Do you really need to make your social media strategy inclusive? Diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in social media aren’t news anymore, it’s the norm.
Even if you’ve always been welcoming, you may not have always implemented inclusive marketing. And that is okay most brands are also learning as they go. The world is a wonderful diverse place of culture, languages, skin tones and sexual orientation and we are living in the era of the 21st century that is bringing more voices to social justice movements.
You’re here because you have been paying attention. You know that things have changed, and you want to be a part of it, but you’re not sure exactly what you should be doing. That’s natural. Core values have changed rapidly over the last few decades and there’s a lot to consider.
So let’s take a look at how strategies for social media that speaks to the broad range of diverse populations in your community.
What Diverse Social Media Means Today
Social media managers should be mindful of posts that approach content from many different vantage points. Race. Gender. Sexual Orientation. Ethnicity. Religion. Body size. Nationality. Ability. But a diverse digital media marketing strategy is more than just what you say, it’s also what you do.
Does your social media team look like your audience? Does the rest of your staff? Do your vendors? Does your social media presence? It can be a lot to remember, even if you’re coming from the right place.
What You Need to Do For Your Social Strategies
You may have to spend a couple more minutes on strategy thinking about diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in all of its forms, for your online community but it isn’t just a requirement, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the best way to reach the most people. All of which means: It’s good for business, especially, as you’ll see, if you want to include Gen Z.
Why Representation and Inclusion Matters
The world is a wonderful palette of cultures and skin tones. Social media written for diverse audiences not only is popular, its backed up by statistical data to prove it.
In 2021, Meta published a report about diversity in ads and social media, including a survey of 1,200 people, a review of 1,200 brand lift studies, and an analysis of over 1,000 Facebook video ads.
Of the consumers they polled…
90% had the best memory recall of an ad with diversity or represent diverse groups
71% expect brands to show inclusive content in their ads and social media platforms
59% said they are more loyal to brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in online ads
59% prefer to buy from brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in online advertising and social media channels
They also discovered that representation still lags behind expectation…and reality.
54% felt their culture was not represented
Men were 2.4x more likely to be shown angry
Women were 14.1x more likely to be shown in revealing clothing
Sprout Social also looked into consumer attitudes toward representation in ads. They conducted a survey of 1500 consumers and came up with similar findings.
They found that 70% of consumers—from across the political spectrum—believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on important issues, but 53% think brands only speak up when it matters to marketing or PR.
Influencer Marketing Hub conducted a study of over 2000 influencers and found that 58% experience discrimination.
The results are clear. Representation matters to consumers but brands have a long way to go in meeting expectations.
Failing to address these issues means you will soon lose your audience to someone who does take a stand, or worse, be on the receiving end of a negative social media call out that goes viral.
What About Accessibility for Social Media?
A paltry 1.1% of ads feature a person with a disability despite a whopping one-quarter of the U.S. population experiencing some form of disability at any given time, according to Meta
Accessibility is so important because one out of every four people interacting with your brand has a special need.
This includes 8% of people who are visually impaired, 8% of men who experience color blindness (only .5% of women do), the one in five Americans experiencing mental health conditions every year, the increasing number of people flocking to text-to-speech technology, and more.
Accessibility can’t be an afterthought, it has to have a seat at the table.
Understanding Your Role as Social Media Managers
It’s not just about being inclusive in creating content, it’s about empathy and brand values. And it has the exciting potential to bring your brand closer not just to consumers, but to your own employees, and other stakeholders, to the entire world.
Not to mention it makes you feel good at the end of the day.
You are one social media manager, but you need to hear and respond to many diverse voices.
The good news is that it can all be stitched right into your current digital media strategy, so long as you put in a little leg work upfront.
Tips to Make Social Media Content More Diverse & Inclusive
Each of these tips starts by asking the right questions and allowing your brand to hold space for the answers you get back. Calibrating diversity and accessibility into your strategy is an ongoing conversation. Always think of what message you are sending when publishing any content.
Person-First Language vs. Identity-First Language
People experiencing disabilities are often only identified by their disability. This can feel victimizing and neglects many other aspects of a person’s identity outside of their abilities.
For example, instead of referring to “disabled” or “handicapped,” use person-first language: a person with a disability, a person with cancer, etc.
Use Plain language
Writing in plain language makes it easier for more people to understand you. Use short words, be conversational, provide value and be direct. Stick to the point. Don’t use jargon. Avoid using technical terms. If you are going to use hyperlinked text, make sure not to hyperlink the word “here” as in click here. Be descriptive such as “this guide to..”
Plain language isn’t just a best diversity and inclusion practice, it’s a best social media practice. Plain and simple.
Keep Screen Readers and closed captions in Mind!
More and more people use screen readers-technology that can transcribe text on the screen to people with visual impairments. As the population ages and this technology becomes more available to more people, it is being more widely adopted.
Avoid using custom fonts, italics, and all caps in social media profiles and posts
Unusual fonts are unintelligible to screen readers, not to mention can be hard for other people to understand as well. And italics and all caps are easily misinterpreted. Avoid using any vague or ambiguous design details to convey meaning.
Don’t use images of text. Use Text
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend avoiding using images of text. This type of text isn’t always read by screen readers.
Only do so in limited cases such as in a logo. Then, use alt text to convey the text in the image.
Alt tag everything. Fill in all descriptions with Alt text
It can feel repetitive, but filling in all of the image descriptions and alternative text lets the screen reader describe images and graphics.
Each of the main social media channels offers ways to add alt text images, including TikTok, which rolled out its first-ever accessibility offerings in June of 2022.
Tips for writing alt text or an image description for text-to-speech:
Be descriptive, short, and sweet as if you were trying to explain to someone what the image is if they couldn’t see it. For example…”This is an image of ________”.
Use natural language
Don’t stuff alt text with keywords
Avoid being repetitious
Skip alt text on graphics
Text readers can’t see text in images so you must include them in either the alt text or in the image caption or description.
Add alt text where ever and whenever possible.
Listen to your emojis. Ditch emoticons
While many of us see emojis, screen readers read their names out loud. And it doesn’t know what to do with emoticons—punctuation marks that create original characters—at all. This doesn’t mean never using an emoji, just use them wisely. A few emojis here and there. Not all over the place. And try to read aloud how they might sound. This is just another way to double-check that you’re not overdoing it.
Capitalize the First Letter of Words in Hashtags
Use camel case—capitalizing the first letter of each word in a hashtag. Camel case not only makes it a lot easier for screen readers to pronounce, it also makes it easier for people to scan.
Add Captions to Your Video Content
Over 28 million Americans have a hearing disability and adding video content helps them access your content.
Not only that, it creates a positive experience for all. For example, 85% of people browse Facebook on mute. Captioned videos get 40% more views than those without. Without sound, closed captioning is the best way to get your brand message to your audience.
Many platforms have automatic captioning, like Instagram.
Improved SEO only follows from a better user experience, and with more content to tag, you also improve your chances of ranking higher.
Video captioning tips:
Create a transcript—there are many low-cost options online
Use descriptive captions to illustrate important background details
Use an easily readable font and size
Translate if you have international audiences
Have Go-to Tools to Measure If Your Site Is Accessible
Accessibility tools help you test your website to make sure it is accessible to visitors with usability impairments, including outdated operating systems. They can verify if a website meets social media accessibility standards including, W3C Accessibility and ADA standards.
Social media accessibility tools can detect issues with:
Missing alt-text and labels
Here are a few examples of the most common social media accessibility tools:
Screen readers and screen magnification to help with vision impairment
Speech-to-text software to help with physical impairment
Accessible keyboards for typing
Always include a step in your development process to measure whether your site is accessible or not. Take steps to address areas that need improvement.
Use More than Color to Convey Meaning
Color is one of the most creative ways to communicate meaning, but it is easily missed by people with color blindness or low vision. This includes brand logos but also text on images in social media stories and short format videos.
It’s okay to still use color, but be sure to include other, more direct ways to convey the meaning such as text. For example, if you want to use the color red to indicate that something is dangerous, it should explicitly state the danger.
Always ask yourself if there is enough contrast. Read the text aloud until you can understand the meaning.
Representation Matters. Incorporate inclusiveness
Audiences are diverse in many different ways and the marketing on your social channels should reflect that. Not only because failing to do so means someone else will, but because it’s good business.
Representation helps improve the self-esteem of people in marginalized groups, especially those unaccustomed to seeing themselves reflected in social media. It also helps combat stereotypes.
Look for diversity when selecting stock images or videos for your social media content. Use stock photos that truly represent the community. User-generated content is a great way to show how diverse your audience is.
Here’s the thing though: Inclusive social media posts can’t be lip service. Representation can’t just be on your social channels. Include images and videos of diverse populations on your social platforms, but make sure you also include a diverse range of people in important roles at your company.
Don’t just be inclusive on social media. Be an inclusive organization.
Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns
Gender-neutral language leaves out any reference to gender, which can be incorrectly assumptive.
It’s easy to do but it can take some practice. Just remember that any word that ends or beings in -man should be replaced by a -person or some other neutral alternative. You can learn by example:
Manned — Crewed
Mailman — Postal worker
Businessman — Businessperson
Congressman — Legislator
Freshman — First-year student
Upperclassman — Third-year, fourth-year, etc
Man-made — Synthetic
Boy/girl — Child
Man/woman — Adult
Actor/actress — Performer
Stay informed with the latest inclusive language. Social content changes frequently. To engage with people from different backgrounds with a sense of security, you need to understand their language before you hit publish.
Create Content Trigger Warnings
Trigger content warnings are prominent pieces of content that warn viewers that the material is potentially upsetting.
With so much content being published today, it’s easy for photos and words to bring back traumatic moments for some people. For example, photos of people suffering from famine, or an image of an offensive symbol. Even words spoken by prominent people can be construed as offensive comments and should come with a warning.
Develop a Long-term DEI Strategy for Your Social Media Channels
With DEI work, it’s so essential to think proactively vs. reactively. Working these tips into your social media posts isn’t difficult if you look at it from a brand and business perspective.
Create a social media accessibility policy for your organization
Put it all down in writing, from how you handle sensitive issues like Black Lives Matter and pronouns to ways you can be more inclusive as an organization. Think through any example that may impede your message from getting through to your audience.
Review your social media process frequently
Social media is at the forefront of the cultural revolution. It’s important to review your strategy regularly so you can stay on top of current trends and changing norms.
Hire Diverse Suppliers
One of the best ways to bring inclusiveness to your business is to hire diverse vendors.
Partnering with a business from an underrepresented community helps diversify your perspective naturally, from within.
Look for businesses that are active within their communities or are certified.
At Social Motto, we are certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)—the nation’s largest third-party certifier of women-owned and operated businesses in the US.
Social Motto can add diversity to your supply chain. We don’t just bring a sense of inclusion on social media to your organization, we help you become an example to follow.