Writing alternative text for images in Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts

Do you want to learn how to make your social media content more accessible? Are you unsure why you should think about making your social media content accessible or what it means to make content accessible? Then read on, this tutorial is for you!

Recently I was helping with communications at the first ever WordCamp Nordic held in Helsinki, Finland. The other person in charge of updating the Twitter profile showed me how to add alternative text to images in Twitter, and pointed out how important it was.

Now, I have know about alternative text for a long time from building and maintaining websites, but somehow I hadn’t realized I could also add alternative text to social media posts. It’s important to write alternative text for all the photos and images you use on a website to help users with visual impairments to navigate the site and know what all the content is, since the screen reading software they use can read aloud all the text on a page but does not know what is in an image unless we tell it what’s there using alternative text. That’s why it is very important to add it so that you make your content as accessible as possible to users with different kinds of disabilities, or even just slow internet connections. If you want to read more about web accessibility and why it is important I suggest that you click here to read this web accessibility introduction article by w3.

Alternative text, sometimes called “alt text”, is a descriptive sentence about a photo or graphic shown on a website or in an app. Alternative text should describe what is actually in the image, and is therefore not usually the same text as you would use for an image description or credit line.

So how can we add alternative text to our social media posts? I found that it was sometimes straightforward, and sometimes a bit tricky depending on the platform and the device you use.

Twitter

To add alternative text on Twitter you will first need to activate it as an option in your profile settings. This is how you do that using the Twitter app for Android. If you need instructions on activating alternative text using the iOS app or in a browser on a computer click here to read a guide from Twitter.

  1. Click your profile icon and click ‘Settings and privacy’.

Screenshot of Twitter profile settings on Android mobile app

  1. Under the General category, click ‘Accessibility’.

Screenshot of Twitter profile settings on Android mobile app

  1. Under the Vision category, check the box to select ‘Compose image descriptions’.

Screenshot of Twitter profile accessibility settings on Android mobile app

Once you have done those simple steps you will now be able to add alternative text to all of the images that you add to tweets. This is how you add alternative text.

  1. Once you have added an image to your tweet, click the black line at the bottom of the image where it says ‘Add description…’

Screenshot of new Twitter post with photo being written using Android mobile app

  1. This will open a new tab where you can write some descriptive text about the photo, remember to click ‘APPLY’ up in the top right-hand corner to add the text.

Screenshot of alternative text editor in the Android mobile app

  1. Once you do that you will be taken back to your tweet to finalize it before posting.

Screenshot of new Twitter post with photo being written including alternative text using Android mobile app

Do you use a third-party tool to schedule your tweets in advance such as Hootsuite? It’s possible to add alternative text using Hootsuite as well, click here to check out a guide from Hootsuite.

Instagram

It is much easier to add alternative text to images on Instagram, and you don’t need to activate any settings to do so. This is how you add alternative text using the Instagram app for Android.

  1. Pick your image, edit and add any filters, and then on the final editing screen navigate all the way down and click on ‘Advanced settings’.

Screenshot of new Instagram post being prepared using Instagram Android mobile app

  1. Under the heading ‘Write Alt Text’ you can write your own alternative text.

Screenshot alternative text settings in Instagram Android mobile app

  1. Click the arrow up in the top left-hand corner of the screen to go back and submit your post.

If you forget to do this before you post your photo you can also go in and add alternative text later like this.

  1. Open your photo in editing mode.

Screenshot of post editing menu in Instagram Android mobile app

  1. Click the bottom right-hand side of the image where it says ‘Edit Alt Text’.

Screenshot of post editing menu in Instagram Android mobile app

  1. Once you have written your text, click the blue checkmark in the top right-hand corner to go back to the post and complete the edit.

Screenshot of alternative text editing menu in Instagram Android mobile app

Facebook

I don’t use any of the Facebook mobile apps, so I can only show you how to add alternative text using Facebook in a browser on a computer. For instructions on adding alternative text using the Facebook app for iOS click here to read a guide from Facebook.

  1. Add a new post with images as normal.
  2. Hover over the image preview with your mouse until the little paintbrush edit symbols and person tag symbols appear. Click on either one of the symbols to go to the editing menu.

Screenshot of a new post being prepared for Facebook using browser

  1. A new pop-up window will open where you have various options to edit the image, go to the tab for ‘Alt text’ to add your own alternative text there.

Screenshot of image editing menu for alternative text on Facebook using browser

  1. Once you are done click the ‘Save’ button in the bottom right-hand corner to go back to your post and finalize it before posting.

I hope that this brief tutorial was useful. I will admit that I still forget to add alternative text from time to time myself when I am in a hurry, and I should probably work on making my alternative text better and more descriptive. There are also some things I need to train myself to do to make my text content more accessible, such as putting hashtags at the end of posts, avoiding emojis etc. The most important thing is to be open to learning new things, and to understand just how important it is that we work together to make the web more accessible one step at a time.

If you want to read a bit more about accessible design with a focus on social media content I found this article quite useful, click here to read the article by HootSuite.

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