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If you're a social media manager, you've probably heard this Amy Jo Martin quote: "Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage."
It's true: social media can amplify voices, encourage connection, and empower users. But, if it's not accessible to all audiences, social media can also isolate individuals and communities.
That's why social media accessibility best practices are so important. In this blog, we'll explore what accessibility means in social media and offer 6 easy ways to make your social posts more accessible.
What is social media accessibility?
Accessible social media creates an inclusive experience for all audiences – because we all deserve equal access to information, regardless of our physical or cognitive abilities.
According to the World Health Organization, 16% of the global population has a disability. Some people may use screen reading software to consume digital content. Other people may benefit from transcripts to better understand videos. These are just some of the things to consider when you're creating content.
By following social media accessibility best practices, you can ensure that everyone can easily perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with your social media posts.
6 ways to make your social media more accessible
Building accessibility best practices into your content creation process is easy. Here are 6 ways you can create more accessible social posts.
1. Use alt text in images
Alt text, or alternative text, is a text-based description of an image or GIF that’s read aloud by screen reading software.
Alt text should be helpful, descriptive, and in general paint a picture of what the image contains. You’re trying to convey relevant details that someone who cannot see the world might find valuable. But it doesn’t mean you need to write a paragraph. Here are some examples of bad vs good alt text.
- “🐱image” vs “Adorable orange tabby cat lounging on a windowsill, bathed in sunlight”
- “Picture of friends” vs “Group of friends laughing and enjoying a picnic in the park on a sunny day”
- “Bar chart” vs “Bar chart depicting a twelve percent growth rate in Q1 and an eighteen percent growth rate in Q2.”
As you can see, the best alt text is concise yet descriptive, grammatically correct and properly punctuated, and written in plain language. It also avoids emojis and phrases like “photo of” or “image of.”
Many social media platforms have alt text baked right into their posting settings.
- To add alt text on Facebook, click Alternative text on desktop or Edit Alt Text on mobile.
- To add alt text on Instagram, click Accessibility on desktop or tap Advanced Settings > Write Alt Text on mobile.
- To add alt text on Linkedin, click Alt.text on desktop or tap ALT on mobile.
Looking for an even more efficient way to build accessibility best practices into your workflow? While you're scheduling your social content in HeyOrca, you can use AI Alt Text Suggestions to write the alt text for you.
2. Provide transcripts for videos
Transcripts or captions make videos more accessible to individuals with hearing impairments. These users can rely on the transcript to understand the information presented in the video.
Transcripts can also support non-native speakers (or even native speakers) who might struggle with spoken language by providing an alternative way to receive the information.
Finally, transcripts can be read by screen readers.
Many social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, have caption features built right in. These are a great starting point but there are ways to make them even better.
Be sure to edit the transcripts to improve clarity. Include non-speech elements (such as laughter) to contribute to the overall understanding. Identify speakers, especially if there’s more than one present. And refrain from placing text or other elements at the bottom of the screen where they may interfere with or overlap auto-generated captions, as Instagram user @hell.on.wheelsxx explains below.
3. Be intentional about emoji use
Emojis provide a way to convey emotions, tone, and context beyond what words can do. With the range of cultures, genders, and abilities they also have room to promote inclusivity and representation.
On the other hand, emojis can be interpreted differently based on cultural, personal, or contextual factors. This ambiguity can be especially difficult for individuals with disabilities. Emojis also may not be correctly read by screen readers, especially if you’re using multiple emojis in a row.
To find a good happy medium, balance emojis with clear language rather than relying solely on emojis to convey complex messages or critical information. Use descriptive text when possible, and consider the audience and message before pressing publish.
4. Use Pascal case in hashtags
Read these two hashtags:
The latter is much easier to read because it uses Pascal case – the first letter of each word is capitalized. For instance, #takebackyourday becomes #TakeBackYourDay.
There are no downsides to formatting your hashtags like this. The algorithms don’t care about what casing convention you use. But screen readers do. When you write your hashtags using Pascal case, screen readers can read them properly.
5. Use accessible designs
Photos and graphics are a huge part of every social media content strategy. And they can be made more accessible too. Here are 4 things to consider when you’re creating designs.
- Colour contrast: Colour blindness affects an estimated 300 million people. To make your designs easier to read, choose high-contrast colours. Adobe’s colour accessibility tool is a great resource for testing the contrast and accessibility of your brand’s colour palette.
- Text on images: Avoid lengthy blocks of text. Screen readers aren’t able to read text on images (which is why alt text is so important). If you have a lot to say, use the caption to get your message across.
- Readable fonts: Choose a font that’s easy to read. Research suggests sans-serif typefaces are typically easier to read than serif typefaces, and they may be helpful for those with dyslexia. To improve readability even more, avoid italics and use a font size of 12 or more.
- Diverse images: A Facebook study revealed that people with disabilities are only represented in 1.1% of online ads. Another Facebook study found that 54% of consumers feel their culture is not represented in online ads. Whether you’re creating ads or organic social posts, the takeaway remains the same. Brands and social media managers should aim to create content that reflects diverse abilities, cultures, gender identities, races, and ages.
6. Encourage inclusive conversations
Creating an inclusive community starts with your messaging. Scrutinize your social media content to ensure you’re not using ableist language. This kind of language includes any words or phrases that devalue people with disabilities, even if they’re well-intentioned. Here’s an example of ableist language shared by X user @RollWithRu.
But it’s not just your brand’s messaging that matters. An inclusive online community extends to your comment section and DMs. Encourage your followers to use respectful and inclusive language, and moderate discussions as needed to foster positive interactions.
In addition, you can make your social media more accessible and inclusive by collaborating with content creators with varied perspectives and identities on campaigns that celebrate diversity. According to a Microsoft Advertising study, 69% of Gen Z consumers say brands that represent diversity are more authentic.
Good social media is accessible social media. There are several things you can do to make your social posts more accessible. As a social media manager, you should write alt text, provide video captions, create high-contrast designs, and more. Following accessibility best practices is easy, and it benefits everyone.