How to write Alt Text on social media

Do you use alt text in your social media posts? If not, you need to start. Twitter even prompts users to do so when uploading images to the platform. 

📲 Top tip: Set up the image description reminder setting in Twitter to remind yourself to add Alt Text. Here’s how.

So, what is alt text? Alternative text, commonly known as alt text, is a written description of an image that can be picked up by screen readers. It makes your content more accessible to blind and visually impaired people. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but alt text ensures everyone can access it. 

Did you know, that 43 million people in the world are blind? On top of that, 295 million people have moderate to severe vision impairment. That’s a lot of people you could be excluding from getting the full impact of your content. On top of this it is great for search engine optimisation, both in social media platforms and the wider internet.

Right, where to start? The first thing we advise is to keep it short and get to the point. Alt text usually consists of 1 or 2 short phrases. But you still want to be descriptive; think of it as an elevator pitch. 

Here are our five top tips for writing great alt text: 

  1. Be specific. What does the photo show? Write exactly that. Also, don’t make assumptions about race, gender or motivations; simply describe the scene.
  2. Remember, screen readers can’t read text on images. So if you’ve included copy on the image also include that in the alt text. But no need to be repetitive if it’s already included in the caption.
  3. You don’t need to state the obvious and say “the image” as people using a screen reader will know it’s an image already. But it is helpful to mention if it’s an illustration, graph, screenshot etc.
  4. Use gender neutral language. This was alluded to in point one but it’s important to mention again – don’t be gender specific, use them/they.
  5. Don’t add any emojis or links, this isn’t a social post.

So let’s work on an example: 

Nigel is a tan and black dachshund. He is lying on yellow cushions looking out a window

Meet Nigel, he’s going to be our alt text model.

Bad alt text: A dog. – Yes that is what it is, but it’s not painting the picture to illustrate what you’re showing.

Good alt text: Nigel is a tan and black dachshund. He is lying on yellow cushions looking out a window. – It’s not overly descriptive, but it gets the gist of the photo across.

It’s also worth thinking about why a certain image is being used to illustrate a point. This can also change the way you write the alt text. It’s always good to add in some context!

But in the end, it’s worse to have no alt text than poorly written alt text. It takes time but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. We promise!

Now you know what to write you’re going to need to know how. Find out more here:

Meta’s Business Suite even let’s you add Alt Text after you’ve posted in Facebook or Instagram.

Want to learn more or need help with your social media? We’d be happy to help.

Sarah has been working in social media marketing since 2013 and joined the Social Firefly team in January 2022. Working with some of our biggest clients she makes content planning and creation look easy while delivering on some of our best performing strategies. Outside of work, she's a keen photographer, dedicated swimmer, a certified foodie, dog auntie and travel lover.