Using Alternative (ALT) text on digital imagery is common practice in SEO, as a way of informing search engines what the context and message of an image is. 

However, given that social media platforms are themselves search engines – using ALT text on image based content is a great way to boost the exposure of your business on these platforms.

When users browse for specific topics or interests on social media platforms, be it Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or any others, they will be shown content that the platforms see as most relevant and most engaged with. Traditionally, gaining relevance for a specific topic was attained through hashtags, although through using ALT text you can give the platforms even more information on the kind of topics that your content should be shown for.

In this week’s blog we’re going to take a look at what ALT text exactly does, why it’s more important than ever and how you can incorporate the use of ALT text successfully into your social media marketing efforts.

What Is Alt Text & What Does It Do

The initial purpose of ALT text is as a tool for helping describe an image in the event that it loads incorrectly, or for those who are visually impaired to understand the context of the image in better detail. 

However, from a marketing perspective ALT text’s best use is in that it can be used as a tool for giving search engines and social media platforms more information regarding an image and what kind of search terms/interests the image would be best shown to.

In SEO, ALT text needs to be keyword optimised for Google and other search engines but – whilst the same is true for social media – it is more a case of identifying the key interests and topics of your target audience to include in the ALT text that you add to imagery.

The ALT text on social media effectively gives a way to give the platform’s algorithm more to work with when deciding who to show your content to. Meaning that those who utilise the function are much more likely to show above their competitors to those users that have an interest in the product/service that their business provides.

How Algorithms Work On Social Media & Why ALT Text Is Now More Important

Social Media Platforms such as; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn use algorithms to determine which content is most useful/relevant to individual users based on their interests and browsing habits. This is most notably demonstrated in the way in which their targeted ads functions can work for pushing content to ‘ideal customers’.

image showing social media algorithms and how they use alt text

But it’s not just in the realm of paid ads that a business can take advantage of these functions, the use of both hashtags and ALT text on posts are great ways to expand the organic reach of your businesses content.

If your business has an identifiable target audience that will browse social media for specific interests, over time platforms will recognise your business as a content creator in these fields and you will be much more likely to show for certain searches, or (if they are already a follower of your business) then you’ll be more likely to appear higher in their feed due to the matching interests.

Therefore, giving these algorithms as much information to work with in identifying the kind of content you are producing alongside the content behind it is crucial in attaining a high organic reach. 

Through the use of ALT text on imagery you give the algorithm a clear picture of what the image is all about (think of it like a caption in a newspaper). The more clarity these platforms have, the more confident they will be in that when showing your content to like minded users, these people will want to engage with the content and thus remain on their platform – after all, the key goal of these platforms is to keep users engaged with them in order to show them advertisements. 

With the use of hashtags becoming an increasingly popular method for businesses to expand their organic reach, ALT text is becoming more and more essential. You see, as hashtags become more diluted these platforms will look for other indicators in order to determine which posts are more relevant to the users with these interests. Meaning that those businesses utilising the method of adding ALT text to images will be in a much better position than those who do not. 

Tips & Hacks For Using ALT Text To The Best Possible Effect On Social Media

image showing the tips and advice from assured marketing on how to best implement alt text on social media
  • Identify The Keywords/Interests

Similar to as you will be doing for SEO – spend some time researching and identifying the keywords that users on social media will be using (or interested in) that connect with your business. Including these in the ALT text will stand you in good stead for being shown to these users more frequently by the platform’s algorithm. 

  • Comb All Existing Image Content

All of your existing image content will most likely have pre-determined and automatically generated ALT text that the platform has selected based on what it thinks is accurate. This is normally not well optimised but will give you a good starting point for what you will need to include in your own ALT text. Of course, you should also be looking to add optimised ALT text to these images from the past as well as on all future image based posts. 

  • Relate It To The Caption & Hashtags

The caption and hashtags play a part in the ALT text too! If there is a complete difference between all 3 of these areas, all you’re going to do is confuse the platform and hinder your organic reach through these methods. Make sure that they coordinate together well and all include the relevant keywords/terms that your ‘ideal customers’ will be engaging with on the platforms.

All in all, if you can garner a good understanding of what ALT text is, how it works and follow the above tips when it comes to generating then implementing the technique on social media then you should be well on your way to standing above your competition on these platforms.

For more information on digital marketing techniques, you can read any of our other blog posts as well as checking out our social media for helpful advice on what to be doing when it comes to enhancing the online presence of your business.