Social Media Accessibility Part 2: How to Make Your Social Media Content Accessible
Author: Melanie Mudge
How to Make Your Social Media Content and Images Accessible
Does the following describe you? You put energy, thought, and loads of time into crafting your social media presence and strategy. You think about everything, from the colors and graphics to the hashtags and the trends you join in on.
Or perhaps this is more you: You manage the social media for your company or your clients, and you want to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck, so you brainstorm and ideate and craft copy for every TikTok, ad, and post until you get it just right.
If either of those describes you, we have one question: Is everyone in your target market able to access that clever, well-planned content? Can people who are blind or visually impaired access your images? Is your content understandable when read by a screen reader? If the answer is, “I don’t know,” do you know how to find out?
Whether you’re an influencer, a content creator, a digital marketer, or just someone who wants to include others wherever and however possible (if so, go you!), keep reading to learn how to make your social media content and images fully accessible so you can rest assured you’re not leaving anyone out.
How to Write Social Media Content That’s Accessible
Many social media users utilize screen readers to access content, but screen readers can’t decipher and filter information like the human brain does. The following will make your content more accessible in general and screen-reader friendly.
1. Always Use Camel Case
Nothing like a real world fail to illustrate why this matters: #susanalbumparty. What words stand out to you there? Yeah, it’s not good. But using camel case clears up the confusion: #SusanAlbumParty.
Hashtags with camel case can not only be read properly by screen readers, they also make the information easier to understand for everyone.
2. Avoid All Caps
Screen readers read all caps differently, and there’s rarely a need to shout at everyone.
3. Use Emojis Instead of Emoticons and Use Them Sparingly
Emoticons like :-) just look like jumbles of punctuation to screen readers, which is why emojis, which have built-in alt text, are preferred. However, the alt text may not always convey the meaning you want, so use a screen reader like Apple VoiceOver or Android TalkBack to check them first, and only use a few. If you’re not sure, just use a screen reader to hear what your caption sounds like with your emojis.
4. Write Alt Text
Every image conveys meaning, but it’s often inaccessible to people with disabilities. Alt text helps unlock that information, so incorporate it into your writing process (see below for more).
5. Put Hashtags and Mentions at the end
Punctuation marks like @ and # are read aloud by screen readers, so keep in mind how they might interrupt your copy.
6. Write in Plain Language
Jargon, slang, and technical terms should only be used when appropriate. Screen readers have a hard time reading them, and they can also be confusing for non-native English speakers or those with learning disabilities.
7. Avoid Special Characters
Seriously, check out this tweet to see why special characters are awful for screen readers. Then just don’t use them.
8. Use Inclusive Language
Stick to gender-neutral pronouns, avoid ableist language, and evaluate your copy for assumptions and biases.
How to Make Social Media Images Accessible
Thankfully, most images can be made accessible by doing two simple things: 1. Checking your image contrast (if it contains words); and 2. Including alt text with them.
How to Check Image Contrast
Image contrast is important because it ensures that your text is legible. Whether you’re putting text over an image or just on a colorful background, always check your contrast. A simple, easy tool for doing this is this Background Image A11y Checker.
Simply upload your image, add your text and change its color, then watch as the meters change color. If you don’t pass, try moving the text around the image to see if that improves the contrast. You can also try changing your text’s color or the background image, though it doesn’t give you the option to change the background color of the text. (You’ll notice that it mentions AA and AAA compliance. Learn more about what these levels mean here.)
How to Write Alt Text
Alternative (Alt) Text is simply a brief description of an image, and it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Just think through the information you want users to gather from the image and the order in which you want them to gather it. Then write your description in that order, being descriptive when it’s important to the image. (For an in-depth tutorial, check out our Alt Text Masterclass blog series.)
A simple rule of thumb here is to give the image the length it needs while trying not to be excessive. Imagine listening to a lengthy image description that describes every little detail when most details aren’t crucial to the meaning of the image. Ain’t nobody got time for that! LinkedIn limits alt text to 300 characters, Facebook and Instagram have no limit, and Twitter has a 1,000-character limit.
Note: Some platforms use AI to generate descriptions for images if you don’t add them yourself. Don’t give in to the temptation to rely on this! AI gets it wrong a lot, sometimes offensively so, but usually it’s just an incredibly unhelpful description, defeating the purpose of alt text altogether.
Pro-tip: If you have a more complicated image, like an infographic or art, it will need a lengthier description to fully capture the meaning. If that’s the case and it won’t fit within limits, consider using the caption. Simply write, “Image description:” and then insert your description.
How to Add Alt Text on Social Media
Sadly, this is where things get complicated. Not all platforms have a place for alt text, and of those that do, each has a different process for inputting alt text. On top of that, each third-party scheduling platform (e.g. Buffer, Hootsuite) has its own process. Whew! The instructions below will help you get the hang of it. (If you use a scheduler, do a quick Google search for your software’s process. Yours doesn’t have it? First, submit a request for them to add that feature! Then, consider switching to one that does ASAP.)
Note: These instructions are for desktop, but will be similar for mobile. We did our best to make note of the differences.
1. Instagram app/website.
When creating a new image post, on the screen where you write your caption, click the option at the bottom called “Accessibility.” (On mobile, you’ll see “Advanced Settings” at the bottom. Tap that, then you’ll see “Accessibility.”) Click on “Write alt text” and hit “Done” when you’re happy.
2. Facebook Creator Studio (not available for personal accounts).
Make sure you’ve selected your Instagram account in the top menu bar, then click the big green “Create Post” button in the top right corner and choose “Instagram Feed.”
Add your image(s), then click on the “Advanced Settings” tab on the right. Enter your alt text for each image, then proceed to post or schedule as desired.
Note: Sked Social is the only scheduler that has alt text for Instagram. If you can’t or don’t want to use Sked or Creator Studio, the best option is to simply schedule your Instagram posts as usual, then once they go live, open Instagram and edit the post. “Edit Alt Text” will appear in the bottom right corner of the image.
1. Facebook app/website.
From the home screen, your profile, or your Page’s profile, create a post using your desired images. Click the “Edit” button in the top left corner of the image.
Click the “Alternative Text” tab on the left, then select the button for Custom Alt Text and input your text. Click “Save” in the bottom left corner when finished. Repeat for all images in the post.
2. Facebook Creator Studio (not available for personal accounts).
Make sure you’ve selected your Facebook account in the top menu bar, then click the big green “Create New” button in the top right corner.
Select “Create Post” in the dropdown menu, choose the profile/page you want, then click “Add Photo” in the Media section. Once you’ve uploaded your image(s), they’ll appear in the Media section. Click on the pencil icon next to each one.
Choose “Alt Text” in the Accessibility section, then write your Alt Text in the box. When you’re happy, hit the blue “Save” button in the bottom right corner.
Compose a tweet as usual. When you attach your image(s), click “Add Description” underneath the image(s). Alternatively, you can click the “Edit” badge in the lower right corner of the image, then click the “ALT” tab in the top center. (On mobile, tap the “+ALT” badge in the lower right corner of your image.)
Click that, then type your description in the box at the bottom. Repeat for each image, then click save in the top right corner.
Snapchat doesn’t meet image accessibility requirements as of this writing, so alt text isn’t available.
Do a quick search to see if the social media platform in question has alt text. If it does, they’ll have a tutorial on how to add it. If not, submit a feature request to the company.
A Little Effort Can Make a Lot of Difference
By adding the steps above to your workflow, you’ll quickly and dramatically improve your social media’s accessibility, and you’ll see just how easy it is once you’ve gone through the process a couple times. But above all, you’ll ensure that all the effort, brainstorming, time, and—let’s be honest—tears that you put into your content will shine, for everyone.
Pro tip: Level up by making your video content accessible too!