Social Media Guidance
Some key communication design considerations on how to enhance customer service with members of the public on social media are provided below. Ensure that your organisational activity on social media is in keeping with the organisation's Social Media Guidelines or Policy.
Create a tone that is appropriate for your organisation
Make sure your content and tone are appropriate for your organisation and the audience.
Provide contact information
Provide the organisation's contact information on its account page/'profile'. Provide more than one method of contact. For example, a phone number and an email address or a 'contact us' form.
A hashtag - written with a # symbol - is used to index keywords or topics on social media. This function was created on Twitter, and allows people to easily follow topics they are interested in.
Using hashtags to categorise posts by keyword:
- The hashtag symbol (#) is used before a relevant keyword or phrase in a post to categorise those posts, and ensures that the posts will show up in a keyword search.
- Clicking or tapping on a hashtagged word in any message shows you other posts that include that hashtag.
Use "CamelCase" for multiple words for hashtags. That is, use capital letters for the first letters of compound words (two or more words joined). For example, use #LeadersQuestions, not #Leadersquestions.
The ‘at’ symbol @
A username identifies a user on social media and is always preceded immediately by the @symbol. For example, the Department of Justice & Equality username is @DeptJusticeIRL.
The @ sign is used to connect usernames in social media posts. Users of social media can use the @username to connect in posts, send a message or link to a profile.
Place #hashtags or @mentions at the beginning of the tweet.
If space allows, try to spell out any acronyms instead or use a different way to convey the information.
Do not include abbreviations or 'text speak' in status updates. There is plenty of space for status updates, so spell out acronyms. It is recommended that the full name is written, followed by the acronym in brackets, the first time the acronym is used. For example, the Citizens Information Board (CIB).
Insert prefixes before images, video and audio
Put prefixes before images, video and audio in posts.
This informs members of the public using screen readers what to expect before it is read aloud. For example,
- Images: [IMG]
- Videos: [VIDEO]
- Audio: [AUDIO]
Provide Alternative (Alt) Text
Provide Alt Text for an image if the image conveys information that is useful or relevant to the content, as well as for video and audio.
Provide a link back to the organisation's webpage that hosts a copy of the image/video/audio with a full caption or transcript.
Provide closed captioning (subtitles) for videos
All videos should have closed captioning. Closed captioning means that the captions are not visible until activated by the viewer.
YouTube has a feature that automatically captions videos in less than 10 minutes. Though YouTube has the ability to create captions based on an audio file, a written transcript should be used for better accuracy. After uploading a text transcript, set YouTube to sync it up. The transcript should then be reviewed and edited to ensure the caption timing matches the video. Once the YouTube video has captions, it is advisable to download the captions and use the editor to tidy them up.
Tools for creating or editing captions
If creating captions for a video, or editing the existing YouTube captions, there are a number of free tools that can help:
- Caption YouTube: a web-based captioning tool designed specifically for YouTube.
- MAGpie: a free Windows application from the National Center for Accessible Media
Provide the option of viewing videos with captions in social media posts
If your organisation has a YouTube channel, upload videos to the channel and make sure to enable closed-captions. Then post a link to the YouTube video as a status update, rather than uploading the video into social media. This will ensure that people will be directed to the accessible version on YouTube.
Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach
Digital and Web Based Communication Systems and Services
Social Media Checklist
Provide closed captioning for videos.