Annual Report of the Information Commissioner 2016

Social Media Guidance

Following are some key communication design considerations on how to enhance customer service with members of the public on social media. Ensure that your activity on social media is in keeping with your organisation Social Media Guidelines or Policy.

Social Media Guidance - Twitter

Twitter is an information network made up of 140-character messages called Tweets. It is an easy way to discover the latest news related to subjects you are interested in.

Know your audience and engage in the conversation

Twitter can be an effective means of engaging with members of the public in keeping with your organisation Social Media Guidelines or Policy.

Create a tone that suits your organisation

Make sure your content and tone suit your organisation and your members of the public.

For General Account Information provide contact information

Provide your contact number in your bio line. If you don’t have a number, put a link to your ‘contact us’ form. If you do not have a ‘contact us’ form, put an email link to someone who can provide help for members of the public with questions.

For Photos, Video, and Audio

Put prefixes before tweets that have photos, videos, or audio

This allows members of the public using screen readers to know what to expect before it is read aloud. For example,

  • Photos: [PIC]
  • Videos: [VIDEO]
  • Audio: [AUDIO]

Provide access to the full caption or transcripts for a photo, video or audio. Provide a link back to your website that hosts a copy of the photo/video/audio with a full caption or transcript.

Your tweet should act as a descriptive caption so it has context for the item.

Add a link back to your website for full accessibility.

Hashtags (#) on Twitter

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 Tweets by keyword:

  • People use the hashtag symbol (#) before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Tweet to categorise those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter search.
  • Clicking or tapping on a hashtagged word in any message shows you other Tweets that include that hashtag.

The ‘at’ symbol @

The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets: "Hello @twitter!" People will use your @username to mention you in Tweets, send you a message or link to your profile.

A username is how you're identified on Twitter, and is always preceded immediately by the @ symbol. For instance, Twitter Support is @ Support.

For Composing Tweets

Try to place any #hashtags or @mentions at the beginning of the tweet.

Avoid using unfamiliar acronyms.

If possible, avoid using unfamiliar acronyms that would sound strange if read by a screen reader. If space allows, try to spell out the acronyms instead or use a different way to convey the information.

Capitalise the first letters of compound words for hashtags.

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.

Learn more

Twitter provides guidance on ‘Getting started with Twitter’

Learn more about using hashtags on Twitter and the @ symbol

Social Media Guidance - Facebook Posts

Facebook is a social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and groups.

Provide different ways for members of the public to get further information.

Put your website address in the ‘about’ section of your page to provide an easy way of getting further information.

Provide a phone number, an online ‘contact us’ form, or general contact email address for further information.

Spell out acronyms when writing status updates.

Do not get carried away with abbreviations or text messaging shortcuts in your status updates. You have plenty of space for your status updates, so spell out acronyms. It is recommended that in the first instance you should spell out the full name followed by the acronym in brackets. For example, the Citizens Information Board (CIB).

For Photos, Video, Audio

Provide Alt Text for photos.

The best way for you to ensure that photos are accessible to everyone is to include Alt Text. Alt Text allows you to describe briefly the photo to ensure that people who are unable to see the image have an Alt Text description of it.

Provide access to the full caption or transcripts for a photo, video or audio

Provide a link back to your website that hosts a copy of the photo/ video/audio with a full caption or transcript. After posting a photo, video or audio, immediately post a comment that directs the person to the full caption or transcript.

Provide the option of viewing videos with captions

If your organisation has a YouTube channel, upload videos to the channel and make sure to enable closed-captions (upload your own transcript to make sure the captions are accurate). Then post a link to the YouTube video as a status update, rather than uploading the video into Facebook. This will ensure that people will be taken to the accessible version on YouTube.

Social Media Guidance - YouTube

All videos should have closed captioning (subtitles)

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. Then the transcript should be reviewed and edited to ensure caption timing matches the video. Once the YouTube video has captions, it is advisable to download the captions and use an 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:

Learn more

YouTube provides a tutorial for creating captions

Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach

Digital and Web Based Communication Systems and Services

Twitter Checklist

Facebook Checklist

YouTube Checklist

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