*Side Eyes* What’s this Twitter Speak?

If you’re on twitter you have no doubt seen some pretty strange and colourful “language” being used by some tweeps. Staying on the cusp of what’s cool and what could land you in SMH territory can put strain on the brain, so I’ve tried to demystify and give some clarity on what each one of them means, starting with the aforementioned.

SMH – Shakes My Head

  • – Literally shaking of the head from side to side in disbelief or disagreement
  • – E.g. @KeenyKeenz – I’ve been in traffic on the M1 South for an hour only to realize there’s a roadblock on the highway. SMH

LOL – Laugh out Loud

  • – One literally laughs out loud (this hardly actually happens and you can no doubt guess that the user has hardly even smirked)
  • – Another newer iteration of the term being “Lolmentations” – commonly confused with the book of Lamentations from the Bible, which it has no reference to whatsoever.
  • – E.g.“ Just saw a NonhleThema trip and fall flat on her face… LOL!”

ROFL – Rolling On the Floor Laughing

  • – Something so funny you literally wrap your hands around your torso and roll around on the floor, legs pulled up as if in the fetal position, as you laugh…rolling. (You would probably have last seen this behaviour from children)
  • – Iterations of ROFL are LMAO (Laugh My Ass Off) and LMFAO (Laughing My F*cking Ass Off) – Both which are not literal laughing till the muscle and fat on the rear of the waist fall off.
  • – E.g. “Card at walmart said “do you know why old men wear their pants so high?” *opens the card* “You will soon” #ROFL”


  • – A laughing sound made with your tongue on the roof of your mouth blowing air through your mouth, a uniquely South African expression (think Muttley from Wacky Races)
  • – E.g. “RT @JB_XM_Swana: I feel so lost! Twitter on the web! Tltlt! So desperate of me! Sies!”

*dies* / *death*

  • – The expression generally implies that one finds something so funny / so amusing it kills you. A familiar expression is “I nearly died laughing”. Cutting out all the unecessaries on Twitter it is just used as per below
  • – E.g. “*dies* RT @LilTuck317: Damn yo breathe stink bro…my Baby’s breathe smells better than that and she drink similac all day!”


  • – A text iteration of an actual facial expression. One eye is opened larger than the other. One can imaging a raised eyebrow on one eye and the other eye slightly clinched in a look of skepticism or doubt. This can be performed with either the capital O or the zero “0”. Also understood as “whaaaaaat?!”
  • – E.g. “@pretti_poca My ex unfollowed me 0_o”


  • – A digital interpretation of ducking and or hiding. In this incarnation the user usually makes use of this term when he / she has said something that will elicit a negative response from the user he / she has directed it at. More commonly understood in real life when one throws an object (e.g snowball) at another person and then ducks so as not to be seen or hit
  • – E.g. “Blackberry is lame *ducks* RT @thatyoungblood if one more person tells me blackberry is lame I’m going to kill”

Kwa Kwa Kwa / Kwaaaaa

  • – Commonly confused with a mating call from a bird, but couldn’t be further from the truth. Kwaaa / Kwa kwa kwa is closely related to “LOL” and “ROFL” but more culturally relevant. Kwa Kwa Kwa or Kwaaaa has recently come under fire because it is not an accepted way for white race groups to express laughing. (where LOL / ROFL is more relevant for white minority groups )
  • – E.g. “Kwaaaaa RT @leratomolele: Hahahaha….RT @Sentletse: That awkward moment when Blackberry users want to download iOS 5.”

*side eyes*

  • – With eyes slightly shut one glances from one side to another. This can be commonly understood as a stare with some form of intent, sometimes negative or otherwise with a thought. E.g. giving the hot girl at gym side eyes as she walks past
  • – A recent “social media influencer” has given insight “While it denotes much the same thing as (-_-) the less subtle *side eye* is a direct interpretation of a judgmental stare.”
  • – E.g. “*side eye* RT @jtbeale: @KeenyKeenz so much of insight *pats on head* “


  • – A beautiful use of the keyboard if I may say so myself. The expression of eyes like slits and a flat mouth is one of pessimism, annoyance or dissatisfaction to a certain topic.
  • – E.g. “and the brakes are fixed on da truck…it only cost 300 -__- and dats wit a discount smh” / I just want my voice back -__- being sick stinks!”

*claps once*

  • – One of the newest in the Twitterverse is the action of actually clapping once. One can imagine laughing so hard you unknowingly clap once. This can commonly be assimilated to a “knee slapper”.
  • – RT @Theri_dahlin: Rotflmao! but Estie’s one of the funniest haters EVER! #comedineSA she hates EVERYTHING. Whooo shem *claps once*

*hands on head*

  • – Struggling to visualize? The kid from Home Alone used to do this all the time. An expression of complete and utter surprise to the point of near shock. Taking each hand and placing them on either side of ones head, with your mouth hanging open.
  • – Is often also represented by |0_0|
  • – E.g. “Yoh! *Hands on head* RT @SassyChick I’m done with seeing you @VeliM69, you cheated, you’re a scrub”


  • – Lowering ones face into ones hand, usually partially concealing part of the face.
  • – The gesture is a physical interpretation of the emotion of embarrassment, shame or woe on behalf of another party, or to ones self
  • – E.g. “@gniddo Waiting for a course to start that apparently doesnt exist… #facepalm”

I do hope this recent enlightenment on Twitter “speak” has widened your horizons (vocabulary) and will stand you in good stead when you next engage on Twitter.

4 Top tips for brands on Twitter

Whether you’re currently running, or going to run, a corporate Twitter account, there are a few key things you should be considering above all else. Below are my four top tips:

  • 1. Have a personality

It’s often difficult to keep the tone and personality of a corporate account in line with the company “tone & personality” because, before social media, companies didn’t have many opportunities to show a personality. Their style of communications was dictated to by the medium on which they were communicating. Well, the same is still quite true. The medium is now online and the requirement is that companies have a ‘human’ personality.

Pick a personality and allow your community managers to apply a tone and style that is in line with the personality you would like your company to embody. The personality doesn’t have to be super funky with winky-faces and LOLs, it can be more serious while maintaining a personal feel and a personality that reflects the true brand.

Many brands have allowed those that are in charge of their social presence to also be advocates and torch bearers of the brand in the social space. In the US, Ford follows this example.

Another example of trying to be more personal is by adding the initials of the person who is tweeting off the account (^JB). @Wired magazine introduces the person who will be tweeting and monitoring every week.

  • 2. Have a content strategy

Knowing what to tweet isn’t always easy so developing a content strategy and plan makes posting that much easier. My advise is to separate all the content into different streams and then look for interesting / relevant content types for each stream.

      Examples of content streams:
      – Product
      – Marketing
      – News
      – Insight
    – Social
      Examples of content types:
      – Alerts
      – Reminders
      – Promotions
    – Links
  • 3. Add value and additional services

The most obvious value you can add via a corporate Twitter account is to receive support requests and problem solve directly with your customers. Being the most obvious meant that this style of engagement has been widely adopted and is being run well by a number of companies, both globally and locally.

Companies should also be looking to move past basic support and enable new and interesting services. Starbucks allows you to tweet your order, and some restaurants allow you to tweet for a reservation. Acura in the UK enabled booking a service via Twitter. What can your company do?

Then there’s the safe bet: competitions and twitter deals where you can reward your audience with specific deals or specials that are open to them alone.

  • 4. Make it known

It’s time to be loud and proud about your social media profiles. Incorporate them into your above the line marketing and communications and take every other opportunity to let people know that you’re on Twitter, Facebook etc. and encourage them to join those communities. The more you can integrate your audience the more opportunities they have to experience your brand.

There are a number of different ways of promoting your social media profiles and there’s a blog post coming soon from Reece Jacobson on this very topic, so keep your eye on our blog.

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