social media

Considering all the social media upheaval this week, the Spin Cycle thought it appropriate to spotlight updated guidelines on social media and tech terms. 

Here are key terms for PR pros to add to the toolbox:


Social media 

An umbrella term for online services that people use to share posts, photos and videos with small or large groups, privately or publicly. Facebook is the largest platform. Other major services include Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook’s Instagram. Newer platforms include TikTok, a popular video-sharing service owned by a Beijing company, ByteDance. Others, such as China’s Sina Weibo, are popular regionally.

While major companies report usage numbers, be careful about making direct comparisons as each uses a different measure.  For instance, Facebook counts accounts in use at least once during the past month, while Twitter averages the number of active accounts on a given day to figure daily usage.

"Social media" is not capitalized unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence. Also, the singular and plural are "social media." When plural, use the verb "are."

You can also use prepositions “in” or “on” when talking about social media use. 





Short for application and acceptable on first reference. Typically used to refer to computer programs that run on phones, tablets and PCs, or as part of a larger online service 


cookie, cookies

A small file that websites often place on phones, computers and other devices to save user-identifying information. The information can be used for advertising, saving login credentials and other purposes.



manipulated video or other digital representation produced by sophisticated machine-learning techniques that yield seemingly realistic, but fabricated, images and sounds. Deepfake videos can, for instance, make it appear that people said or did something that they did not. Deepfake or deepfake video is acceptable, but it must be explained on first reference.


direct message

A private message sent via an online service such as Twitter or Slack. "DM" is acceptable on second reference. Can also be used as a verb: to direct-message or DM someone.


emoji (singular and plural)

A symbol, such as a cartoon face, hand gesture, animal or other object, which might be used instead of a word, or as an illustration in text messages or on social media.

Social media posts and text messages often contain emoji, GIFs or other imagery that need to be conveyed to readers using words. Treat the visual material as context or gestures when important to include, describing by paraphrasing.

Be aware that some GIFs, emoji or other images may contain hidden meanings and nuances requiring consideration and more than just a simple description of the image posted.

Do not use parentheses to describe an emoji within a direct quote, to avoid confusing readers by making it seem as if the person being quoted wrote out the description in text.



Company that owns the world’s most popular social network, with about 2.5 billion active users. Based in Menlo Park, California, the company also owns Instagram, a photo and video-sharing service; the WhatsApp messaging service; and Oculus, maker of a virtual reality system.


friend, follow, like

Acceptable in a social media context as both nouns and verbs. Actions by which users connect to other users on social networks and engage with their content.



Acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, a compression format for images. GIF is acceptable in copy but should be explained in the story. Use lowercase in a file name.



A self-selected, public-facing username on a social network. May be used interchangeably with username.



A term starting with a number or hash sign (#) in a social network post. It conveys the subject of the post so that it can be easily found by users interested in that subject. A hashtag needs to be an uninterrupted string of characters, with no spaces.

The use of hashtags has evolved to also reflect a post’s tone. For example, a user may add #sarcasm or #feelingstupid to help describe the nature of a post.

In stories, write the hashtag as it would appear on a social network. 

For accessibility, capitalize words within a tweet such as #MajorLeagueBaseball. Those who use reading/interpreting software can more easily navigate #LetsGoOut than #letsgoout, for example.



A social media network owned by Microsoft Corp. It is used mainly for professional networking. Based in Mountain View, California.


livestream, livestreaming

One word in all uses.



A piece of information or visual content that's shared verbally or transmitted widely, often via social media.



The inclusion of someone's username in a social media post, to notify that user of the post and/or connect readers to the user's profile. However, do not start a sentence with an @ mention. Sentences should not be started with symbols. 



A service in which users collect and share images in theme-based collections, also known as pinboards, or simply boards. Images that are shared on Pinterest – or pinned – are sometimes referred to as pins. Pinterest allows people to search for and pin images as inspiration for fashion, interior design, travel and more. Headquarters is in San Francisco.



A service that lets users capture and share photos or video clips, often with text, drawings or other adornments. Popular among younger people, it is best known for messages that automatically disappear a few seconds after viewing. Use lowercase snap for a Snapchat posting. The company name is Snap Inc. Headquarters is in Santa Monica, California.



Video service popular with teens and the younger generations. Many of the short videos are set to music and are distinguished by their lighthearted, goofy style. Parent company is Chinese tech giant ByteDance, which also has a version of the app for Chinese users, called Douyin.



A social network on which users share text, photos, video and links with their followers, in short messages, or tweets. Twitter is acceptable on first reference. The verb is to tweet, tweeted.

Twitter is used by many influential people, including journalists, policymakers and celebrities. It is not necessarily reflective of the general population. Twitter can be a tool for gauging people’s moods and interests, but it should not be a substitute for traditional interviews and reporting outside of Twitter. Also beware of judging an account’s influence based solely on the number of followers. Some companies offer services to boost that number with automatically generated accounts and other techniques.


User-generated content or UGC

User-generated content, or UGC, is the term commonly used in the communication industry for content with editorial value produced by anyone who isn't working for the company publishing it.

User-generated content may be found via social networks or given to a brand or organization representative.

When publishing UGC, make every effort to give credit to the person who created the content. Use the person's name if he or she is happy for you to do so, or a username (from a social network or platform) if it is applicable or the preference of the individual.



A wireless communications technology often used to connect to home and business networks, which in turn connects to the internet. Wi-Fi has a shorter range than cellular technology but is convenient for sharing one internet connection among multiple devices. A Wi-Fi connection is sometimes called a hot spot.



Video-sharing service owned by Google, which bought it in 2006. YouTube has helped promote videos ranging from educational to whimsical and made celebrities of ordinary people.



» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at, follow him @spinsurgeon on Twitter and like the ageny on Facebook at, and join us on LinkedIn 

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