Legal Marketing: Social Media Terms

A Cloud of Social Media Terms

Here is a list of commonly-used social media terms that can help your firm keep up to speed on terminology.

Is your law firm behind on the social media terms and lingo? Is that what is keeping you from joining the social media universe? Well below is a handy reference to many of the terms you and your firm should know:

  • Authenticity is the sense that something or someone is “real.”
  • Blogs are websites with dated items of content in reverse chronological order, self-published by bloggers. Items – called posts – may have keyword tags associated with them, are usually available as feeds, and often allow commenting.
  • Bookmarking is saving the address of a website or item of content, either in your brower, or on a social bookmarking site like If you add tags, others can easily use your research too.
  • A browser is the tool used to view websites, and access all the content available onscreen or by downloading. Browsers may also be used to upload or otherwise contribute content to a blog or other website.
  • Chat is interaction on a web site, with a number of people adding text items one after the other into the same space at (almost) the same time. A place for chat – chat room – differs from a forum because conversations happen in “real time,” rather as they do face to face.
  • Collaboration: Social media tools from email lists to virtual worlds offer enormous scope for collaboration. Low-risk activities like commenting, social bookmarking, chatting and blogging help develop the trust necessary for collaboration.
  • Commitment: the “social” aspect of social media means that tools are most useful when other people commit to using them too. Commitment will depend on people’s degree of interest in a subject, capability online, preparedness to share with others, degree of comfort in a new place, as well as the usability of the site or tool.
  • Online communities are groups of people communicating mainly through the Internet. They may simply have a shared interest to talk about … or more formally learn from each other and find solutions as a Community of Practice. Online communities may use email lists or forums, where content is centralized. Communities may also emerge from conversations around or between bloggers.
  • Content is used here to describe text, pictures, video and any other meaningful material that is on the Internet.
  • Conversation through blogging, commenting or contributing to forums is the currency of social networking.
  • Copyright: Sharing through social media is enhanced by attaching a Creative Commons license specifying, for example, that content may be re-used with attribution, provided that a similar license is then attached by the new author.
  • Crowdsourcing refers to harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of those outside an organization who are prepared to volunteer their time contributing content and solving problems.
  • Culture: Social media only works well in a culture of openness, where people are prepared to share. For that reason, commitment and attitude are as important as tools.
  • To download is to retrieve a file or other content from an Internet site to your computer or other device. See Upload.
  • Email lists, or groups, are important networking tools offering the facility to “starburst” a message from a central postbox to any number of subscribers, and for them to respond. Lists usually also offer a facility for reading and replying through a web page – so they can also operate like forums.
  • Face-to-face (f2f) is used to describe people meeting offline. While social media may reduce the need to meet, direct contact gives far more clues, quickly, about a person than you can get online. Online interaction is likely to be richer after f2f meetings.
  • Feeds are the means by which you can read, view or listen to items from blogs and other RSS-enabled sites without visiting the site, by subscribing and using an aggregator or newsreader. Feeds contain the content of an item and any associated tags without the design or structure of a web page.
  • Forums are discussion areas on websites, where people can post messages or comment on existing messages asynchronously – that is, independently of time or place time. Chat is the synchronous equivalent.
  • Groups are collections of individuals with some sense of unity through their activities, interests or values. They are bounded: you are either in a group or not. They differ in this from networks, which are dispersed and defined by nodes and connections.
  • Instant messaging (IM) is chat with one other person.
  • Links are the highlighted text or images that, when clicked, jump you from one web page or item of content to another. Bloggers use links a lot when writing to reference their own or other content.
  • Lurkers are people who read but don’t contribute or add comments to forums. The one per cent rule-of-thumb suggests about one per cent of people contribute new content to an online community, another nine percent comment, and the rest lurk. However, this may not be a passive role because content read on forums may spark interaction elsewhere.
  • Membership involves belonging to a group. Networking can offer some of the benefits of group membership, without the need for as much central coordination. A rise in networking may present challenges for organizations who depend on membership for funds or to demonstrate their credibility.
  • Networks are structures defined by nodes and the connections between them. In social networks, the nodes are people and the connections are the relationships that they have. Networking is the process by which you develop and strengthen those relationships.
  • Online means being connected to the Internet, and also being there in the sense of reading or producing content.
  • Offline means not online, that is, not connected to the Internet. It may refer to an unconnected computer, or activities taking place without the benefit (or perhaps distraction) of a connection.
  • Openness is being prepared to share and collaborate – something aided by social media. Open source software – developed collaboratively with few constraints on its use – is a technical example. In order to be open online, you may offer share-alike copyright licenses, and you may tag content and link generously to other people’s content. This demonstrates open source thinking.
  • Peer to peer refers to direct interaction between two people in a network. In that network, each peer will be connected to other peers, opening the opportunity for further sharing and learning.
  • A platform is the framework or system within which tools work. That platform may be as broad as mobile telephony, or as narrow as a piece of software that has different modules like blogs, forums and wikis in a suite of tools. As more and more tools operate on the web, rather than on your desktop, people refer to “the Internet as the platform.”
  • A podcast is audio or video content that can be downloaded automatically through a subscription to a website so you can view or listen offline.
  • Profiles are the information that you provide about yourself when signing up for a social networking site. As well as a picture and basic information, this may include your personal and business interests, a “blurb” about yourself and tags to help people search for like-minded people.
  • RSS is short for Really Simple Syndication. This allows you to subscribe to content on blogs and other social media and have it delivered to you through a feed.
  • Searching for information on the Net is done using a search engine, of which Google is the best known. Specialist search engines like Technorati concentrate on blogs. As well as searching by word or phrase, you can search on tags, and find content others have keyworded.
  • Sharing is offering other people the use of your text, images, video, bookmarks or other content by adding tags, and applying copyright licenses that encourage use of content.
  • Social media is a term for the tools and platforms people use to publish, converse and share content online. The tools include blogs, wikis, podcasts and sites to share photos and bookmarks.
  • Social networking sites are online places where users can create a profile for themselves, and then socialize with others using a range of social media tools, including blogs, video, images, tagging, lists of friends, forums and messaging.
  • Stories, as well as conversations, are a strong theme in blogging. Anecdotes, bits of gossip and longer narratives work particularly well on blogs if they have a personal angle. It helps others get to know the blogger – and helps the blogger find and extend their voice.
  • Subscribing is the process of adding an RSS feed to your aggregator or newsreader. It’s the online equivalent of signing up for a magazine, but usually free.
  • Tags are keywords attached to a blog post, bookmark, photo or other item of content so you and others can find them easily through searches and aggregation.
  • Terms of service are the basis on which you agree to use a forum or other web-based place for creating or sharing content. Check before agreeing what rights the site owners may claim over your content.
  • Threads are strands of conversation. On an email list or web forum, they will be defined by messages that use the same subject. On blogs they are less clearly defined, but emerge through comments and trackbacks.
  • Tool is used here as shorthand for a software applications on your computer, and also for applications that are Web-based.
  • Trackback: Some blogs provide a way for other bloggers to leave a calling card automatically, instead of commenting. Blogger A may write on blog A about an item on blogger B’s site, and through the trackback facility leave a link on B’s site back to A. The collection of comments and trackbacks on a site facilitates conversations.
  • Transparency: Enhancing searching, sharing, self-publishing and commenting across networks makes it easier to find out what’s going on in any situation where there is online activity.
  • To upload is to transfer a file or other content from your computer to an Internet site.
  • User generated content is text, photos and other material produced by people who previously just consumed. See content.
  • Virtual worlds are online places like Second Life, where you can create a representation of yourself (an avatar) and socialize with other residents. Basic activity is free, but you can buy currency (using real money) in order to purchase land and trade with other residents. Second Life is being used by some volunteer organizations to run discussions, virtual events and fundraising.
  • Web 2.0 is a term coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004 to describe blogs, wikis, social networking sites and other Internet-based services that emphasize collaboration and sharing, rather than less interactive publishing (Web 1.0). It is associated with the idea of the Internet as platform.
  • A wiki is a web page – or set of pages – that can be edited collaboratively. The best known example is wikipedia, an encyclopedia created by thousands of contributors across the world. Once people have appropriate permissions – set by the wiki owner – they can create pages and/or add to and alter existing pages.



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