With roughly one billion monthly active users, Instagram is one of the most popular social networks worldwide – and yet, not all users are welcomed equally.
According to the CDC, one in four adults in the U.S. has some type of disability. Of those people with a disability, 5.9% are deaf or have serious difficulty hearing and 4.6% have a vision disability with blindness or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses.
In other words, it is likely that many of your followers are hard of hearing or interact with your content using a screenreader.
While Instagram uses AI technology that allows screen readers to describe visuals, many of the app’s accessibility components are left up to the discretion of the creator. With more and more brands capitalizing on the platform, it begs the question: How can you make your cannabis Instagram more accessible?
Here are six ways you can create more accessible content on Instagram:
1. Capitalize your hashtags
Hashtags are a major part of the Instagram ecosystem. While the strategy around using cannabis hashtags is constantly changing, it is still considered best practice to use them under all of your posts.
However, many hashtags are made up of multiple words (e.g. #EnjoyHigherCulture).
For users with screenreaders, these hashtags are read aloud as one, incomprehensible word. Therefore, when using hashtags with several words, it is best to capitalize each individual word – also known as using Camel Case.
By capitalizing your hashtags in this way, followers with screen readers will actually understand what hashtags you’re using. Another way to improve their experience is by adding hashtags to a comment under your post, rather than under the post caption itself.
2. Avoid using multiple emojis in a row
Emojis often speak for themselves and allow you to get creative with captions without even having to use that many (or any) words. Think: 🍃 😮💨 👀❓
While these emojis in combination will tell the average Instagram user that you are asking to smoke, those using screen readers are going to hear an emoji overload.
Screenreaders are programmed to read the assigned text description for each emoji. This means instead of interpreting “Wanna smoke?” your followers using screen readers are going to hear “leaf fluttering in wind, face exhaling, eyes, red question mark.”
Definitely not the same message.
Limit your use of multiple emojis in a row to keep your Instagram content inclusive to those with screen readers. As a workaround, consider using emojis as your image and creating different copy for the post.
3. Add alt text to all your posts
Alternative text, or “alt text,” is an accessibility feature that describes images to people who are unable to see them. You can add alt text to images on social media, your website and blog, email, and more.
It is read aloud to users by screen readers, and it’s also indexed by search engines.
With the help of AI technology, alt text can be generated automatically by screenreader software. However, it’s not perfect and the meaning of your image will often get lost in translation.
By manually adding your alt text to your Instagram posts, you are ensuring that all your content is made that much more accessible to your followers
How to Add Alt Text to Your Instagram Post
- Select “Advanced Settings” in the mobile app or in Creator Studio
- Tap “Write Alt Text” under the “Accessibility” header
- Write your alt text in the box and tap “Done”
This alt text feature is available when you post in real-time through your mobile app and when you schedule posts ahead of time through Creator Studio.
Many third-party scheduler tools, such as Hootesuite, Falcon, and more are also beginning to integrate this feature. So, if you’re using another tool, be sure to check with your support team to see if it’s available to you.
4. Generate closed captions for videos
For users that are hard of hearing, closed captioning is an incredibly useful tool that allows them to still engage with your content. It also helps hearing people understand any dialogue that might be spoken quickly, with accents, or has heavy background noise.
“We don’t have access to closed captioning, we can’t hear the sounds…I sign, but I don’t sign without closed captioning because I know that would leave out a lot of people in the hearing community. So I add closed captioning to my videos so that hearing people have access to my videos. I think the creators themselves should be doing it as well.”
Instagram has recently introduced auto-captioning tools across the app’s features – Stories, Reels, IGTV, Video Posts, etc. – to make this easier for creators. However, in some cases, you may still have to edit or add them on your own
How to Automatically Add Captions to Your Instagram Stories and Reels
- Record or upload a video from your camera roll and tap the sticker icon.
- Select the “Captions” sticker.
- Choose from four different text formats, move the text around the screen, and change the color as you prefer.
- Be sure to watch and read the captions before posting as Instagram may not accurately transcribe your audio every time.
Long story short: closed captions help make your Instagram content more accessible for all your followers. Use them!
5. Add descriptions in your caption
Alt text and closed captions are probably the two most common ways that brands and creators make their Instagram content more accessible. However, if you’re looking to take your social media accessibility to the next level, you can use your caption to to provide more information and context for your followers.
For instance, a visually impaired follower may be able to hear the video you post and even have the subtitles read aloud to them. However, they still are not getting context of each frame in the video, who the people are, etc.
You can provide this information by using your caption text (or adding it in a comment). Here is an example of this in action from inclusivity advocate Jenny Jay:
6. Use contrasting colors for text graphics
Instagram is an incredibly visual platform. No matter your ability range, being able to clearly see and read graphics online will influence your likelihood of interacting more with that creator.
Color contrast is a common accessibility issue that is often overlooked. When text or iconography contrasts poorly with its background, it makes reading more difficult, especially for people that are visually impaired.
While remaining on-brand is important, be sure to use contrasting brand colors when creating graphics.
Develop a customer-first social media marketing strategy with Cannabis Creative Group
Ultimately, a customer-first social media marketing strategy is key to not only cultivating a community around your brand but also creating inclusive content and making your cannabis business a welcoming space for your customers.
With all the restrictions and multiple channels to stay on top of, it can quickly get overwhelming to manage social media for your cannabis business. To get full-service support on your social media, get in touch with us today.