Most online users are well aware that social media platforms are quite limited when it comes to formatting copy.
Options like bold, italic, or underlined type are rare unless you’re posting in a Facebook group or writing an article on LinkedIn. Even features like stories only have a select number of fonts and styles you can choose from.
That’s why it’s become very trendy in the past few years for content creators to copy and paste alternative characters from external websites, allowing them more creative freedom with their social media copy. The available fonts on these websites range from simple bold and italic sans serifs to whimsical scripts and gothic blackletter.
Unfortunately, there are three distinct reasons why you shouldn’t be importing alternative characters into social media platforms just to spice up your copy.
If you work in marketing, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of brand guidelines. These are clearly defined standards for things like typography, color schemes, logos, wordmarks, imagery, etc… and how all of those items can be used to publicly represent a brand.
Brand guidelines—and the people who oversee them—are usually pretty strict, and breaking a brand guideline is tantamount to marketing blasphemy. A lot of work usually goes into creating, implementing, and enforcing them, and I can guarantee that very few of the alternative fonts you’re looking to use for your social media copy would receive your Brand Manager’s approval.
Plus, speaking as a snobby typography nerd with a fine arts degree in design, many of the “fancy fonts” pasted onto social media nowadays really deserve to be labeled as tacky and belong in the trash. You can do better than a script font that someone obviously tracked to death.
As digital marketers, content creators, and online influencers, we want the content we post to reach as many people as possible. Many of us spend a ridiculous amount of time touching up photos, editing video, and fine-tuning copy until it’s nearly perfect.
Ideally, if someone looks for something via a search engine or social media platform, you would want your relevant content to pop up near the top of the search results. And if you’re using alternative characters for your social media copy, then you’re potentially sabotaging that goal.
Because these fonts are dropped into platforms from other websites, they don’t always register as readable plain text on the backend of the system, rendering them unsearchable. That kind of defeats the purpose of content marketing, don’t you think?
This is by far the most important rationale for not using alternative characters on social media.
Not all assistive technology can properly read characters that are pasted from external websites, which can cause accessibility issues for users who are blind or partially sighted.
At best, a screen reader or text-to-speech program will simply skip over the characters, which could create gaps in your content and leave a user confused. Even worse though are the alternative characters that get transcribed into indistinguishable noises by assistive tech and make your content exceedingly long and impossible to understand. Both scenarios are demonstrated with example tweets in the below video.
I get it, the limitations of social media can be incredibly frustrating and feel stifling at times when you’re trying to stand out in the crowded online world. But just because there’s a seemingly easy copy-and-paste answer to your creative block, doesn’t always mean you should take it.
Instead of opting for alternative characters to add cheap flair to your content, focus on creating better copy, better visuals, and better videos. Create genuine content that actually has your audience’s needs in mind and best represents your brand to the rest of the world.
Visit the Accessible Social module to learn more about how alternative characters impact accessibility.
This story originally appeared on UX Collective.