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  • Ciara Macpherson

Making accessible social media content



Why create content for social media if it can’t be consumed by all? At least one billion people (15% of the world’s population) experience some form of disability and take in content differently to others. Your social media presences should reflect this and be as accessible as possible so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from your content.


From a purely marketing point of view, the more accessible your content, the more people you’ll reach but above all it’s about being empathetic and actually caring for your audience and how they interact with you. It’s all about an equal experience for everyone.


In this blog, we’ll explore some of the ways in which you can change up your social media strategy to be more accessible. There’s so much we could cover but hope this will be a good starting point for you and your brand.


Image Descriptions

Image descriptions allow us to give greater context to those with visual impairments. People with visual impairments will often use a screen reader so they’re able to read your post copy but not benefit from seeing the cool creative that goes with it. If there’s no image description, they have to make do without. But, if you do take the time to pop in an image description, their screen reader will give them the description you carefully wrote out to try and give them the best visualisation you can to bring the content to life.


There are some instances where an image description is auto generated but it’s best practice to override this with your own as they can be misleading as you may imagine, with anything that’s automated.


Social media channels have wised up and made it easy to add image descriptions and here’s how you go about it on the three main platforms we use:


Facebook: Add photo > Click ‘Edit’ > Write description > Save


Instagram: Click ‘Advanced Settings’ when uploading > Go to ‘Write Alt Text’ > Write description > Save


You can retrospectively add image descriptions on both Facebook and Instagram.


Twitter: The process changed in Summer 2020 so you no longer need to go into Settings. It’s right there in front of you, making it super easy. You can see the button highlighted on the image below. Simply click that and off you go.



Highlighting where to add alt text to an image on Twitter

Before this, you’d have to put the image description in the post copy which ate into your character limit. Not ideal.


If you’ve never written an image description before, then you may be wondering what to put in it. Here’s the types of things you should include:



List of what could be useful to show in alt text: such as placement of objects, image style, colours, names of people, placement of text, and surroundings

CamelCase

CamelCase is the practice of capitalising the first letters of each word when writing compound words or phrases, e.g. in a hashtag. Again, people who use screen readers will benefit most from using this technique, but it also helps people who don’t read too well, are busy or stressed, and whose first language isn’t English.


By not using CamelCase and having your hashtag in lowercase, screen readers won’t be able to identify the individual words within the hashtag and it’ll come out sounding very odd. By captialising the first letter in each word, the screen reader can effectively read the correct hashtag out to the user.


CamelCase also stops awkward moments like this from happening…


Susan Boyle tweet using the hashtag #susanalbumparty - Camel Case would show it as Susan Album Party, but many joked it read Su's Anal Bum Party

On a more serious note, there’s also the example of #BlackLivesMatter – the massive cultural movement. When written in lowercase, it’s read by a screen reader as “black live smatter” rather than “black lives matter”, just showing how important those capitals can be.


Emoji & GIF Usage

Social media is totally scattered with emojis and GIFs but for those with visual impairments they can cause some issues, as screen readers aren’t a fan of either.


GIFs are widely used in community management and best practice when sharing a GIF in a response to someone is to always add text in your message as well so it’s not just a standalone GIF. If you don’t want to add additional text, a simple description of the GIF will work, like so…

[GIF ALT: Descriptive phrase]


A blog written by Beth, a screen reader user, gave us real insight into the impact emojis have on their consumption of content. She outlined the dos and don’ts of emoji usage and they definitely apply to creating accessible social media content.


Here’s the Dos:

• Do use one or two emojis if you like, most blind people enjoy the descriptions.

• Do put any important information before the emojis so they’ll be more likely to take it in.

• Do limit yourself to no more than three emojis per message.


Here’s the Don’ts:

• Don’t repeat an emoji over and over.

• Don’t place emojis throughout a message.

• Don’t put a call to action after the emoji.


Think as well that an emoji may be read differently by a screen reader than how you think. This video by @HashtagHeyAlexa proves this.




Captioning Videos

Time to give video a mention and how we can make them more accessible. Captions! Not only are they useful for when folk are commuting and watching video content without sound but they’re integral for those hard of hearing or who have a language barrier, to understand your content fully. There are two types of captions you can use:


Open captions are permanently visible, or ‘burnt’ onto the video or stream. The viewer does not switch anything on to see them.


Usually identified by a [CC] symbol in the corner of the screen, closed captions exist as a separate file, allowing the viewer to switch them on or off whilst watching.


And on Stories, you can use an app such as Clipomatic to automatically add captions to your video content.


Additional Tips

• Write in plain language – avoid jargon, slang, or technical terms unless they’re warranted.

• Don’t overuse caps – they can be difficult to read and misinterpreted by screen readers.

• Avoid special characters – this special formatting is often not picked up in the same way by screen readers.

• Trigger warnings – if you’re going to talk about a sensitive topic, always start with TW: (trigger) to give warning to those who may not want to consume content on that subject.

• Use inclusive language and imagery – stick with gender-neutral pronouns, share diverse voices, emojis and imagery.


If you’ve never considered accessibility for social media before, we hope this has been a useful guide for you and urge you to take action. Any questions on the subject, we’d love to hear from you on our social channels or drop an email to hello@wearehydrogen.com if you’d like to discuss how we can help you become more accessible on your social media presences.