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Adam Turner

Improving Accessibility on Twitter

Accessibility


Managing your digital estate is complex – the digital footprint of most organisations is multi-channel, this includes websites, microsites, apps, and social media. On top of that, you then have the individual assets such as PDFs and images that are also on these sites.

Social media is one of the hardest channels to manage in terms of trying to maintain regulatory compliance, reduce reputational risk and improve accessibility. In particular, this latter aspect is not always considered even by digital teams who are active in improving the accessibility of their websites.

Managing Twitter

Twitter is particularly notorious for being the medium through which where organisations slip up and tweet a message that then gets them into hot water. For the same reasons Twitter is hard to control. It can also be difficult to improve accessibility:

  • Social media management is often delivered at a volume and a response speed that makes it very difficult to approve every tweet that goes out
  • Some Twitter channels from senior management are personal to them, and they cannot be controlled by the digital team, although messages may be regarded as “official” by the audience
  • Larger organisations may have multiple Twitter accounts under the control of different teams and people
  • Links and messages are often re-tweeted without fully checking the source
  • Some organisations try to be edgy, informal and use humour with their Tweets, but these messages can be misconstrued
  • Twitter has some highly opinionated people on it as well as trolls who may try and illicit a response – you can guarantee someone will have a view on whatever you post
  • Twitter is not your platform, so you cannot control all of the features, such as accessibility.

Thankfully, most organisations with social media teams put training and processes in place that help them navigate some of these challenges, but it can still be difficult at times.

Improving accessibility on Twitter

If you’re actively considering improving accessibility on Twitter, here are some tips that might help:

  1. Place accessibility into your social media governance

    In order to navigate the challenges of social media, most digital marketing teams put in place some kind of social media governance, with desired standards, specific roles, processes in place when things go wrong, guidelines for corporate channels and employee accounts, appropriate training and so on. For smaller organisations this may be more informal but is usually controlled through somebody’s role. Often, accessibility falls outside this framework, but it should be included in social media guidance and training to improve the accessibility across your social media channels, including Twitter.

  2. Decide which channels are corporate and which are not

    One of the most challenging aspects of managing social media are those accounts where the line between what is corporate and what is personal is blurred; the Twitter accounts of senior management is typically where this occurs. In larger organisations it can also be challenging where different locations, divisions and teams manage their own accounts. In both cases it really helps to have clarity over which channels can be considered “corporate” and fall under any social media governance framework you put in place, and hence under more scrutiny when it comes to accessibility.  

  3. Get the basics right on alt text and hashtags

    Many organisations simply don’t get the basics right on Twitter, but there are two simple things every tweet should have.  Firstly, you can make sure you add the equivalent of alt text (“image descriptions”) for any image. Twitter has some simple instructions on how to do this.

    Secondly, always put your hashtags into a format which can be understood by screen readers. This means using “camel case” for hashtags, which is capitalising the first letter of each new word in the hashtag e.g. #GlobalAccessbilityAwarenessDay and not #Globalaccessibilityawarenessday.

  4. Be mindful of media assets you tweet

    The same rules of accessibility you apply to images and videos which you include on other digital channels should also apply to Twitter. The social media distribution of images that include text is increasingly popular, so make sure that an image has acceptable colour contrasting within it. For example, on videos try to avoid flashing images that could trigger medical issues and include captioning when you can.

  5. Link to pages that are accessible

    Where you can, try to link through to pages that are accessible, always on your own site, but also if possible, on third party sites that you are linking to. For most organisations, with the speed of social media this is not always possible. Sometimes a tool can help; for example on the Sitemorse platform the SMARTVIEW feature allows you to swiftly view the accessibility of any page directly from inside your browser.

  6. Take care of what you retweet and like

    This will already be obvious for most social media teams in terms of managing compliance and reputation. Organisations need to be very careful of what and whom they retweet and like, as it will likely be taken as an endorsement of a message. Ideally, retweet items that are accessible and don’t have issues that run counter to the commitments to accessibility on your digital footprint. When you retweet someone else’s content it effectively becomes yours.

Managing other aspects of Twitter

As well as accessibility, there are other elements that need to be managed on Twitter such as content quality and brand and regulatory compliance. Using an automated assessment tool across your Twitter accounts that continually assesses the quality of your social media content can help . A tool like Sitemorse’s SOCIALQA can also scan for other issues such as internal brand compliance, broken links and misspellings, applying the same criteria used on your website.

Additionally, the ability to record different Twitter channels in a fully searchable archive also has multiple benefits, including the ability to identify risky and non-compliant content retrospectively and as a reference point for social media training. This could also highlight the importance of ensuring tweets are as accessible as they can be.

Improving accessibility of Twitter

It is important to keep on improving accessibility across your entire digital footprint, and that includes Twitter. If you previously haven’t considered the accessibility of Twitter, then by implementing a few simple measures you really can make a noticeable difference.  

Training

Automatic delivery - Just-in-time

Direct ‘just-in-time’ training materials are offered against actions, delivering immediate understanding and confidence in actioning. These videos provide help prevent the same issues being repeated.