A hand holding a smartphone. The phone's screen displays various social. media icons.

NetGalley members use a wide variety of social media to spread their love of books. Unfortunately, social media platforms aren’t always the most helpful when it comes to encouraging users to share content in a way that’s accessible for all. Here are tips on how to make your platform an inclusive space for all readers.

Get to know your preferred platform
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube—they all have different tools for making content more accessible, and areas where you can do the work to fill in gaps they haven’t yet solved. The tools you need will depend on how you use each platform. When reading the tips below, consider how you can apply them to the platforms you use most often and then explore those platforms to discover how to best apply what you’ve learned.

 

Caption your videos
While YouTube offers caption technology for users, most other social media platforms with video capabilities do not. This means it’s up to you to find the best method for keeping your video content accessible. On platforms like Instagram, you can use the text feature to add a block of text to your video. Apps such as Cliptomatic allow users to film videos and edit the app’s automatic captioning. These videos can then be downloaded and uploaded to the social platform of your choice.

 

Add alt text to images
Alt text serves as a description for an image that can be read aloud on a screen reader. Short and sweet is ideal when it comes to alt text. For example, the alt text for the image below could simply read “Kelly smiling and holding a copy of Tana French’s In the Woods.”

White woman smiling and holding a copy of Tana French’s In the Woods

While Twitter offers an ‘Add Description’ button once an image or GIF is added to a tweet, the option to add alt text is more hidden in other platforms behind edit or advanced features buttons.

 

Include descriptive text in captions
If your image requires a longer description than alt text allows for, you can include it in your social media post. On Twitter, this could mean a separate tweet in the same thread that starts with the phrase “Image description.” Over on Instagram or Facebook, it can be included at the bottom of your post, like this: 

[Image Description: A white woman with curly brown hair holding up a copy of Tana French’s In the Woods while standing in front of a bookcase.]

 

Write hashtags in CamelCase
CamelCase means you write without spaces or punctuation and capitalize the first letter of each word. For example, when writing a review you’d want to use #TheInvisibleLifeOfAddieLaRue and not #theinvisiblelifeofaddielarue. This helps screen readers differentiate between the different words you’re using in a hashtag.

 

Avoid using special fonts
Font text generators offer users the ability to use italics, bold, or other unique fonts in their social media text. Unfortunately, these fonts are not screen reader friendly. This Twitter video gives those who don’t use screen readers a firsthand look at how those fonts sound, and shows how difficult it is to discern what the text itself says. Keeping these fonts out of your username, bio, and social media posts makes them more readable for everyone.

 

Use moderation when it comes to emojis
Similar to fonts, screen readers will read out the description of emojis included in your social media posts. A string of emojis to a screen reader user sounds like, “Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes, Smiling Face with Hearts, Sparkling Heart, Heart with Arrow.” It’s easy to see how the content of your post can be lost if emojis are scattered throughout the text. To ensure that your message is clear, it’s most helpful to put emojis at the end of your text and to use them moderately. It’s especially helpful to not use emojis in your username on social media.

 

Stay up to date
As social media platforms update, the tools they offer change. Connecting with other readers who also want to make their platforms more accessible can offer you the chance to keep each other in the loop when it comes to platform updates.

Be sure to pay attention when people speak up about inaccessibility in the online spaces you frequent because accessibility isn’t one size fits all. 

Finally, remember that making a change to your social media habits can take time. Know that you may misstep, but every bit of effort you put in helps to make your corner of the internet a more inclusive place for other readers!

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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