When you wake up in the morning, one of the first things you probably do is reach for your phone to scroll through your social media feeds. Being able to effortlessly browse online and on social media is something most people probably take for granted. However, if you were blind or visually impaired, the experience wouldn’t quite be the same.
There’s no doubt about it, social media content hasn’t always been the most accessible for those who have a visual impairment. However, Instagram is taking steps toward rectifying this oversight.
In this article, I’ll be going over the new features Instagram has unveiled, how to use them, and how marketers can benefit from taking advantage of these new features for the visually impaired when building their brands.
Instagram Rolls Out New Accessibility Features
While Instagram is just now starting to add features for visually impaired users, Facebook has been developing image recognition technology for some time. This technology is able to categorize images based on their content.
Using this technology, Instagram has launched new features starting Nov. 28 that is targeted toward helping those with visual impairments to better enjoy the social media platform. Any user knows that Instagram is a very visual platform, and so these new features help to accommodate a larger audience.
Instagram announced and launched two new features that will help the 285 million-plus people in the world who are visually impaired. These features include automatic alternative text and custom alternative text.
What is Alternative Text?
Alternative Text, or alt text, quite simply tells people what is in an image. It describes details such as text and the other basic essentials of the image. Instagram now offers two forms of alt text features that Instagram users can use when publishing posts.
Automatic Alternative Text
Automatic Alternative Text enables the visually impaired to hear descriptions of photos on his or her feed, when looking at profiles, and when browsing the Explore tab through their existing screen readers.
Screen readers are software applications that help blind or visually impaired users hear or read text displayed on computer screens with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
The new feature uses object-recognition technology to generate those descriptions, and users of screen readers will be able to hear a list of items that may be contained in photos they encounter while browsing the Instagram app.
Custom Alternate Text
Custom Alternate Text is the second feature Instagram has enabled to help visually impaired users fully engage with the app—and with the brands and influencers they follow.
This feature allows users to add custom alternate text descriptions to their photos and videos, so followers with visual impairments will be able to hear descriptions of that content using screen readers. Users are able to add the descriptions before uploading photos to their feed, giving them more control over what a visually impaired user would hear instead of relying on the object-recognition technology.
How to Use Alt Text
Paying attention to the alt text on your posts will allow you to better engage with your followers who are visually impaired. Putting in this little bit of effort will go a long way for your brand, as it shows your commitment to reaching all of your followers, regardless of their visual capabilities.
To view and edit alternate text for a photo before posting to Instagram, follow these steps:
- First, upload your photo on Instagram.
- Edit the image if you want to, and then tap on Proceed.
- Go to Advanced Settings and tap on Alternative Text.
- Type your Alternative Text in the box and tap on Full.
If you receive feedback (which may happen, especially as you first start learning to navigate this feature) or change your mind about what your want the alt text to say, you can change the alternate text of a photo after you have already posted on Instagram. It may be a good idea to go back to your most recent posts and edit the alternate text, if you haven’t added any.
To change the alternate text of a photo you have already posted, follow these steps:
- Go to the photo and tap on (iPhone) or (Android).
- Next, tap on Add Optional Text and type the edited alt text in the box.
- Tap on Full and it’s done!
How Does Alt Text Benefit Marketers?
Paying attention to the alt text that accompanies your posts not only benefits visually impaired users and increases your brand value, it also benefits Instagram. Entering your own custom alt text will not only enable Instagram to provide more accurate explanations of image content to your visually impaired followers, but the manually entered tags also have the potential to help educate Instagram’s machine learning systems as to how it can identify similar objects in the future.
Advanced image recognition has a range of applications beyond basic assistance, with the process enabling a whole new range of data points and ways to sort content, on both Facebook and Instagram. This ultimately benefits your brand as well, as the social media platforms you use to engage your audience become more advanced and more accessible.
Marketers can also eventually tap into the following benefits:
- By enabling users to search for images based on text, you could find customers who already buy your products, or related products, if those items are visible in the background of images. This could enable you to reach out to these users with related offers. This means you’re connecting with people who are more likely to be interested in such offers.
- If image data is provided as another insights tool, you could gain more perspective into your target audience by cross-matching their product purchases (based on image recognition) with their other usage and demographic data points. This will help you to better target your outreach so that you’re reaching the people who are most interested in your product or service
In conclusion, just because Instagram is a highly visual social platform, it doesn’t mean visually impaired users have to miss out. With Instagram’s commitment to these two new features, there will be more opportunity for people with visual impairments to get more out of the app.
Marketers will also be able to use the image recognition technology to help market their brand, products, or services, and to better target their audience by adding product descriptions using the custom alt text feature. There’s no doubt that these new features to help visually impaired users are a benefit all around.
If you want to learn more about how you can find followers to engage with your brand online, then enroll in our Personal Branding and Influencer Marketing course today! You can also follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram so you don’t miss out on any new developments in the world of social media marketing. You can also visit our blog for more FREE training to help you grow your business online.