If you’ve not come across Alexis (she/her), the author of this post before, you’re in for a treat. Social media is her speciality, but she’s not about all the things you SHOULD be doing. As her business name Social Media for Humans suggests, Alexis adopts a human-first, personal and totally organic approach to social media for your business. You can find out more about Alexis and her Social Media For Humans club at the end of this post. But first, I’m delighted that she has agreed to share her thoughts on social media accessibility and how accessibility can only ever be a good thing.
Note from Katie…wait, why the lack of pictures? In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of my web presence, I am only using images at the very top of my posts, as well as where they serve a true purpose, such as headshots or infographics. That’s why you won’t find any purely decorative photos here anymore.
What is social media accessibility?
Social media accessibility is simply the process of making sure as many people as possible can enjoy your content. But it can feel pretty overwhelming when you don’t know much about what it entails. Fortunately, many social media accessibility best practices are quick and easy to implement, and all of them are worth it!
Why is social media accessibility important?
First, let’s think about what it might feel like to come across inaccessible content yourself. Imagine you’re scrolling your favourite social platform and you come across a post but it’s in a language you don’t speak and your translation tool can’t make sense of it either. It has a million likes and hundreds of thousands of comments. Your best friends have commented on it saying how incredible it is, they’re chatting to each other in the comments about this amazing post that you can’t understand. How do you feel?
Unfortunately, most of the internet is inaccessible right now. This leaves many people feeling like you might feel in the situation above, every time they open their apps. Very few people, including big brands and even government agencies, are thinking about social media accessibility when putting out their content. It’s not great.
Accessibility is the ethical choice
Making your content accessible means nobody has to feel that way with your content; they can enjoy it, they can understand it, they are included and welcomed into your little corner of the internet. For ethical businesses who want to reduce unintended harm, choosing to make your social media accessible is a logical choice.
Not only does it show that you’re working to do better in all areas of your business, it introduces the idea of accessibility to others too and can spark a snowball effect among your business friends, making an even bigger impact.
Inclusive communities matter
Many ethical businesses are big on community. We know about the power of people and the importance of supporting each other. We know that those things make a massive difference. But in the same way that holding your networking event in a location with no ramp and only a staircase automatically excludes people, creating content without adding alt-text or captions excludes people too.
To build truly inclusive communities where everyone is supported and can support others, our content simply must be accessible.
You can’t share what you can’t “see”
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not really that into ethics and all you care about is growing your business; you’re pushing for more reach, more shares, more followers and more sales. Embracing accessibility is still important because it means more people can consume your content, so they’re also more likely to follow you, share it and buy from you.
One of the great things about being more accessible is that everyone, including your business, benefits from it!
5 quick and easy social media accessibility tips
Now you’re convinced of the importance of accessible social media content, here’s my top 5 tips for implementing.
1. Alt-text or image descriptions
This is simply text which describes the image, GIF or video clip you’re sharing. You don’t need to describe every single detail, just the key features. You can use the alt-text option provided on some platforms (Twitter and LinkedIn have great alt-text options) or simple add something along the lines of “Image ID: Alexis smiles at the camera with Maurice, a Jack Russel cross Papillon, sitting on her and looking at the camera” in your caption.
2. Captions or subtitles
Captions are the text version of anything going on audio-wise, that includes the words people are speaking, dogs barking, doorbells going, etc. Whether you’re creating quick stories posts, Reels, or longer-form video content, adding captions yourself, using automated options, or paying for them to be done professionally is essential.
3. Avoid flashing or strobing visuals
Just as mainstream TV warns of upcoming strobing images before showing them, it’s important to be mindful on your own social media. Try to avoid flashing or strobing GIFs and videos completely but if you absolutely have to share them, provide a warning in the caption and in the frame before it happens to allow people to exit.
4. Ditch the fancy “fonts”
Stick to the font formatting options provided by the platform you’re posting on. Yes, it’s often limited and boring but using font generators to make your text fancy means screen readers cannot read it, at all. The “fonts” you’re using aren’t Latin characters, they’re often mathematical or scientific symbols and screen readers read them as their official names, not the letters you think they are. Also, many of them are just illegible for human eyes.
5. Use fewer emojis
My last tip is a little controversial so hang with me! In a similar way to those fancy fonts, emojis are read by screen readers as their official names which means if you use lots of them through your captions, the content becomes inaccessible very fast.
For many neurodiverse people, myself included, it can also add confusion to the message you’re trying to convey. Far from being a universal language, emojis are understood differently across cultures, languages, and communities. Of course, you can still use them, just keep them to a minimum and at the end of the text rather than in the middle of it.
I’d love to know if this post has inspired you to make your content more accessible, so do come and find me on Instagram and let me know!
About the author
Alexis is a social media guide and founder of Social Media for Humans, a movement changing the way social media works from the inside. She busts myths and provides an honest, jargon-free explanation of algorithms and strategy to help business owners and individuals use social media effectively, ethically and in a way that’s sustainable for both the human running the business and the planet.
Outside of trying to ruin Zuck’s master plan, she enjoys walking, dog agility with TiLi, her Bichon Frise, and playing chess.