Social media can be a powerful tool when wielded correctly. It has the power to spread awareness, affect change, and bring people together. For businesses, social media is perhaps one of the most powerful marketing tools. It enables brands to reach millions, even billions, of consumers worldwide.
But if your social media marketing doesn’t utilize accessibility best practices, then instead of reaching all audiences, you are excluding a large percentage of them.
When you don’t have a disability, it’s easy to assume that accessing social media is simple. You open the app, and you scroll. Done. But for the billions of people living with a disability — 16% of the world population — accessing and using social media is not so easy.
People with disabilities are consumers the same as anyone else. So if you don’t want to alienate such a large group of potential customers, then your social media marketing strategy must include accessibility practices.
Why Accessibility in Social Media Is Essential
Social media marketing is all about engagement. The more engaged consumers are, the more interested they become. And the more interested they are, the more likely they are to make a purchase. And the more purchases they make, the more you grow a loyal customer base. This is Marketing 101.
The hard part is figuring out how to boost social media engagement. For many companies, this is done by using analytics, scheduling posts at optimal times, running giveaways, using video content, engaging with customers in the comments, and even posting funny memes. But what about making your content more accessible?
Accessible content is often overlooked, but if your social media engagement is down, this could be why. If consumers that have disabilities can’t engage with your content, why would they support your brand and buy your products or services?
Social media content should be engaging for everyone.
In the U.S. alone, 1 in 4 people have a disability. That’s 26% of the population — meaning 26% of consumers that you are excluding if your content isn’t accessible.
If you want to increase engagement and expand your consumer base to be more inclusive of the entire online community, then you have to start thinking about how to advertise and communicate in a more accessible way. In other words, you must be more mindful of the content you produce.
Accessibility is so important that even TikTok and Instagram have committed to making their apps more accessible to users with disabilities.
TikTok’s Commitment to Accessibility
In TikTok’s effort to support a more inclusive digital social experience, they have created a number of accessibility features, including:
- Text-to-speech: This feature converts text to voiceover as it appears in videos, which is helpful for visually impaired users.
- Photosensitive warnings: This feature allows users with photosensitive epilepsy or light-induced migraines to opt out of seeing videos that could trigger them. The feature also warns creators of effects in their videos that might trigger those with epilepsy.
- Animated thumbnails: The animated thumbnail toggle allows users to choose from static or animated video thumbnails, which can help those sensitive to flashing images.
- Auto captions: This feature converts a video’s spoken audio into text for users who are hard of hearing or deaf.
These features can give you an idea as a marketer of how and why it’s necessary to start creating more accessible content.
Before these features were built-in, marketers had to do all the work on their end, but TikTok is making it easier now to create accessible content simply by using these features.
Instagram and Accessibility
Instagram is also committed to creating a more accessible experience for all users. Their website offers tips for how to get the most out of Instagram by using features that can help those with certain disabilities.
They offer instructions on how to use a screen reader with their app; how to adjust the size of the text for those who have a hard time seeing small fonts; And how to add alt-text to photos, which can be read by screen readers for those with visual impairments.
Additional accessibility tips for Instagram include:
- Adding subtitles to stories and videos for those with hearing impairments.
- Verbalizing visual details when speaking during stories or videos so those with visual impairments know what is being shown.
- Capitalizing each word in hashtags so they can be read by screen readers. For example, #MondayMotivation vs. #mondaymotivation. If you don’t capitalize each word, screen readers will read it as one long word.
- Adding more descriptive details in the captions for static posts for those who can’t see the photo but have a screen reader that can read the text.
How to Make Your Social Media Marketing Content More Accessible
When you start thinking about creating more accessible content, it helps to consider the range of disabilities that you will need to consider, including those related to vision, hearing, mobility, and neurodiversity.
You want to ensure that your content is accessible to all disabilities, not just one group.
Below are some of the top social media accessibility best practices you can start adding to your marketing strategy today:
1. Use Simple Language
All of your content should use plain, simple language that is easier for all users to read and make sense of, whether they have a disability or not. But plain language can be especially helpful for those with learning disabilities or those that use screen readers. Plain language is just easier to read and digest as a whole.
2. Use Subtitles, Transcripts, and Closed Captioning for Videos
Video advertising has become a staple on many social media platforms — especially TikTok — because of their condensed format, high shareability and extensive reach.
But not everyone can see or even hear what is happening in videos. So it’s important to include as much detail as possible for those that are using screen readers.
This includes using subtitles, closed-captioning, and even detailed transcripts to describe what is happening in the video.
3. Use Alt-Text and Captions For Static Images
For static posts and images, alternative text is helpful for those who are visually impaired. Whether you are posting a photo, a chart, an animation, or an infographic, alt-text is necessary for people using screen readers, as it provides a description of the image.
And it’s best to be as thorough as possible to provide a clear idea of what is in the image. For example, if it’s a photo of a dog, don’t just type “dog” for the alt-text.
Instead, provide the breed and state what the dog is doing in the photo. However, you also want to be succinct, as most screen readers will subdivide alt-text that is more than 125 characters.
4. Be Mindful of Text
How you type out the text in your content can change how it is read by a screen reader.
For example, you should avoid typing words in all caps as screen readers may read this as an acronym and not an actual word. If you are using acronyms, spell them out fully first before following with the acronym.
With hashtags, make sure each word in the hashtag is capitalized so it isn’t read as one long word. And always use periods at the end of your sentences so screen readers know when to pause.
Use special characters and emojis sparingly. Most screen readers know how to read an ampersand, but too many special characters can make things confusing when read by a screen reader.
You should also put mentions at the end of your posts. Too many @ mentions in the middle of sentences can also be confusing when a person is using a screen reader.
The Future of Accessibility
Seamlessly integrating accessibility measures into social media marketing is not only important now but also for the future of advertising. For example, marketing in the metaverse is perhaps an unexpected trend, but it is trending nevertheless.
While the metaverse is still in the works, and not everyone is jumping to live in the virtual world just yet, it is expected to be widely popular in the coming years.
However, as with most new digital trends, accessibility is usually not something that is initially addressed. It’s usually put on the back burner over other supposedly more important issues.
However, prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity in the metaverse should be the next step in your marketing campaign if you want to be ahead of the curve.
This is especially important as this platform has several features which could make it enticing and more accommodating to individuals with disabilities.
For example, users with low-vision would benefit from high-color contrast visuals and users who are blind can benefit from 3D-audio echolocation technology while exploring worlds in the metaverse.
Representation is also important, meaning using diverse avatars in your metaverse marketing content that shows people with a variety of features and attributes, such as avatars in wheelchairs or avatars with walking canes.
Implementing social media accessibility in your marketing content benefits everyone, and consumers may be l more likely to support a brand that they know to be more inclusive.
Today’s younger generations of consumers simply demand better from brands, so the more diverse and inclusive you are, the more you will attract and reach a wider range of audiences.