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Making Social Media Content Accessible

Person holding mobile phone in hand, and several social media icons are on the phone's screen

Social media has become a great way for organizations to promote themselves and their services. In recent years, social media platforms have made accessibility improvements. An example of such an improvement is adding the ability to include alternative text to images. However, social media platforms have generally been less than stellar as it relates to access for consumers with disabilities. 

This needs to be top of mind as you leverage social media platforms to enhance your brand image or reach. According to the CDC, over 25% of the US population lives with a disability. As leading social platforms have provided more tools to enable an accessible experience, much of the accessibility falls to social and digital marketers providing content in an accessible manner. Below, we have outlined some best practices to keep in mind when sharing content on your social media feeds:

Add image descriptions

As mentioned above, several social media platforms have included the ability to add alternative (alt) text to images. The alt text describes the image verbally, so that screen reader users know what is happening in the image. Platforms such as Facebook use artificial intelligence to automatically create alt text for images. However, the automatically-generated alt text is often simple and can be inaccurate. Because of this, it’s always better to manually enter alt text (just a sentence or so) when posting images. Below is a screenshot of how to add alt text to an image in Facebook:

Screenshot of Facebook image editor screen, with "Alternative text" and "Custom alt text" selected. Sample alt text is entered in the "Custom alt text" box.

Also, be sure to write out what an image says if there is text within the image. See our alt attributes blog post for more information about best practices when writing alt text.

Add captions/audio descriptions to videos

As with images, all videos you post to social media platforms must be accessible for users with disabilities. For many videos, adding captions (on-screen text of what the speaker is saying) is recommended to allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to read the text being spoken in videos.

Similarly, audio descriptions (separate audio tracks describing the visual elements of videos) are often recommended. Audio descriptions allow blind people or people with limited vision to hear what is happening visually in videos. Here’s a more detailed overview from our team on video accessibility, including when to add captions and/or audio descriptions.

Capitalize each word in hashtags

Using hashtags can be an effective strategy to reach new social media audiences. But hashtags are not always accessible, particularly to screen reader users. To make hashtags accessible, you must capitalize each word (for example, “#WebAccessibility”). Examples of the correct and incorrect use of hashtags are below:

Correct way: 

“Here’s why website accessibility is important. #WebAccessibility”

Incorrect way:

“Here’s why #webaccessibility is important.”

Some social media platforms (such as LinkedIn) will show dropdowns of suggested hashtags based on what you are typing. However, these generally are not capitalized by default. This causes accessibility issues for screen reader users as one key example. When a screen reader comes across a non-capitalized hashtag, it will not recognize or read multiple words separately. This would make your #wearethebest hashtag read aloud as “wearethebest” instead of “We are the best” if provided in an accessible format as #WeAreTheBest. This is why we strongly recommend manually typing hashtags rather than selecting suggested hashtags.

In addition, screen readers read hashtags the same as any other word. Therefore, the best practice is to place hashtags at the end of social media posts.

Several emojis floating above mobile phone

Be careful when using emojis

Everyone loves emojis because they’re cute and funny! However, be cautious about using emojis, and try to especially avoid using several emojis, in your social media posts. The reason is that screen readers will read each emoji aloud. This can be particularly annoying when there are several emojis in a social media post, as screen readers will hear the emojis (for example, “laughing face”), over and over. 

In instances like this, we recommend taking a few seconds to think about how the post is read to all users to help your team implement best practices. For example, think about a post like this “Our team had a great September adding a number of new clients 🚀🔥💰! Here is an example of how we could help your team grow your productivity in Q4:”. To a screen reader, the visual intention of these emojis would not come through in a meaningful way, as it would read “Our team had a great September adding a number of new clients RocketFireMoney Bag! Here is an example of how we could help your team grow your productivity in Q4:”. If you do find the need for emojis, we recommend placing any that are purely for visual enhancement at the end of the post, as the example above articulates.

The right way to use emojis

When used properly, emojis can certainly lighten up the visual experience but also be provided in a reasonably accessible format. While posting, think about the context of the emoji and how it will be read if replaced with text. It is also important to place spaces between multiple emojis, so they are not read as a single word to screen readers. For example, a post such as “We are excited to watch the 🚀 blast towards the ☀️ this afternoon! Will you be watching?” would properly read out as “We are excited to watch the rocket blast towards the sun this afternoon! Will you be watching?

We recommend including link previews rather than the actual URLs to articles in social media posts. Link previews provide larger targets to select than actual URLs. These larger targets can be helpful to users with limited vision, as well as people with mobility impairments who have trouble selecting small targets. Link previews also can be effective for sighted users who are quickly strolling through their social media feeds (especially on mobile devices). 

Below is a sample link preview in Facebook:

Accessible360 logo is above A360 preview text

Digital Accessibility Starts Here!

If you have questions about how to make your social media content more accessible, be sure to reach out to our team today. We have an endless amount of resources that don’t focus just on website, mobile, or native application accessibility. Our team of experts takes great pride in helping our clients position their brand in an accessible manner across ALL digital platforms you are leveraging. 

Digital accessibility does not and should not stop at just your website. Creating awareness for your entire digital marketing team will provide your consumers with the ability to engage with you on their terms, no matter the platform or format!

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