users to submit links and stories and vote and comment on them.  Being popular on Digg can drive traffic and can facilitate stories going “viral” or rapidly spreading through the Internet.

Discussion groups: An online feature allowing users to leave messages.  A string of responses to one topic or subject is typically called a thread.


Embed code: Code provided on websites that allows users to place content (usually in the form of a media player) from that site on their own website or blogs.  Examples:  YouTube, Vimeo, and Grooveshark all generate embed code that allows users to place a media player on their website or blog.

Embedding: Placing content from another site on a blog or website.  This feature can be disabled on some content sharing sites so embedding will not work.


Facebook: A social networking site that allows users to create profiles and network with each other.

Face-to-Face (F2F or FtF): People meeting and interacting offline directly.  Online contact tends to be richer after F2F meetings.

Facilitator: A manager of online conversations.  Sometimes called a moderator or mod.

“Fail”: User colloquialism or slang for a miscue or gaffe, often by an organization or public figure.  Example: iPhone users complaining about AT&T often use the term “ATTFail” to tag or categorize their content on blogs or websites.

Feeds/Web Feed: a data format automatically providing users with frequently updated content.  (See also RSS.)   Also, a Twitter feed is a Twitter account, often used in the context of a organization with multiple accounts for different brands or divisions.

Flickr: Social media site that allows the uploading and sharing of images.

Folksonomy: a user-generated taxonomy or classification system that uses “tags” or descriptive labels for content.

Forums: See discussion groups.

Friends: On social networking sites, a contact or profile that a user has linked to.


Gadget: An applet or program within a program that offers an additional feature.  For example, a blog gadget can set up an RSS feed that imports content from elsewhere.

Groups: a collection of users that have a specified commonality in terms of values, activities, and interests.


Hashtag: A convention on Twitter that allows users to give a post a “tag” (See Tag), facilitating categorixation and searches for content.  Example: #CanadianCancer

Hulu: video streaming site that has copyrighted content available for viewing.  It is a joint venture between Universal, Fox, and Disney.  There are restrictions on viewing this site in Canada.


iGoogle: a Google feature that allows users to customize content through aggregation.

IM/Instant Messaging: Communicating with individuals or small groups using synchronous (i.e., real time) text messaging.

IP/Intellectual Property: legal term used to define monopoly rights over use of content.


Labels: user generated keywords that help to categorize content (also called tags).

Login: process of authenticating a user on a website; the “handle” or username (also called unique ID) that one uses on a website.

Long Tail: A phenomenon characterized by the majority of occurrences are driven by a relatively few entities.  Example: sales of media titles (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) are dominated by a few titles with large number of sales (head).  The vast majority of titles have relatively few sales (long tail).

Lulz: the joy derived by some online individuals through trolling or being emotionally disruptive to others online.

Lurkers: Users who are present but do not comment or visibly contribute to online/virtual communities.


Mashup: a combination of content, data, or other services that provides an added-value user experience.  Example:  Superimposing Craigslist rental postings on Google Maps.

Membership: belonging to a website or virtual/online community with a unique ID or login.

Meme/Internet meme:  A phrase or catchphrase that spreads through the Internet from person to person, often in the form of a pop culture inside joke.  See Viral.  Examples: Keyboard Cat and Rickrolling.

Microblogging: blogging with short posts (e.g., 140 characters or less).  Short posts on some sites (e.g., Twitter) allows microblogging to be used on mobile devices through SMS.  Examples: Twitter, Tumblr, Plurk, and the Facebook “wall.”

MMS/Mobile Messaging Service: standard way to send messages that include multimedia content to and from mobile phones.

Mobile: technologies using a cellular telecommunications infrastructure.

Moderator: On a website, a manager charged with resolving conflicts, ensuring that the community runs smoothly, and that discussions/conversations are kept on track.

Multimedia: content that uses a combination of different forms, including text, audio, still images, animation, video, or interactivity.

MySpace: A social networking site that has transitioning to become an entertainment social portal.  It allows users to create profiles and network with each other.


Network/Social Network: a structure that is a collection of users that represent relationships.

Online community: Online gathering place for stakeholders to interact with peers to gain support and/or share resources

Open source: software or technology developed collaboratively with few constraints on its use.  While the software may be free or low cost, there may be hidden “soft” costs in order to successfully implement it.


Permalink: the web address (URL) of an item of content, for example a blog post or comment.

Picasa: Google application and social media site that allows users to store and share images.

Platform: the framework or system within which tools work.  Examples: the iPhone smartphone system.

Plugins: See Applets.

PM/personal message: an e-mail or text message sent between users and not seen by others.

Podcast: audio or video content that can be downloaded automatically through a subscription to a website (RSS feed) so users can watch or listen when they want to.

Portal: a type of site that allows users to search for and find content on other websites or blogs.  Examples: Google and Yahoo.

Post: an entry of content in social media (e.g., on a blog)

Profiles: information on users (usually provided by them) of a website or social media site.


Reader: a site that aggregates RSS feeds of content

Registration: the process of creating a login, i.e., a username, password and other details, when using a restricted access website.

Richness/Media Richness: when media makes communications less ambiguous and closer to “real life.”  Rich media: media that makes communications less ambiguous and closer to “real life.”

RSS/Real Simple Syndication: allows users to subscribe to content on blogs and other social media and have it automatically delivered.  The automatically delivery is called a feed and users subscribe to them.


Semantic Web: a movement with the objective of having data being interoperable between sites and organizations.

Sharing: allowing other users the use of text, images, video, bookmarks or other content by adding tags, and applying copyright licenses that encourage use of content (e.g., Creative Commons).

Skype: A VoIP service provider allowing telephony through the Internet.

Smartphone: mobile technology integrating telephone, SMS/MMS, and web features.

Social bookmarking: online places that allow users to store bookmarks on the web, give them tags (see tag definition), and share them.  Example of a social bookmarking site is

Social media: the wide array of tools and platforms users utilize to publish, have conversations, and share digitized content online.  Examples: blogs, social networking sites, video sharing sites, photo sharing sites, wikis, bookmark sharing sites, etc.

Social networking: the use of social media where users connect and interact with others by setting up profiles and use social media tools.

Social networking site (SNS): online places that allow users to create a profile for themselves and socialize with others using a wide array of social media tools.

Social news:  online places where users can link to news articles or other links and rate them.  Examples:  Digg and Reddit.

Social portal: a hybrid of a social networking site (SNS) that facilitates online community building on the basis of content usage and sharing.  Example: MySpace.

SMS/Short Message Service: a protocol for mobile devices allowing the sending of text messages (texting). See also MMS/Multimedia Message Service.

Stream/Streaming: Technology that allows content to be broadcast over the Internet without being downloaded.

Structured talk: multiple blogs that feed to a single focal location (page) in a web community.  Example: OpenSalon

Subscribing: adding an RSS feed to your aggregator or (feed) reader.

Synchronous chat: See Chat.


Tags: user-generated keywords used in social media to help categorize content (also called labels)

Technology steward: Users within a virtual/online community that understand technological needs of a community and can take a leadership role in addressing them.

Terms of Service: rules by which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service. Usually, such terms are legally binding.

Texting/text messaging: exchange of brief written messages between mobile phones, over cellular networks.

Threads: messages linked by a topic on a discussion group or forum.

TOS: see Terms of service

Trackback: notifies Web authors when somebody links to their content, typically on a blog.

Transparency: a policy of openness in social media regarding access to and control of content and identity of authors and organizations.

Troll: user who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant, or off-topic content with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal conversations.  (See also lulz).

Twitter: A microblogging service provider.


User-generated content: digital content created or repurposed by people on the Web, typically using social media.

Vimeo: A video sharing website.

Viral:  the ability of content to rapidly diffuse or spread on the Internet.

Virtual community: See Online community.

VoIP/Voice-over-Internet Protocol: Technology that allows voice to be transmitted over the Internet.  Example: Skype.


Web 2.0: Internet-based services that emphasize user collaboration and content sharing.  It focuses on the use of social media.  Technologically, it involves the successful creation, management, and use of databases that contain user-generated content.

Web 3.0: See the Semantic web

Web conference: Conducting live meetings or presentations over the Internet.  See also Webinar.

Web logs: see blogs.

Webinar: Live audio or audio/video presentation with opportunity for limited interactivity.

Widgets: See applets and gadgets.

Wiki: a social media web page – or set of pages – that can be edited collaboratively by users.  Example: Wikipedia.


YouTube: A video sharing website.


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