Every day, marketers and brands are becoming more aware of accessibility and the impact it has on social media. From #CamelCase hashtags to captioned videos, a lot of people are embracing and encouraging best practices that make their content more inclusive.
Alt text, however, is still a practice that many struggle to integrate into their content creation process.
If you’re not familiar with alt text, it’s the physical description of an image’s key details. Alt text makes images accessible for individuals who are blind, partially sighted, and low-vision and use assistive technology like screen readers or text-to-speech programs to access content on social media. Without alt text, a user will more than likely just hear “image” or some poorly written auto-generated image description.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest all allow for custom alt text to be written when a user uploads a new image directly to the platform. Many third-party management sites like Sprout Social and Hootsuite also have alt text publishing capabilities for some of the networks.
Unfortunately, Instagram has proven fickle when it comes to alt text. Many users don’t know how to write alt text within the app, or they use a third-party scheduler that doesn’t have permission from Instagram’s notoriously strict Application Programming Interface (API) to access the feature.
Thankfully, adding alt text to Instagram images is easier than you think, and there are actually a number of ways to do it.
For whatever reason, Instagram kind of hides its alt text feature in the app and you have to click through a couple of screens to find it.
When you get to the final screen before publishing your post, click “Advanced Settings,” scroll to “Accessibility,” select “Write Alt Text,” and then write your alt text in the available slot. If you have more than one image in your post, there will be a slot for each image on the final screen.
Once you’ve written your alt text, you can tap back to the New Post screen and publish your completed content.
This second method came about because Instagram didn’t add an alt text field to the app until late 2018, so users had to find a workaround to make their posts accessible for individuals with vision disabilities. Content creators would write their image description in the caption area of their post after the actual caption.
Many people still use this method because some users discovered that not all assistive devices pick up on Instagram’s alt text field, causing potential accessibility issues.
Writing your alt text in the caption area also makes your accessibility efforts very obvious to your Instagram followers and allows you to use whatever third-party management system you want without having to worry about the app’s API. The only downside to this technique is if you have multiple images in your post. You’ll need to write an image description for each image, and that could make your caption excessively long.
Logically, you can use this method if you post from the app, your desktop, Creator Studio, or a third-party site.
This is personally how I choose to write my image descriptions for Instagram posts because I want to make sure everyone can access them, no matter what kind of technology they use. Plus, writing my image description in my caption allows me to continue using my preferred management system, Sprout Social, which can’t access Instagram’s alt text field yet.
As frustrating as Facebook’s Creator Studio platform normally is, it does occasionally have its perks. One of those perks was added in July 2020 when the platform updated to allow users to post to Instagram with alt text. This was a huge deal because it meant that content creators could finally schedule Instagram posts with alt text for free.
In order to use Creator Studio to post to Instagram, your account has to be linked to a published Facebook page (not a personal profile). It must also be a creator or business Instagram account. To access Creator Studio for Instagram, go to your Facebook page and click “Publishing Tools” in the left-side panel of the screen.
If you’re like me and Facebook has tried to force Business Suite on you, Creator Studio can be found under “More Tools” in the left-side panel of Business Suite or you can just type facebook.com/creatorstudio in your web browser search bar.
Spoiler alert: you can’t publish posts with alt text to Instagram or Facebook through Business Suite. I have no idea why. Facebook is just the most capricious platform on the planet.
Once you’re in Creator Studio, hit the Instagram icon at the top of the screen and create a new post for the feed. After you’ve uploaded an image to your post, the ability to write alt text will appear under the “Advanced Settings” tab on the right. Now you can either publish your finished post, schedule it to publish later, or save it as a draft.
After years of begging, content creators were finally blessed with the ability to publish to Instagram from their desktop in October 2021. This was a huge deal for anyone who manages social media professionally as it greatly streamlines the content creation process.
Thankfully, alt text was not forgotten when the update was made, and the feature is easier to find than its mobile counterpart.
When you get to the final screen on the desktop version of Instagram, there will be a tab labeled “Accessibility” just below “Add Location”. Click the tab and it will expand to show the alt text field. You’ll also notice a small caption explaining the purpose of alt text and that “alt text will be automatically created for your photos” if you choose not to write your own.
As a reminder, you should never rely on automatic alt text. It’s typically not very accurate or descriptive enough to be considered accessible.
Up until last week, I was under the impression that no third-party management site could publish posts to Instagram with alt text. The app’s API is famously strict about what kind of information and features it allows other websites to access, the alt text field being one of them.
Somehow, someway, Sked Social—a scheduling platform based out of Melbourne, Australia—found a way around that restriction. Sked Social can also publish posts with alt text to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, making it one of the most robust management tools currently available in terms of accessibility. Of course, keep in mind that you do have to pay for your Sked Social plan.
When you create a new Instagram post in Sked Social, “Add Alt Text” will appear as an option near the bottom of the composition window after you upload an image. Easy!
This story originally appeared on Better Marketing.