Author, Allison Zalesny, Social Media Associate
Inclusivity is a hot topic in the world we live in (as it should be). Companies have been making a concerted effort to include wider audiences within their content, but many don’t realize that many people are still being left out of the conversation. For example, the deaf or hard of hearing community, the blind community, and those that deal with color blindness or vision issues struggle with accessibility on social media daily. At the end of the day, social media marketing aims to reach as many people as possible, right?
To do that, social media marketers need to start taking steps to make sure that the content going out is as inclusive as possible. Here are some ways you can make your message more available (and inclusive) to everyone.
Alternative Text (Alt Text)
A picture can really tell a story. But what happens if you can’t see the picture? Does the message get lost? Adding alternative text (or alt text) can help people visualize images through a description. Adding custom alt text to images posted on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter ensures that those using screen readers can truly depict the full message you’re trying to convey. When adding alt text, always remember to be as descriptive as possible. Let’s say we’re looking at the famous American Gothic painting. What alt text could you provide to make help your reader identify this painting?
No Alt Text: When no alt text is added, screen readers will simply read “image” to their user.
Poor Alt Text: “Photo of a man and woman.” First, the reader already knows that an image is being described to them so starting your alt text with “photo of” or “picture of” is redundant. Stating that a man and a woman are in the photo is true but it also doesn’t really provide your reader with any more information than they would have had without the alt text.
Good Alt Text: “An older man holding a pitchfork stands next to an older woman in front of a farmhouse on a clear day.” This text provides details about the couple’s age, where they live, and what the scenery around them looks like. Without seeing the photo your reader could identify this image as the American Gothic painting.
Adding captions to videos is something that can help a wide variety of people like the hearing-impaired community, non-native speakers, and social media users who have their sound turned off. Studies show that 85% of 30-second videos on Facebook are viewed without sound. Captions improve the user experience by allowing all users to enjoy video content in any environment. Social media users can be found checking their social channels in restaurants, Ubers, gyms, airports, and anywhere else that has WiFi. Making your content more easily digestible by adding captions is a high-value effort that can yield a lot of benefits. Captioning your videos may not only include an audience that is often left out of video content but it could also draw more people to your content overall.
Social media managers sure love hashtags, but do they always convey the same message to everyone? Did you know that if you don’t capitalize each word in your hashtag, screen reader software can’t always differentiate each word? For example, one Twitter user recently pointed out that the hashtag #blacklivesmatter (uncapitalized) is read aloud as “black live smatter.” To avoid issues like this, take the time to capitalize every word (#BlackLivesMatter) in your hashtags.
Sharing images that standout is important, but are you making sure that everyone can read your graphics? For people who are colorblind, color contrast is key. When making graphics, avoid red/green or blue/yellow combinations as they can be challenging to differentiate. Text that is laid over images can also create a challenge for people with vision issues. Try adding a solid or opaque background behind your text before you lay it over an image. Finally, when creating graphs or charts, always label your data for those who may not be able to see the difference in data color.
Make The Effort
Nobody is perfect - all we can do is try our best to be as inclusive as possible with our content. There are many tools available online to help make this an easier process, such as readability tools, captioning services, contrast checkers, and others. Adding these extra steps may seem tedious at first, but overall, making your content more inclusive, only widens your audience.
Want to learn more about what you can do to be inclusive with your social media content? Contact Allison Zalesny, Social Media Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.