Want to reach more people on social media? Looking for a guide to make your social media content more inclusive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities?
In this article, you’ll discover how to produce accessible captions, videos, images, and ads for social media content so you can market to more people.
Why Marketers Should Prioritize Accessible Social Media
Aside from the occasional inside joke or niche meme, it’s easy to assume that your audience can read, view, and understand your organization’s social media content. In reality, however, your content may inadvertently exclude part of your target audience.
According to the World Health Organization, about 1 in 6 people around the world live with a disability. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 in 4 people have some kind of disability. Some of the most common disabilities relate to cognition and vision, both of which affect how people perceive and process digital content—including social media.
To publish social media content that your target audience can reliably engage with, it’s essential to prioritize accessibility. That way, your organization can reach the widest possible target audience, which can improve metrics ranging from engagement and traffic to leads and sales. In other words, accessible content can have a big impact on your bottom line.
In most cases, you can improve accessibility by adding a few simple steps to your existing social media workflow. Use the tips below as a guide and consult with your legal team to devise an accessibility strategy that works for your organization.
#1: How to Write Inclusive Social Media Captions
How easy is it for potential customers to read your social media captions? Use the guidelines below to write captions that your audience can read with or without assistive devices.
Choose Accessible-Friendly Fonts
If you want to make your social media content stand out in the feed, you may have considered options like using custom fonts in your post captions. Although special fonts can certainly capture attention, they can be difficult for many people to read.
Because these fonts typically consist of special characters rather than standard letters, assistive devices like screen readers can’t process them correctly. That means your headings or your entire captions may not be readable for screen reader users, like in the example below.
When in doubt, avoid copying and pasting special fonts from external websites or apps. Instead, use in-app fonts only. If you’re writing a lengthy caption and want to make certain elements stand out, consider adding line breaks for easier reading.
When inclusivity is the goal, keep in mind that it’s also best to avoid nonstandard capitalization. For example, avoid capitalizing words that aren’t at the beginning of a sentence or proper nouns.
From branded and campaign hashtags to contextual and location-based terms, hashtags can add both and value to your social media content. If you typically use short, one-word hashtags, then they should be easy for people and assistive devices to read.
But if your hashtags tend to be more complex and include multiple words, screen readers may not be able to identify where one word starts and another begins. As a result, they may not read hashtags correctly.
To make hashtags accessible, avoid creating one long lowercase tag. Instead, capitalize each word like in the example below. Not only will this tactic help a screen reader decipher hashtags, but it can also help you avoid misunderstood hashtags.
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Note that when you enter hashtags into platforms like Meta Business Suite or the Instagram app, you may see an autocomplete prompt that turns your hashtag into one long lowercase term. Avoid using autocomplete and enter the hashtag manually instead.
Use Emojis to Enhance, Not Replace Words
Emojis can also add context to social media captions and help them stand out in the feed. But if you use emojis instead of words or if you neglect to add adequate spacing, your audience may not understand your captions.
First, aim to use emojis as additions to your captions rather than as replacements for words. To make your social media captions more inclusive, avoid interspersing emojis in the copy or using them as bullet points in lists. Instead, place them at the end of the caption, where they won’t create confusion for readers or assistive devices.
Want to include a string of two or more emojis at the end of a post? Make sure to leave a space between each emoji rather than inserting them one after another, like in the example below. Leaving spaces creates added clarity for followers using assistive devices.
Thinking about replacing emojis with symbols or emoticons? As long as you follow the guidelines above, emojis are better for accessibility. Emojis have defined meanings that screen readers can interpret. In contrast, assistive devices read emoticons as symbols (like “semicolon”) with no added meaning, which can be confusing for your audience.
#2: How to Make Social Media Images More Accessible
Can prospects understand the photos, memes, or graphics your team posts on social media? By following the basics below, you can design and publish more inclusive creatives.
Apply Alternative Text
Whenever you post photos, graphics, and GIFs on social media, the platform automatically generates a description of the image. Followers who use screen readers rely on these descriptions to understand your images.
In some cases, the autogenerated description might be perfectly fine. But it’s always in your best interest to customize the description with alt text. When you add descriptive alt text to social media posts, you get more control over what people take away from your content.
To write effective alt text, explain what the image shows as concisely as possible. Include details only if they’re relevant to the primary meaning of the image and avoid adding nonessential information.
When you publish organic social media posts, you typically have two options for adding alt text. Let’s look at how to add in-app alt text and how to write image descriptions in captions.
In-App Alt Text
Most major social media platforms support alt text for image posts, including options for adding alt text either on desktop or in the mobile app. In some cases, you’ll see an option to add or edit alt text on the publishing screen. In other cases, you’ll need to open the image editing panel to access the alt text tool.
For example, you can access alt text in Business Suite by uploading an image and clicking the pencil icon. In the editing panel, select Alt Text and write a short description.
If you need to add alt text to a page that’s switched to the New Pages Experience, you can use a similar workflow in the Facebook app. Create a new post, upload an image, and click the three dots to open the editing menu, tap on Edit Alt Text and write your alt text.
In the Instagram app, the workflow looks a little different. Create a new image post and select Advanced Settings on the publishing screen. Then tap Write Alt Text and enter a brief description.
When you add an image to a tweet, you’ll see an ALT button appear directly on the image. You can tap to add distinct alt text to each image in the Twitter app or on desktop. Twitter also supports alt text for GIFs, whether you upload them individually or in multimedia tweets with images and videos.
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Image Description Alt-Text
Using native platform tools to add alt text is often the easiest and most effective way to make social media content more accessible. But in some cases, using in-app tools may not fit with your workflow, especially if you use third-party tools to schedule or publish social media posts.
If you can’t add alt text to your posts, include image descriptions in your captions instead. Place the description at the end of the caption, prefaced by “Image” or “Image Description.” Then add the same description you would have placed in the alt text field.
Consider Color Contrast
If you design social media graphics for your organization, you can take additional steps to make your creatives more inclusive. When placing text on photos or graphics, add a solid background behind the text overlay to make the text easier to read.
When choosing text and background colors, aim for the highest contrast possible. Although black text on a white background creates the most contrast, it isn’t your only choice. If you’d prefer to use your brand colors, for example, use a color contrast checker to confirm that the contrast ratio is at least 4.5 to 1, which is the standard for accessible digital content.
#3: How to Improve Accessibility in Social Media Videos
For short videos without extensive dialog, a brief video description might be sufficient. But for longer videos with dialog or complex narratives, captions and transcripts are helpful for accessibility.
Most social media platforms automatically add closed captions to video content so users can experience it without sound or with assistive devices. However, automated closed captions are error-prone, which can make your content more difficult to understand or even introduce inaccuracies.
Whenever possible, create custom video captions or edit the automated version prior to publishing. As a video sharing platform, YouTube has the most advanced captioning system. When you upload a video to YouTube Studio, you can upload an SRT file or enter captions directly into the dashboard. You can also use the Auto-Sync feature to upload a transcript.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow you to upload captions manually but generally on desktop only. To add captions to a Facebook video, create a new post in Business Suite. On the Optimize screen, check the Captions box. Then click to view the settings.
You can either upload an SRT file with accurate captions or opt for autogeneration. If you choose autogeneration, review the captions before they become available to viewers.
The process for adding captions to a LinkedIn video is similar. Create a new video post, and then scroll down to see the optimization options. Then upload your own SRT file or enable autogenerated captions. You can review captions before publishing them to the video.
But note that options tend to be more limited if you upload long-form videos or standard video posts with a mobile device. In most cases, you can’t upload an SRT file but you can edit the autogenerated captions.
If your team creates short-form videos, it’s important to know that this type of content typically has its own built-in captioning tools. For example, you can add captions to a short-form video on Facebook by tapping the CC button in the editing menu.
In the Instagram app, you can add captions to reels by selecting the captions sticker. After the app autogenerates captions, you can tap to edit any errors or change the font or color.
In many cases, it’s also helpful to transcribe the videos you create for social media. By providing a transcription, you give followers another way to understand the content—even if they don’t watch the video.
On most platforms, you can add transcriptions directly into the video description. For longer videos, consider publishing the transcription on your organization’s website and linking to these notes in the video description.
#4: How to Create More Accessible Social Ads
While the copy-related suggestions above certainly carry over to ads (i.e., avoid custom fonts and use emojis carefully), making paid social creatives accessible can be tricky. To run more inclusive advertising campaigns, you’ll need to make a few changes to your workflow.
Whenever possible, use built-in alt text functionality when setting up paid social campaigns. For example, LinkedIn Campaign Manager provides an Alt Text tool at the ad level. Upload your creative, and then enter up to 300 characters of alt text. Use the approach below to keep your alt text concise.
However, platforms like Twitter Ads Manager and Meta Ads Manager don’t support alt text for images. Instead of relying on the platform to autogenerate an accurate description of your ad creative, consider including your own in the ad.
Use the same approach as you would for organic images. Add a description at the very end of the caption, prefaced by “Image” or “Image Description.” Then write a brief explanation of the image.
Fortunately, most advertising platforms have built-in captioning tools to improve video accessibility. But you may have to do some digging to find them.
When you upload a video to a Twitter ad, for example, you can’t add or edit the captions directly in Twitter Ads Manager. Instead, you can edit the creative and adjust the subtitles in your Twitter Media Library. Plan to upload an SRT file to guarantee that your Twitter ad has accurate captions.
When you advertise on Facebook and Instagram, you can access caption settings directly in Meta Ads Manager. Upload a video creative, select the Edit Video button, and navigate to the Captions option. Then upload an SRT file directly to Ads Manager.
Note that Google Ads doesn’t allow editing directly in the Asset Library. To add captions to a long- or short-form YouTube video, go to YouTube Studio to make the edits. Any subtitles you add in YouTube Studio will automatically apply when you use the video in a YouTube ad.
Publishing accessible social media content can help your organization connect with the widest possible audience, which in turn can lead to better engagement, more traffic, and increased sales. With the ideas above, you can develop an accessible workflow that aligns with your organization’s goals.
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