Easy access to all things online in today’s day and age is a birthright.
No? Well, it should be. After all, information on the Internet and social media posts are there for everyone.
You invest so much in creating social media posts and monitoring them. But how often do you consider making them accessible to everyone?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four adults in the US lives with a disability. So, by overlooking the need to make your content accessible, you lose up to 25% of the American adult audience who could have made a world of difference to your social engagement scores. And if the same statistic were to be applied on a global scale, the figure goes up exponentially.
These facts should just give you more incentive to understand and make the most of social media accessibility. So, let’s fuel that fire and get into its importance and some of the best ways that you can go about it.
What is social media accessibility?
Social media accessibility is the practice of designing social media content that offers an inclusive and smooth browsing experience for everyone in the audience. It makes browsing conditions more ideal for screen readers so users with a disability or different preferences, devices or environments enjoy a pleasant social media experience.
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of what it’s all about, let’s jump into the top five reasons of why you need to make your social media posts more accessible in today’s world.
5 reasons why social media accessibility should matter to you
1. To connect with the differently abled segment of your audience
15% of people in the world live with a disability. Of these, around 5 million suffer from vision impairment, 5% from a hearing disability and up to 2% suffer from both. That means that, potentially, millions from your audience cannot read your posts, hear them or both.
Most of your visually impaired audience uses a screen reader to sail through social media. But there are certain limitations. For example, if a sentence has emojis, the screen reader reads the alt text of the emojis instead of its meaning in the sentence.
Here’s an example from one of Wendy's tweets so you can get a better idea.
A screen reader will read this tweet as, “Burger until it has square patties, it’s wrong,” which doesn’t make sense. So, be sure to be mindful of emoji usage when you’re trying to send across a creative message.
2. To abide by the disability laws
Several countries like the US, Canada and the UK have laws in place that mandate websites and social media pages to create accessible content.
3. To serve the portion of your audience without a disability
Up to 75% of consumers watch videos on their phones on mute. And up to 80% of your audience who use captions do not have a hearing disability. Hence, if you post many videos online, social media accessibility should be your priority.
4. To include other language speakers
Many features of your standard social media accessibility guidelines serve the non-English speaking audience — for example, features like including a caption and description to videos and alt text to images. This also helps your SEO ranking as search engine crawlers cannot read images, videos or audio posts, but they can read the associated text.
5. To improve your social media engagement
Social media accessibility translates to higher engagement and increased views and watch time for your posts, resulting in more conversions for your digital content.
Gucci is a prime example of how a brand has brought in the numbers through social media accessibility.
As a socially sustainable luxury giant, Gucci has been working to enhance its brand accessibility for the past few years. It made its stores more accessible to people with disabilities.
It used social media accessibility guidelines to revamp its posts. It started adding alt text to every post on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) and enhanced the readability of its content for screen readers.
The result? Gucci cemented its image as a diverse and inclusive brand.
So, now you know why social media accessibility is vital when it comes to reaching a broader audience. But how do you go about making your posts more accessible for everyone? Well, here's how you can begin, by taking one post at a time.
Steps to make your social media post accessible
Follow these steps to check if your social post is accessible and to improve on it:
Use a screen reader and compare the audio to the text in the post.
If it’s a video, check if you can see subtitles and closed captions. These may be autogenerated immediately, or they may need to be added. Some social media platforms take a couple of days to autogenerate the captions.
Mark the part of the text or figures which are not included in the audio, subtitles and captions.
Modify the subtitles and captions to include the missing text.
For an image, check the color contrast and be sure to add alternative text (alt text).
Mark the places where emoticons are used and check for their description in the audio. Modify the description as needed in the captions and subtitles.
Note the non-inclusive words and change them.
Enable the option for the auto-translation of your posts. And, if possible, go through steps 1–7 in your target translation language.
Use the screen reader and recheck the audio, subtitles/captions and text in the post.
When practiced properly, these steps will help your posts in reaching a broader audience. With that covered, let’s get into the finer details of these best practices and how they can pay off.
8 best practices to make your social media posts accessible
1. Include alt text
Alt or alternative text is the short description of an image that screen readers use. It needs to be accurate and simple. Unlike most social media platforms, X permits you to use alt text and GIF labels, or GIFs.
Dos and Don’ts
Keep it short yet informative.
Include keywords and context.
Avoid the words “image of” or “picture of.”
Use humor whenever you can for better appeal.
2. Use subtitles and captions
There are two types of video transcripts: subtitles and captions. Subtitles at the bottom of the screen show the dialogue in the video. Closed captions include the sound effects and the narrator’s name as well.
They help other language speakers and viewers who have a disability. The millennial and the Gen Z population love them. Many of your customers use them when they don’t want to wake up a sleeping baby that’s lying next to them. One great example is Netflix, which offers closed captions as well as audio descriptions of videos.
Some robust social media management tools can help you add closed captions to Facebook and YouTube videos as well. What’s more, you can upload multiple files for different languages.
Dos and Don’ts
Before uploading, ensure the social media platform does not include captioning. Some go-tos like TikTok and Reels offer captioning.
Include the descriptions of sounds made by people and things in the scene. For example, if the person in the scene snorts, mention “[Snorts]” in the caption.
Be careful about the color scheme used for subtitles and captions. The fonts must be visible against the background, such as a white font against a black highlight.
Also Read: Add caption to a Youtube Video
3. Use video descriptions
Video descriptions act as the alt text for videos. They describe what the video is about and give context to your viewers.
Dos and Don’ts
The video description should go after your post caption.
Write in the chronological order of events in the video.
Describe everything in the video, including the people, background, set-up, actions, sounds and music, items and transitions between scenes.
Include a warning about any photosensitive content.
Don’t write long descriptions. Avoid describing the complete storyline.
Use keywords that help users search for your videos.
4. Use accessible texts
Using clear and straightforward language benefits everyone, not just the people with disabilities.
Dos and Don’ts
Limit the use of fancy fonts that are hard to read.
Limit the use of abbreviations and slang — not everyone understands them.
Avoid alternating or all capital letters.
Avoid asterisks to replace letters in a word.
Write hashtags in camel case with the first letter of every word capitalized, like #MyBrandCampaign. Also, avoid inline hashtags and “@” mentions, as they interrupt the reader.
5. Use emojis cautiously
While you may often use emojis to explain how you feel, it interrupts the screen reader if used in the middle of a sentence. However, brands often use emojis to make a message unique and fun. For example, Bud Light used emojis to create the American flag on the Fourth of July a few years back.
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t make bullet points with emojis.
Use emojis at the end of a sentence or a paragraph.
Don’t use more than three emojis in a social media post.
Don’t repeat emojis more than three times, as it can get annoying and time-consuming during narration by screen readers.
6. Make images and videos color-sensitive
Ensure your content carries warnings for people suffering from photosensitivity and color blindness.
Dos and Don’ts
Avoid combining a graphic with text.
Avoid using high contrast or a multiplicity of colors to convey something.
Be cautious about displaying trends that may not be understandable by everyone.
Avoid using ASCII art or memes where punctuations are used to draw figures, as the screen reader will read the punctuation marks and not the figure as a whole.
7. Employ inclusive language
Bias, stigmas and exclusivity seeps into our words unintentionally when we interact frequently on social media. Whereas, inclusive language is respectful, makes everyone feel welcome and invites participation from the audience.
Dos and Don’ts
Be cautious of sounding biased in your posts. Use gender-neutral pronouns, like “they,” “them” and “their,” to avoid gender bias.
Avoid using offensive language like slang or specific words that have been declared culturally inappropriate, like blacklisting and whitelisting.
Opt for people-first terms, like using the phrase “person with a disability” instead of saying a “disabled person.”
Continue learning and get your doubts resolved by an expert. And above all, don’t get defensive if someone points out something that’s off on social media.
Read More: Social media messaging: How to get it right?
8. Make your images inclusive
Pictures speak a thousand words. The images you upload on social media should not reflect bias or cultural insensitivity. For example, Dove is known to be amongst the strongest brands to portray their love for inclusivity, and it has drawn more people to the brand just because of that.
Here’s their most recent campaign that fights against hair discrimination.
Dos and Don’ts
Handpick your models or influencers carefully to reflect varied backgrounds, ages and cultures.
Cautiously choose the content creators and agencies that reflect your thinking and amplify it.
Proactively listen to what your audience says about your images and take corrective action, if needed.
Don’t make this a one-time thing. Prioritize inclusivity in all your campaigns. People observe your actions, and they understand if you try to fake support for inclusivity once or twice. Continuity in brand campaigning is one of the biggest reasons why Dove has been able to gather undeniable support from women of all colors.
Colors should be mild for the photosensitive, color blind and visually impaired.
Your customers crave accessibility
Social media is for everyone, and it needs to be accessible by all. It widens your reach as a brand and polishes your image. Millennials and Gen Z folk notice when you try to be accessible on social media. That’s why brands are increasingly drawn to social media accessibility to improve their image.
Your accessibility plan needs to be consistent across all social media platforms because your customers expect that. They watch your every move, everywhere.
This is where you can use holistic tools like Sprinklr, which offers robust social media automation software to help you with the plan. If you’re wondering how you can take your social media accessibility to the next level, book a demo of Sprinklr today to find out.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can add narration to your captions. You can also use more visual and audio components to cater to a broader audience.