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How to Use Alt Text on Social Media (+ 5 Best Practices) — Horizontal
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How to Use Alt Text on Social Media (+ 5 Best Practices)

Updated on May 17, 2023
6 minute read

Is your content accessible?

Published May 17, 2023

Adding alt text to your social media posts not only makes your content more accessible — it taps into an audience of over 7M people

We spoke to social media strategist and accessibility advocate, Alexa Heinrich about five alt text best practices you can implement right now.  

Plus, we're sharing how to use a new Later feature that'll make adding alt text to your social media posts easier.

Never Miss a Trend AgainJoin over 1 million marketers to get social news, trends, and tips right to your inbox!Email Address

What Is Alt Text?

Alt text (alternative text) is an invisible description that can be read aloud through a screen reader device.

This lets users understand what’s happening in your content — without being able to see it. 

Side by side screenshot of Alexa's Twitter post that exemplifies how to properly use alt text. 

The tweet reads "This is my professional graduation face. 😜 #SPCGrad". Attached is a photo with the alt text description "Alexa makes funny face with her tongue poking out and eyes wide while holding up a bedazzled cut-out of Titus the Titan mascot in a blue graduation gown."

Why Is Alt Text Important?

Without alt text on your social media posts, it can make your content inaccessible to those who have a vision impairment or experience blindness. 

And while social media alt text features aren't new, Alexa says that most creators and brands don’t make (proper) use of them.

ICYMI: With Later's social media management tools, you can plan, schedule, and analyze your social media posts. Create a free account now: 

5 Best Practices for Using Alt Text on Social Media

Here are five alt text must-knows to create quality, accessible social media content: 

  1. Keep It Simple

  2. Avoid Emojis

  3. Don’t Prioritize SEO

  4. List Important Information First

  5. Use Closed Captions & Audio Descriptions

#1: Keep It Simple

Alexa’s ultimate alt text tip: keep it simple.

“I've seen posts packed with keywords with no discernible purpose outside of being keywords, photographer credits, hidden messages, links, hashtags — all sorts of stuff,” she recalls. 

Alexa’s advice? Describe the image itself, and avoid the fluff. 

See how Later describes this webinar banner in a recent tweet:

Screenshot showing Later's alt text for a recent Tweet about an upcoming webinar. 

The tweet reads: Social media burnout is real. 

Don't miss our incredible panel of creators, social media managers, and business owners as they chat all things social media & mental health. 

May 17th @ 9 am PST / 12 pm EST 

Register for this FREE webinar 

The alt text reads: Grey-colored background with images of speakers floating. Text reads: social media & mental health. How to create a steady stream of content & protect your mental health. May 17th @ 9am PST.

#2: Avoid Emojis

For users who have visual impairments or experience blindness, emojis in alt text can become overwhelming — especially when using a screen reader. 

Check out how emoji-packed posts appear to screen reader users in Alexa’s Instagram post

Side by side screenshot of Alexa's Instagram post illustrating how an alt text description packed with emojis reads for a screen reader user versus sighted users. 

The images read: "Having an amazing time on vacation in Colorado snow capped mountain gonna get some prime skiing in tomorrow ski and ski boot before ending the day with hot cocoa hot beverage by the fire with my BFF smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes
*emoji descriptions can vary across devices and browsers.*"

The takeaway? Don’t use emojis in the alt text field. 

And if you choose to include them in your images, captions, and bios — keep these three points in mind:

  • Use emojis in moderation

  • Place emojis at the end of posts and tweets to avoid clarity issues

  • Instead of using emojis as bullet points, use dashes

TIP: Want to learn more about emojis and accessibility from Alexa? Check out this blog post: How to Use Emojis on Instagram: 3 Best Practices for Accessibility.

#3: Put SEO on the Back Burner

While alt text does impact discoverability, Alexa says operating with an SEO-first mindset is a big no-no. 

“It’s worth remembering that the alt text field is for accessibility,” says Alexa.

“Think: ‘How can I make this experience better for everyone who’s engaging with my content?’”

And if you do choose to optimize your posts for SEO, Alexa says, be intentional

“What you don’t want to do is throw a bunch of random keywords into the alt text field because you know the platform will boost your content,” she shares.  

“If you can logically work your keywords into an image description, go for it. If not, that's what we have hashtags for.”

FYI: Later is your one-stop shop for social media management — from scheduling tools to in-depth analytics. Sign up today — for free:

#4: List Important Information First

Like a good news story, disability advocate and creator Higher Priestess urges us to list the most important information first when writing alt text. 

But how do you weigh significance? In an Instagram post, they say it depends.

“If your graphic or image is predominantly text-based, it’s suggested that’s what you write out first.” 

However, if it’s an image (or a meme), “some people prefer the image be described first, to give more context before the text.”

#5: Use Closed Captions & Audio Descriptions

In the age of short-form video content, Alexa says to prioritize accessible video and audio posts in tandem with alt text. 

Case-in-point: closed captions are more useful than you may think. 

“From people with learning disabilities to those in noisy environments — captions make video and audio content accessible for everyone,” Alexa explains.  

Side by side of a Later Instagram story featuring Social Content Lead Lindsay, who is blonde with fair skin and wearing a grey long sleeve shirt. 

On the left, Lindsay, who is sitting at a desk in an all white room holding a light blue mug with a white pattern, says: "Let's talk about TikTok. We just hit 50K followers at Later, so here are a few things we've learned."

On the right, Lindsay continues: "First: scroll a ton! [eye emoji]. Familiarize yourself with what performs well & don't try to recycle content from other platforms."

And for those who have a vision impairment or experience blindness, better your video content experience with audio descriptions (or described video).  

For example, in her “The Anti-Ableism Series”, entrepreneur and creator Tiffany Yu shows how she improved the accessibility of a recent talk using an audio description:

By narrating things like the setting and her attire, everyone can grasp the full experience of Tiffany’s talk. 

TIP: Check out Alexa’s site, Accessible Social to learn how you can make your social media content accessible, beyond alt text.

How to Use Later’s Alt Text Tool for Social Media

Good news: Later just made it easier to add alt text to your Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts.

And the best part? It’s free and available on all plans

NOTE: Due to Instagram and TikTok's API limitations, alt text scheduling within Later is not available at this time.

Here’s how to add alt text to your posts with Later, in three simple steps:

Step #1: Select Content From Later’s Media Library

Open Later’s web app and click on the photo and/or video from your Media Library that you want to add alt text to:

Later's platform with an arrow pointing to a photo in the Media Library.

Step #2: Access Later’s Alt Text Feature 

Tap “Edit” beside “Alt Text” to describe your chosen image: 

Selected image with an arrow pointing to "Edit" beside Alt Text.

Click “Update” to save the alt text:

Selected image with arrows pointing to written alt text and "Update" button.

From here, you can either close to save for later, or hit “Create Post” to prepare content now: 

Selected image with arrows pointing to "X" and "Create Post".

Step #3: Optimize Your Post

If you want to Create a Post now, remember to write your caption, insert hashtags, choose the date and time you’d like the post to go live, and click “Schedule Post”: 

Later's Schedule Post view with arrows pointing to publish date and time, Post Caption, and "Schedule Post" button.

And just like that, you’re ready to share more accessible content on social media with Later’s alt text feature. 

You’ve got the tips — now it’s time to match them with the right tools. Start adding alt text to your Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts when you schedule your content with Later. Create an account now — for free!

Never Miss a Trend AgainJoin over 1 million marketers to get social news, trends, and tips right to your inbox!Email Address

Plan, schedule, and automatically publish your social media posts with Later.

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