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    Accessible Social Media Practices for Your Brand

    by UsableNet

    You're on Instagram about to publish a post, and you go down your social media checklist...

    Lighting? Gorgeous. Outfit? On point. Caption? Clever.

    But wait! Before you hit "Done," do you know if your social media post is accessible to people with disabilities?

    Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbol collectionWhether you love it, hate it, or truly don't care, social media is an inescapable, dominant force in today's world. In 2021, there are 4.48 billion active social media users across the globe. Initially, these online spaces were for people to communicate with family and friends. Now, social media is a powerful tool for e-commerce brands.

    Outside of their websites, social media is the primary way that companies reach their audiences. Be it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, most big companies maintain at least one type of social media presence. 

    screenshot of usablenet's linkedin profile



    When it comes to B2C marketing, these popular technologies seem effective. A study found that over 70% of consumers who had a positive experience with a brand on social media would recommend the company to others. Making your social media account accessible for every user will help encourage this statistic.

    After all, today's generation already pours tons of effort into crafting the perfect social media presence. Why not make accessibility a regular part of this virtual recipe?

    How to Create Accessible Social Media Content

    Best practices for accessible content apply across all social media platforms. Each website or app may also have its own exclusive accessible features. Usability updates are constantly being implemented, so check their websites for the latest news.

    Our guide keeps it simple (but we list some detailed resources at the bottom for specific sites). Use the following tips as they apply to your social media platform of choice! 

    Accessible Images

    Use images sparingly, and always include meaningful alt text. Alt-image description fields are finally available on most major platforms now! If there isn't an alt-text input field, paste the description directly below the picture on the page. That way, it's available for everyone, even without a screen reader.

    Screenshot of alt-text for a newborn baby.

    Images of text are inherently inaccessible without having the exact text in an alternative format. It's not always possible to scale up things on certain aspects of social media, such as Instagram stories. Therefore, any wordy images should respect minimum contrast ratios. This helps to boost the readability of that text within the image itself.

    Clear Language

    Try to limit text; focus on writing clear, concise messages. Use plain language for short, understandable sentences. Avoid unnecessarily complex words and phrases. 

    Try to avoid abbreviations or acronyms that may not be commonly known. Otherwise, your message may not get across as well.

    Finally, don't abuse punctuation. Only use it appropriately and meaningfully. The common practice of adding lots of exclamation marks, question marks, or random punctuation can potentially confuse those with cognitive disabilities. This overuse can also cause assistive technology to not understand what it needs to say at the same time.

    Caption All Audio Content

    Screenshot of a video with captions.

    Closed captions are essential for those who have hearing impairments. They should be in sync with the audio and as accurate as possible. Providing a full transcript along with the captions is also helpful for those with hearing and visual impairments. 

    Video descriptions

    For many videos, blind users cannot experience them fully without an audio description. This resource will accompany the original audio and explain any visual information that is important for the viewer to know.

    For example, if a movie character pulls out a weapon, the viewer might not realize this with only the dialogue. An audio description can help fill any missing gaps. Our Video Accessibility blog goes into more detail on ways to do this.

    Limit Emojis and Other Unnecessary Graphics

    Emojis and emoticons poise the potential for user misunderstanding. For those with cognitive disabilities, they may not understand these symbols easily. Additionally, emojis can be difficult to see for users with low vision. 

    Emoticon behind a not allowed sign

    Screen readers also have a very hard time parsing emoticons beyond the basic smiley faces. When assistive technology can identify emojis, users will hear things like "man levitating in a business suit" or "smiley face with smiley eyes." Consider this reality before sticking in too many emojis.

    You should also steer clear of special formatting and special characters. Certain fonts can be difficult to read. Assistive tools also struggle with reading oddly formatted text.

    Format Hashtags

    Hashtags written on multiple blue road sign

    Use CamelCase for multi-word hashtags to differentiate the words. This means you should capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag. This can be very important for people who need that extra guidance to parse the word in general. It also guides screen readers towards correct pronunciation.

    If possible, hold the use of hashtags and mentions until the end of the text. Otherwise, these elements disrupt the flow of the copy.

    Check automatic content

    Just like website accessibility, social media content cannot rely on AI alone, Any automatically-generated content should receive a manual review for accuracy.

    2 people looking at computer

    While they are great most of the time, YouTube's automatic captions are also notorious for making comical, yet frustrating, errors. Look for and fix any mistakes made by this tool.

    You should also check Facebook's automatic alt text and adjust the image descriptions as needed. 

    The Positive Influence of an Accessible Website

    A robust, accessible website will prepare you with skills that can easily transfer to social media. Follow the same practices used by your site, and your social media should reach all users!

    For a detailed guide on specific social media platforms, the Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit contains lots of helpful guidelines, though it may not recognize the most recent platform updates.

    If you like this content. . .

    Check out our UsableNet FREE Webinar for content creators, The Top 3 Areas to Help you Create Accessible Content, October 13, 2021, at 12 pm ET. 

    UsableNet’s Director of Accessibility Operations, Jeff Adams, and our VP of Delivery and Accessibility and Operations, Michele Lucchini will walk you through the top 3 areas that you as a content creator can focus on to improve digital accessibility. 

    This webinar includes an overview of the WCAG Success Criteria most relevant to content creators and a drill down into three key areas that are essential: managing alt text, color contrast guidelines, and multimedia requirements. 

    Register for this free live webinar or be sent the recording

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