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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jana Gross

7 terms of social media marketing

Understanding and defining 7 terms of social media marketing you should know.



Social media has become a fundamental part of a company’s or personal marketing and branding strategy. I present 7 terms of social media marketing that you might have heard off. Although these terms might seem basic, many different and fussy understandings and definitions of the those terms exist. It might be confusing and hard to keep up with all those terms, especially when being new to the field. Here are 7 terms that you hear when talking about social media marketing.



Social media Social media are computer-mediated applications or sites that facilitate the creation and sharing of content. You find more on social media in my article 5 different forms of social media. In this article, I distinguish social media based on the purpose they serve.


Social media marketing Social media marketing is a form of marketing in which companies strategically use social media applications and sites to promote their brands, products, or services. Social media marketing are the companies’ activities to satisfy their customers’ needs and preferences on social media. Nike’s company profile on Instagram is an example of Nike using the social media platform Instagram as a communication tool.


Social media advertising Social media advertising refers to running advertising on social media such as Facebook or YouTube. Companies pay their advertising to appear on social media websites. Social media advertising is a form of social media marketing. Examples include banners on Facebook, pre-rolls on YouTube, or native advertising.


Social media user Social media users are individuals who use social media for private or professional purposes. Social media users access social media through web-based applications or sites on electronic devices (e.g., Smartphones, Notebooks, or laptops). Social media users create social media profiles which allow them to consume, contribute and create content on social media.

  • Consumption: Social media users consume content when participating without actively contributing to or creating content. For instance, you consume content by reading this article.

  • Contribution: Social media users contribute to content when actively participating to existing content. Social media users interact with other social media users or with content. For example, you contribute to content if you click on the Like-Button of this article.

  • Creation: Social media users create content when actively producing and uploading new content to social media. This new content can be consumed and contributed by other social media users. An example of creating content is when you take a photo and you upload it to your Instagram profile.

Content Content is anything that is produced and uploaded to social media, social media profiles or anything that already exists on social media and is shared by someone. Content is information expressed and delivered on social media. Content is uploaded and shared on social media profiles. An example of content is a blog article on Medium.

  • Paid content: Paid content is content which is paid for. Companies pay to leverage a rentable place on social media platform or social media profile. Paid content aims to increase traffic and engagement on companies’ websites (i.e. landing pages, sales). A sponsored post on Instagram or a pre-roll on YouTube are examples of paid content.

  • Earned content: Earned content is content that is neither owned nor paid for by companies. Earned content is user-generated content about brands, products, or services. Earned content aims to increase user traffic and engagement for companies. My blog article Book Review: No Filter by Sarah Frier (rating: 8/10) is an example of earned content fo Sarah Frier’s book.

  • Owned content: Owned content is content that is owned by companies. Owned content is marketer-generated content and controlled by companies. Owned content is used to build and maintains long-term relationships with a companies’ consumers. Content on Nike’s company profile on Instagram is an example of owned content.

Have you ever asked yourself how you can distinguish paid, earned, owned, sponsored, or branded content? A detailed article is coming soon.


Engagement Engagement is the social media users’ interaction with the content on social media. In particular, engagement is the interaction with a piece of content or a social media profile. Engagement can be active or passive.

  • Active engagement: Social media users can actively engage with content or social media profiles. Active engagement is a contribution to content and is visibly to other social media users. For example, you actively engage by following this blog, clicking the Like- or Share-button of this blog article, or writing a comment below this blog article.

  • Passive engagement: Social media can also passively engage with content or social media profiles. Passive engagement is consuming content without actively participating. Passive engagement is not visible to other social media users. For example, you passively engage by reading this blog article and telling your friend about this blog during a dinner.

Hashtags Hashtags on social media refers to any word or abbreviation that appears after the hashtag symbol, “#”. Hashtags are used as key words to find content on specific topics and themes. It is a way to make content easier to find for social media users. For example, if a post is using #nike, social media users can find more content about Nike when clicking on the hashtag or searching the hashtag in the search option. A detailed article is coming soon on why or why not you should use hashtags in your content.


More readings about social media marketing: Alves, H., Fernandes, C., & Raposo, M. (2016). Social media marketing: a literature review and implications. Psychology & Marketing, 33(12), 1029–1038.

Dwivedi, Y. K., Kapoor, K. K., & Chen, H. (2015). Social media marketing and advertising. The Marketing Review, 15(3), 289–309.

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