How Accessibility Helps Social Media Engagement

June 17, 2022

Most major brands have dedicated marketing teams for increasing engagement and building a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other online platforms. Those teams face serious challenges: In 2020, an estimated 3.6 billion people used some form of social media — nearly half of the global population. 

In order to cut through the noise with effective, engaging posts, marketers need to consider their entire audiences. That certainly includes users with disabilities. About 1 billion people worldwide live with some type of disability, and by creating accessible digital content, your brand can avoid leaving these users out of the conversation.

Here’s a look at how an accessible mindset can become an important asset for your social marketing strategy. 

Accessible social content is clear, concise, and effective

Research suggests that shorter social media posts perform better than long paragraphs of text. The reasons are obvious: Most people browse social media for quick entertainment — very few users are looking for the next Great American Novel.

One study performed by Jeff Bullas found that Facebook posts of around 400 characters were more likely to gather engagements, while research from Buddy Media found that the perfect Tweet length was about 100 characters. If you’re writing posts within those limits, you don’t have much time to make an impression.

Following the best practices of accessibility can help. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), widely considered the international standard for digital accessibility. WCAG’s writing recommendations can help marketers craft posts that get straight to the point — while accommodating people with memory-related disabilities, neurocognitive differences, and other conditions that affect the way they read.

Some quick tips:

  • Keep content clear and concise. Avoid using jargon and define any acronyms or unusual terms.
  • Use list formatting where appropriate. Lists (like this one) help to break information into digestible chunks, improving reading comprehension.
  • Use meaningful link text. For example, instead of writing “click here,” write “click here to buy the product.”
  • Write meaningful text alternatives for images.
  • Create transcripts and captions for multimedia.

Simplifying your writing can help you deliver a clear message. By thinking about your entire audience when creating your social media campaigns, you’ll invite more users into the discussion (and find more ways to keep them engaged).

Related: 4 Quick Ways to Create Clearer Content and Improve Accessibility

Video captions and alternative text give readers more options

Adding media to your posts increases engagement, period. On average, Facebook posts with photos receive 37% more engagement than posts without, and Twitter reports that Tweets with photos receive an average 35% boost in Retweets

Video can have an even greater impact: One Hubspot study found that 83% of consumers consider sharing relevant video content with their friends, and 92% of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their strategy.

However, not everyone can perceive audiovisual media. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • About 15% of American adults report some trouble hearing.
  • 6% of Americans aged 12 or older have visual impairments.
  • As of 2012, 4.2 million Americans aged 40 or older experienced “uncorrectable vision impairment,” and the number is predicted to double by 2050.

WCAG requires text alternatives for non-text media, and when creators follow this requirement, their content benefits. By providing accurate descriptions for images and captions for videos, marketers can ensure that these users have equivalent access to social content, instantly improving each campaign’s reach. 

Offering alternatives can also improve engagement among people of all abilities: One Facebook study found that captions increase viewership for videos by 12% on average, and marketing research indicates that captions improve brand recall significantly.

Related: Boosting Web Accessibility in Social Media

An inclusive approach helps your brand grow

In one survey of 9,000 global consumers performed by social marketing firm Bazaar, 56% of respondents identified “everyday social media users" as their top influencers — not celebrities, social media stars, or subject matter experts. In other words, when people need to decide whether to purchase a product, they listen to their peers. 

Building a base of authentic brand advocates isn’t easy, but without an inclusive approach, it’s much more difficult. In another survey from Adobe, 34% of American adults said that they’d stopped supporting brands they felt did not represent them. 

And in 2019, The United Kingdom’s Click-Away Pound Survey showcased the true cost of poor accessibility: More than 4 million respondents said that they’d abandoned a retail website because of accessibility barriers, costing U.K. businesses about £17.1 billion ($21.3 billion USD).

If your target audience abandons your site based on accessibility barriers, how can you generate positive word of mouth? Just as importantly, if your site offers a poor user experience, how many customers will become advocates for competing brands? 

To build your social media presence, focus on accessibility

By creating an accessible website — and promoting it with accessible social media posts — you can demonstrate your brand’s values, building advocacy through organic channels. Brands that commit to the principles of WCAG enjoy more visibility, higher levels of engagement, and better outcomes overall.

For more guidance, read: Social Media Accessibility: Quick Tips for Improving Your Reach.

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