De-coding Social Media

Do you ever wonder why those folks on twitter seem to communicate in their own language?  What is an RT? or a DM?  And why on Earth do they keep using the number sign?!  Or why are all these “like” buttons all over the internet?

The first thing you need to know is that each social media platform has its own style.  Let’s take a look at the 3 most common Social Media platforms.  Good luck!


Twitter is considered a “microblogging” site. You get exactly 140 characters to speak your mind, so this is where all of the random abbreviations come in (as well as the slang us Millennials use in SMS messages, aka texts). Once you create a username, you can “follow” people and let them “follow” you.  To keep you up-to-date, here is some helpful terminology:

  • Following someone on Twitter means that their posts will show up in your news feed/homepage.  You would follow someone so that you can know what’s going on in the news, their personal lives, or if a company is doing something interesting.
  • Tweeting is posting your own 140 character (or less) message that you would like to share with the world, aka “$3 lunch special at Jimmy John’s? Count me in!” or “My new Xbox arrived today. Can’t wait!” or “First 3 people to say Snowman to the cashier get a free coffee.”
  • RT is a re-tweet.  In other words you are regurgitating what someone else posted previously because you think it is relevant to your “followers” or you think it is funny, etc.
  • DM means to send a direct message.  There is a somewhat internal email system that allows you to email brief messages to other people who have Twitter accounts.
  • # A hashtag is a way of tagging a keyword or an event so that people can converse about the same thing. So if you are at the “Sparkle Ball”, you can say, “Just arrived at the Ritz with @MeghanS #SparkleBall” or “Did anyone else see that play? #CubsRock.”
  • @insertnamehere is a way to specifically “speak” to someone via Twitter.  Your post will come up in their feed automatically because you tagged them.
  •,, etc. are URLs that have been shortened via a third-party program that allows someone to post a URL without it taking up their precious 140 characters.


By this point I hope we’ve all seen David Fincher’s The Social Network  (or if you’re truly above the curve you’ve read Ben Mezrich’s book).  In case you haven’t, the Spark Notes history of Facebook is that it was originally built to be an exclusive social networking platform for students at particular colleges, keeping them in-the-know about personal details about one another’s’ lives.  Soon all college .edu’s were accepted and soon after anyone and everyone could create their own personalized Facebook page where they could post as much information about their personal lives as they so chose.

Although Facebook was originally a tool for people to more-or-less stalk their peers, now Aunt Peggy and Pastor Mike are “friends” with you as well.  So please be aware what you post.  On to the lingo….

  • Friend-ing Someone is creating a virtual connection to an acquaintance, friend, family member, etc. so that you may see their page and they may see yours.  It also shows how awesome you are because now you have 1,348 friends…really?
  • Tagging Someone is a way to link someone’s profile name to a post you are putting up or a picture you have just shared with the universe.
  • Posting your status is similar to Tweeting; you’re updating the world on what you do with you mundane life.  Now if you’re a business, you’d post about a special or upcoming events to keep your “friends” in-the-know.
  • Posting to someone’s wall is like a brief email written to your friend that the whole world can see.
  • Liking something is a reaction, which I personally liken to a smile, toward something you see on Facebook….and now, because Facebook is second in line to own the world behind Google, the internet.  For example, your friend posts on your wall, “I miss you!” Your reaction = “Aww, I miss you too.” So you “like” it.  Or you’re perusing the internet, and you see an ad for your favorite hockey team – “like”.  Your friend just saw The Black Keys in concert – you think this is awesome – “like”.
  • Checking in is Facebook’s version of FourSquare.  If you’re at the Red Sox game you can virtually “check-in” at Fenway so you can brag to all of your friends that you are there.  At the new “it” restaurant Next in Chicago? “Check-in” so that everyone knows how cool you are.


LinkedIn is primarily a business networking tool, so shorthand messages are less likely to be posted here.  Some people have their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts linked to their LinkedIn profiles.  More often than not, if someone does have another Social Media tool linked to LinkedIn, it is their business profile rather than their personal file, so any tweets or posts that appear will be strictly business or industry related.

Although it is encouraged to get into contact with colleagues, potential employers, and friends through LinkedIn, always remember that this is a business platform – keep it classy.


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