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How do those living with vision, hearing, cognitive or motor needs communicate with your brand online?

Despite the culture shift towards a more accessible online experience, few organisations are truly leading on this important issue when building their social media marketing strategy. Here are some changes you may need to make to improve your digital customer experience for all audiences…

 

Tip 1 – Describe your images

Many people are unaware of the option to add alt text to social media imagery. Employees attach their image, hit Send, and forget about it.

But the alt text is vital for people with accessibility issues, since it adds a text description to an image on a web page. This helps people to understand what your image is, even if they struggle with visual impairment.

Some social media publishing tools such as Sprinklr have built this feature into their platforms. It makes life as easy as possible for those publishing to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Adding alt text is an absolute must for extending the your reach of your communications and to ensure you can engage everyone, no matter their background or ability.

Image of an illustrator using Microsoft Surface to create a design, while others watch on.

Tip 2 – Caption your videos

In 2006, Ofcom asked British households how many of them used subtitles. 7.5 million people said they did; 6 million of them didn’t have any hearing impairment. In the age of YouTube, where subtitles can be automatically generated and switched on with the push of a button, expect that figure to have shot up.

Given those stats, it doesn’t make sense to ignore subtitles (or ‘closed captioning’) on your videos. It creates genuinely accessible social media. Not only that, but they also help increase SEO and engagement. Accessible and optimised? It’s the social media manager’s dream.

All text should be the same size and style, while being easy to read on moving backgrounds. To make sure your text doesn’t get distorted, remember to use the correct dimensions: if you’re posting to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, 1080×1080 is the magic number; on platforms like Twitter, it’s 1024×512 to ensure subtitles are easily read.

Remember, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Tweet for Microsoft Future Decoded, featuring video with subtitles

 

Tip 3 – Communicate with clear copy

It sounds simple, but when creating any social media post, remember to clearly write your text for people who may need assistance. Depending on the platform, you may not be able to affect the font size on a post. But you can still make thoughtful tweaks to your copy to make it easier to read.

Avoid blocks of text. Pop spaces between your introduction, the middle, and the final call to action. Doing so takes up more screen real-estate (and catches the eye), but also, the crystal-clear layout makes it a lot easier for you to communicate your message and for people to actually read it.

Secondly, use simple, accessible language. Don’t force people to go running for the dictionary every time you tweet – because they may not run back to you afterwards.

Microsoft

 

Tip 4 – Ask ‘How will this sound?’

Preparing an accessible social media strategy or editorial calendar is time-consuming. At times, it can even be pretty frustrating – especially if you don’t have the right content, at the right time, scheduled in the right way.

But once you’re all set, instead of rushing out your content, have you ever listened to it?

If your smartphone or tablet has a feature like iPhone’s ‘voice over’, it may be worth checking your previous posts. As you listen to each, think critically about what you hear.

Hearing your posts read aloud – or even just speaking them out-loud before they go live – might make you reconsider or innovate some of your existing workplace practices.

Image of a phone screen and text messages, with the option to have messages read out loud

 

Tip 5 – Start learning

Accessible social media should always lead your online strategy.

Sure, it might help your reach and communicate with new audiences, but so much more important is this: it’s the right thing to do.

Changing to a culture of accessibility has the power to transform someone’s online experience, or help them develop new skills.

To help kick-start your learning, these are my favourite resources:

 

Find out more

Re-imagine accessibility

 

About the author

Tom Wakelin, Social Media Manager. MicrosoftTom Wakelin is Microsoft UK’s Social Media Marketing Manager, responsible for our digital communities across consumer, commercial, education and developer. Whether it’s a Facebook message, tweet, Instagram Live broadcast, or LinkedIn blog, Tom and the team are always looking for innovative ways to help tell the Microsoft story and drive excitement for our products and services. He’s always on the lookout for exciting customer stories that bring the magic of technology to life. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @Thomas_Wakelin