Copy is the text that accompanies social content on channels. This includes captions, links, hashtags, video descriptions, and more. This does NOT refer to text on graphics, on video, etc. Here are some things to think about when drafting your copy:
Write in plain language.
Write using clear prose in short sentences and paragraphs. Avoid jargon and be sure to spell out acronyms on first reference, especially since these can be confusing when read separately without context or explanation.
Avoid “creative” typography.
Playing around with cute fonts has become popular in social bios and posts, but these don’t work well with assistive technologies like screen readers.
Camelcase your hashtags.
Much the same way a camel’s back has humps, formatting your hashtags—especially long ones with multiple words—aids in understanding the content and works better with assistive technology. To do this, simply capitalize the first letter of a word within a hashtag. So, for example, instead of #pacegogetters, use #PaceGoGetters.
- It’s best to put emoji at the very end of your written content which also means not using them as bullet points. This practice will help you avoid creating any clarity issues that could be caused by an icon’s coded description interfering with the rest of your copy.
- To avoid their meta descriptions confusing your overall message when it’s read by an assistive device or program, emoji should be used as sparingly as possible in written content.
Images, in the strictest sense, are photographs or simple illustrations that have no copy (text) on them. Images are vital on social media. They improve engagement, boost brand awareness, and help illustrate your story beyond words.
Use alt text.
Alternative text provides a text alternative to images and is essential for those using assistive technology. Using alt text will allow screen readers to accurately describe the image in words. Here are some top tips for writing alt text:
- Describe the image in context. For example, if you’re posting an image with a caption relating to Career Fairs at Pace, it would make sense to describe the photo in that context. For example, instead of “people smiling at the camera,” you could write “students in business wear posing for a photo at a career fair.”
- Be succinct. The commonly used JAWS screen reader, for example, will subdivide alt text that is more than 125 characters.
- Avoid redundancy. No need to include “Image of…” in the description since the alt attribute implies that information.
- Use dashes for acronyms, otherwise the screen reader tries to read the acronym as a word. For example, you might write “USA” as “U-S-A” in the alt text so the screen reader doesn’t pronounce it as “usa.”
- Avoid “burning” text onto images. Any important information that is burned or embedded into the image should be easily readable and conveyed in the alt text.
Graphic images are images or illustrations with copy (text) “burned” onto the image (e.g., fliers, announcements, etc.)
Avoid packing a graphic with text.
Consider limiting the information on your graphics and linking to a blog post or landing page for a full statement, full event info, a full blog post, etc.
Pay attention to color.
If you create custom graphics for your social media, keep color contrast in mind. Some color combinations make copy difficult or impossible to read, either because there isn’t enough contrast, or the color pairing is causing the text to appear as if it’s vibrating.
Say it again.
Any important information that is burned or embedded into the image should be easily readable and conveyed in the alt text. For example, if you are sharing a flier on social that includes an event name, date, time location, you should repeat that information in the alt text and copy (caption) that is associated with the image.
Clarify the content.
For longer descriptions (needed for, say, an infographic or chart), use the caption and then write alt text that complements the caption by enhancing, clarifying, or contextualizing rather than repeating information.
Captions are incredibly helpful in making your content accessible by everyone—in fact, recent studies show that most people consume social video with the sound turned off. No matter where a video is posted, whether it’s on a website or social media, it should be captioned so that Deaf and hard-of-hearing users can access and enjoy the content.
Captions are sometimes referred to as subtitles, but subtitles are actually language-specific captions intended for viewers who do not understand and/or speak the language being spoken in the media. Here are some helpful hints for creating accessible audio and video content:
There are two types of captions, closed and open. Closed captions can be toggled on and off based on the preferences of the viewer. They can also be moved and resized. Closed captions are a common feature on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok all have varying degrees of closed captioning capabilities for their video features.
Open captions are permanently embedded into a video during post-production and always visible. They cannot be turned off, moved, or resized by a viewer. You’ll typically see open captions on a video when closed captions aren’t available.
Review and edit your captions.
Some platforms will tout their ability to add auto-captions to your videos, but much like automatic alt text, auto-captions aren’t usually very good and should not be used for your final captions. Edit any auto-captions whenever possible.
Include a warning for people with photosensitivity.
If you post a video with strobe effects or flashing lights, include a warning and create a pause before your content plays. TikTok includes a warning for content that may trigger unpleasant or dangerous effects for some people.
Technology is constantly evolving and improving, which means how we produce social content needs to evolve and improve, too. One of the best ways to stay current with best practices, platform-specific processes, and more is to do some independent research. We’ve gathered a list of reliable resources and how-tos for social communicators at Pace to take advantage of:
- Accessible Social’s Extra Resources
- Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s Checklist for Creating Accessible Videos
- Disability:IN’s Creating Accessible Social Media Content–GAAD Toolkit