Despite the fact we think of social media as the great leveller, it really isn’t. Aside from the fact that you need money to buy the tech, and you need to be able to afford to pay for internet access, there are other issues at play. The simple fact is, not everyone experiences a tweet or a Facebook post in the same way.
Has your Nana ever complained she can’t understand what you kids are saying?
Seriously though, on a basic level, Nana not understanding means the language you’re using is exclusionary. It’s shutting out people from a different age demographic who aren’t down with the latest slang.
Let’s take that a bit further. What if you’re someone with a disability, such as a visual impairment?
What about gender? Are you using exclusionary pronouns?
What’s that got to do with me or my business?
The fact is that if you’re not inclusive, you’re shutting out a vast swathe of potential market. That’s not going to be good for your brand or your sales.
Your next question will no doubt be, how do I achieve inclusivity? Well, aside from employing a social media manager for your business (check out our rates via our website), you can do it in a number of ways.
Include closed captions in your videos
Doing so is easier before you post than afterwards, so make sure you do it during the editing process. Closed captioning assumes your audience can’t hear the audio of your video and need a text description of what they’d otherwise be listening to. This is different to subtitles, which assume you can hear audio but you need the dialogue in text as well.
Quick note: whilst Facebook USA are generating automatic captions to videos at the moment, you can’t currently add closed captions to Facebook Live.
If the person accessing your social media posts is using a screen reader, then capitalising the first letter of each word in a hashtag helps the reader to read it out correctly. It sounds awkward and hard to understand if the hashtag is all lower case. We admit, we’re suckers for a lower case hashtag but going forward, we’ll be using Camel Caps for all our social media postings. And if we miss it, call us out on it!
Provide image descriptions
If you add a photo to your Facebook post, include a narrative caption of what is going on so someone who can’t see the photo can experience it. Yep, Facebook has automatic image description, but the technology isn’t very accurate. It can’t get any more specific than “Three people by water”, for example, if you’re hoping for a soaring poetic description of your seaside walk. On Twitter, every time you tweet a photo you’ll be asked to provide a description, which has a separate character count.
Loads, actually. Use inclusive pronouns such as they/them/theirs/everyone. Don’t assume someone’s gender – address people by their names or usernames when responding to comments and messages.
This is particularly important for customer care/service interactions on social media.
Make sure you use default yellow emojis when addressing a diverse audience. We get that people usually choose emojis that look like themselves, but when you’ve got a wide audience not everyone is going to look like you.
Basically, just try and use people-first language. An individual’s preference for how they want to be identified should always come first.
If they deem themselves queer, for example, then that’s the term you use – and if you feel uncomfortable about it, maybe examine why and explore that. For some people, language is about taking ownership – one person’s offensive term is a badge of honour to another. This can be a minefield. So, just try and be mindful.
Also, don’t be fake. People can smell bullcrap a mile off.
Some other hints and tips on inclusive language principles can be found here in this Medium article (you can click on the link here).