Are Social Media Images Truly Accessible?


Are you an entrepreneur who wants to use social media platforms to drive organic traffic to their website? Or are you a digital marketer who’s trying to build their clients’ brand reputation and credibility on social media?

In either case, chances are you’ve already outlined and implemented a robust social media marketing strategy to grow your online presence. Considering that the number of social media users worldwide is projected to surpass 4.4 billion by 2025, every organization wants to harness the potential of social media.

Images & Social Media: Understanding the Link

If you’re running social media marketing campaigns to grow your online presence, you’re likely using a plethora of images. From high-quality pictures of your products to data-driven infographics – you must be uploading various images on your social media profiles.

After all, people love scrolling through eye-catching images on social media platforms, right? But here’s the catch – more than 1 billion people on this planet suffer from some type of vision impairment. Among them, roughly 253 million people have total blindness or severe vision impairment.

Also, a 2018 survey involving Facebook users found that nearly 30% of them live with some form of visual, hearing, physical, or cognitive impairment/disability. This means a chunk of your target audience on social media could be suffering from some type of visual impairment.

Have you ever thought about how these users would consume your social media campaigns? More precisely, how are they going to make sense of the spectacular images you post on your social media profiles?

Visually impaired internet users often have to resort to assistive technology, such as screen readers, to access and understand web content. You must, therefore, ensure that every image you upload on social media can be accurately interpreted by screen readers.

In other words, you need to make all your social media images accessible. In this blog, we’ll explore a few techniques for accomplishing this. Let’s get started.

Social Media Accessibility: The Challenges

The biggest challenge in ensuring social media accessibility is that you can’t do anything to make the platform more accessible. While social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, have taken various steps to make their platforms accessible, there’s still room for improvement.

For instance, you can now leverage automatic captioning for live videos on Facebook and IGTV videos on Instagram. Likewise, Facebook automatically generates an alternate text for any image you upload. But these captions/descriptions aren’t always accurate.

Therefore, as a social media marketer, the onus is on you to make your social media images more accessible. Otherwise, you’ll fail to connect with a section of your target consumers who’re visually impaired. This, in turn, would affect the ROI of your social media campaigns, as well as overall sales and revenue.

So, how can you make your social media images more accessible? Let’s find out.

Making Social Media Images Accessible

The key to making social media images accessible is to ensure that they can be easily interpreted by screen readers. This, in turn, means you need to provide accurate and descriptive alt text for every image. Screen readers read aloud the alt text description of an image to describe what it’s like.

Almost all leading social media platforms let you add an alt text for every image you upload. For instance, you can use the following steps to add the alt text after posting an image on Facebook:

  • Click the image to enlarge it
  • Click the ellipsis (…) on the top-right corner of the screen
  • Select “Change Alt Text” from the dropdown menu
  • Write the alternate text in the text box
  • Click Save

Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide you with similar options to include an alt text for any image. Make sure the alt text is easy to understand and accurately conveys what the image contains or depicts. Also, it should convey the tone and color of the image, if that’s relevant.

Likewise, if you’re uploading an infographic or chart, you should draft the alt text such that it conveys the crucial data and insights. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that screen readers can’t identify text that’s been overlaid on an image.

That’s why the best practice is to avoid including text in your social media images. If it’s unavoidable, you should at least include the content in the image alt text as well.

Leverage the Caption

While adding alt text is a great technique for making social media images accessible, there are a few limitations. To begin with, depending on the platform, certain screen reading software might be unable to access and interpret the alt text. Also, adding plenty of details in the alt text will make it lengthy and difficult to comprehend.

That’s why you must ensure that all your social media images are accompanied by lucid and descriptive captions. Also, you need to avoid using too many emojis in the caption to make it easy for screen readers to interpret. Likewise, try adding hashtags and mentions at the end of the caption.

Modern Accessibility Solutions

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram may be using AI and machine learning for automatic image recognition. However, accessibility is not the main business focus, so you can never expect the results to be precise. If you want to really learn about web accessibility, you should follow industry leaders in digital accessibility solutions.

It’s essential to stay abreast of the latest trends and developments in the domain of web accessibility. Also, you need to keep a close eye on the emerging best practices to ensure social media and web accessibility.

Don’t Ignore Your Website Images

Here’s the thing – when people like your content on social media, chances are they’ll visit your website too. Even if they don’t make a purchase right away, they might subscribe to your mailing list or shortlist one of your products.

Therefore, making your social media content accessible isn’t enough. You must use a well-rounded approach to ensure that your website is accessible too. Apart from enhancing the user experience, website accessibility is also legally mandatory under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This is particularly crucial considering that the number of web accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court has been on the rise. So, how can you make your website images more accessible? The key is to follow the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

As with social media, you need to start by including vivid alt text for every image. If your website is built on WordPress, you can easily add the alt text while uploading an image. However, if your website is custom-coded, you’ll need a developer’s help to add the alt text. You can also ask them to add a long description of each image to your website’s HTML code.

Or you can use AI-powered accessibility platforms, such as accessiBe to make your website accessible in a few simple steps. You just have to add a code snippet to your website’s source code. Thereafter, the automated accessibility tool will automatically make the right changes to ensure that your website is accessible.

What techniques are you using to ensure web and social media accessibility in 2021? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

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