We held a Branding and Social Media class last week and had several requests for a social media ‘basics’ class for folks who are completely new to social media. This got us thinking that there are those out there who could probably benefit from a quick-and-dirty, just-the-basics, social media overview.

Social media marketing is all about developing relationships with your followers while adding value to the conversations relevant to your industry. You want to become known as an expert in your field who should be referenced whenever questions arise, or a consumer is looking to purchase your product. Here are a few terms to get you started.

Hashtag: Ah, the infamous hashtag. A source of confusion for many new social media participants. A hashtag is simply a means of turning a word or phrase into a searchable link. Putting the ‘#’ symbol before the word or phrase makes it clickable on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, allowing users to view all posts associated with that term. For example: if you put the hashtag #architecture, it will be categorized with all other posts in which people included that hashtag. Some people and companies like to come up with their own unique or clever hashtags to allow people to see all of their content when they search that hashtag. For example, the hashtag #homecity will bring up all posts tagged as such by HomeCity Real Estate.

Tagging: While the hashtag tags and categorizes content, tagging is used to identify and reference people or organizations in videos, photos, and notes. You can tag a friend in a picture, or you can tag a friends or business in a post. It draws their attention to the photo or post, as well as their followers and friends.

Handle: Your online ‘handle’ refers to a persons name, code name, or online alias. The online handle is what you will use when tagging people on Twitter and Instagram (while Facebook tends to use real names). Your handle may be different from your username, or log in info. This is what displays when you comment or post. For example, your business name might be ‘Leisure + Travel’, but your handle would be @leisuretravel, and that is what people will use to tag you.

Going Viral: Going viral simply means for something to become very popular by circulating quickly from person to person through the Internet. This can be a picture, a news story, an article, a cause, or a video. Many times things that go viral can all be found under one hashtag on social media. For example, when Bluebell Ice Cream had to close all of their factories and then re-opened them months later, the story went viral. People curious to see what the online world had been posting about this could search the hashtag #bluebell and see many of the articles, pictures, and posts associated with this story.

The 3:1 Rule: This is a rule for posting content which states that for every four posts, three should be valuable content from other companies, people, or organizations while one should be self-promotional content or content created by you. You want to provide useful, unique content regularly to your followers so that you are positioning yourself as an expert without blatantly promoting yourself. For example, post a photo, an article, and an infographic all made by someone else that is still relevant to your industry. Then, post one article you wrote, a picture of your successes, or something else that shows that you are knowledgeable, successful, and ready to help clients or consumers.

Just remember that you want your online personality to be likeable, personable, and approachable. Use your newfound understanding of social media to expand your network, build your brand, and generate leads!