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What is Instagram Alt Text & Why Does it Matter?

Are you using Instagram alt text the RIGHT way? Find out why alt text matters and how to maximize the benefits.
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Instagram Alt Text: What is it & Why Matters
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Instagram alt text is something creators are overlooking because they don’t know what it is or how to add it to their posts. Alt text is just a simple technique that allows you to describe a photo with greater ease.

Meta uses advanced object recognition technology to help you with Instagram alt text, but from my own experience, it’s often wrong.

And if you don’t think it’s a big deal, just consider your audience as a whole. Some people may have perfect eyesight and others do not. Instagram’s alt text can make it easier for the latter group to know more about your posts.

We’re going to share a lot of inside information on Instagram alt text, including:

  • What it is
  • Why it matters
  • How to add alt text
  • So much more

If you want to take advantage of every Instagram feature that’s available, you can’t ignore the power of alt text.

What is Instagram Alt Text?

Instagram’s own help section defines alt text for posts perfectly: visual descriptions of your posts (photos) for people who are visually impaired. You won’t see the alt text yourself when you’re scrolling through your app because you can only see them on your own post.

If you have an accessibility device, then it’s completely different.

Why Does Alt Text Matter?

Visually impaired people still browse the web and will go on Instagram. You have to remember:

  • 43 million people worldwide are blind
  • 295 million people have moderate or severe vision loss

Someone can still “see,” but they may have significantly poor vision that impacts their ability to see your posts properly. Screen readers can be used to “read” your posts and explain to the person what’s happening.

Imagine that you posted a photo of yourself standing on a diving board, ready to jump into a pool.

If you have the alt text “women standing on a diving board preparing to jump in the pool,” a person’s accessibility device can read this text back to the person. And as a follower, it’s a way to stay connected on social media even if you have vision issues.

No one else can see the Instagram alt text, but if someone does access Instagram with a screen reader, they will be able to use this attribute to understand the actions in your photo posts.

But all around the Internet, there is “alt” text on websites because it’s one of the leading ways to add accessibility to an app or website.

How to Add Alt Text to Your Instagram Posts?

Instagram’s algorithm automatically adds an alt tag to posts using object recognition. Object recognition is a technology that’s been around for quite some time and analyzes a photo to understand what’s happening in it.

For one of my photos with two dogs, it simply said:

  • Photo of my name in the town I live in
  • No mention of dogs

So, while the technology has advanced, it’s not descriptive at all. Using the example above, a person with a screen reader still wouldn’t know what my post was about based on this description.

With all of this in mind, you can edit your Instagram alt text before sharing your photo by following the steps below:

  • Upload an existing photo to Instagram
  • Choose your filter and edit your image
  • Tap Accessibility
  • Add the description to the alt text box
  • Share

And now you have a descriptive alt text that increases your posts’ reach and allows them to be enjoyed by more people.

Can You Add Alt Text to Stories?

No. You do not have an option to add alt text to your Instagram Story. If you want to help your followers who have visual impairments, add captions to your Stories.

How to Edit Alt Texts on Posts You Shared Already?

If you’ve already shared a post, you may want to go back and begin editing the alt text to make it accessible to more users. You can do this on both photos and videos, and it’s simple:

  • Go to your post
  • Tap the “…”
  • Go to Accessibility
  • Edit the alt text and then tap Done

And that’s it. You’ve made your post accessible to a wider audience, and your followers who are visually impaired will surely appreciate the extra attention that you’ve given to your posts.

8 Tips for Writing Awesome Alt Texts

Alt text makes your Instagram content more accessible and may even help with SEO. But how do you write them and maximize their benefits? Here are some tips.

1. Be Descriptive

First, make sure that your text is descriptive. The purpose of alt text is to accurately describe the images you post. Provide some detail, so users can understand what’s going on in your photo.

Let’s say that you posted this photo to Instagram.

An alt text that says “photo of a puppy” isn’t too descriptive. An alt text that says “a yellow labrador puppy with a green collar hopping and playing outside” would be a better choice because it’s more descriptive.

When writing your alt text, try to put yourself in the user’s shoes. If they can’t see your image, would your alt text paint an accurate picture?

2. Keep it Concise

Being descriptive is important, but it’s also important not to go overboard. Provide just enough detail to let people know what’s going on. Don’t write a novel.

Instagram only allows up to 100 characters for alt text.

You’ll need to get a little creative to make your alt text as descriptive as possible without being too wordy. Focus on the most important elements of the photo to get your message across.

If you feel like you need to add more details, consider adding a photo ID in the caption.

3. Add a Photo ID

Want to add more detail and context for users who can’t see your content? Add a photo ID to the end of your caption. 

Photo IDs are shorter descriptions that add more detail in addition to the image’s alt text. Screen-reading devices can use them to identify posts on Instagram.

With photo IDs, you can include information that alt text can’t accommodate. You can take a storytelling approach or just provide more context, so people really know what’s happening in your photo.

If you’re posting a carousel, make sure that you include an ID for each individual post, so users get the complete picture.

Make sure that your photo ID is unique from your alt text. Don’t just copy and paste them.

4. Keep it Relevant

It may seem like an obvious thing, but many Instagrammers overlook the importance of keeping their alt text relevant. Don’t use random hashtags or information that isn’t useful.

More importantly, don’t use the alt text field as an opportunity to spam.

5. Avoid Filler Words

Remember – you want to be descriptive and concise with your alt text. That means avoiding filler words like “photo of” or “picture of.” It’s already implied that you’re posting an image, so there’s no need to mention it. 

Focus on describing what’s happening in the photo.

6. Don’t Forget to Describe Text

What if you post a screenshot of a meme or a tweet? If your image includes text, make sure that you add it to your alt text. 

Screen readers and other assistive technologies cannot read text in images, so including them in your alt text will make your content more accessible.

7. Don’t Repeat Information in Your Caption

If you mention something in your caption, there’s no need to repeat it in your alt text. Captions are read by screen readers.

Get creative and make sure that your alt text is completely unique from your caption and photo ID.

8. Use Keywords Sparingly

You’ve probably heard that alt text is a great place to add keywords and make your content more SEO-friendly.

Yes, that’s true – but don’t overdo it.

Excessive use of keywords in your alt text can do more harm than good. Only use keywords when it’s relevant and natural to add them.

Final Thoughts

Instagram alt text makes your content more accessible to those who cannot see your photos and videos. While Instagram can generate alt text automatically, you can make your content more appealing by creating your own. Use the tips in our guide to write awesome alt text and follow the best practices.

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