Alternative text is vital in digital marketing. It makes visual content accessible for individuals who use an assistive device or program to access and navigate through digital spaces.
Alt text also notably impacts Search Engine Optimization (SEO) when applied to images on websites, making it more likely that online users find and engage with your content. However, there is little to no concrete data to support whether or not alt text impacts the engagement of images on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Content creators have experimented with keywords in the alt text field on Instagram with varied results. Most have noticed that keywords in the alt text field can affect the searchability of a post within the Instagram app. I decided to conduct a year-long A/B test that analyzed how alt text possibly impacted the engagement of posts on Twitter, if at all. The test will run from June 1st, 2021 until June 1st, 2022.
Every day at 10:00 a.m. ET, two tweets will post from my Sprout Social account. They will be seemingly identical with the exception of two things. One tweet will have alt text attached to its image and one will not. The other difference is that one tweet will end with a black circle emoji and the other will end with a white circle emoji. Because Twitter does not allow identical tweets to be posted at the exact same time, the emojis are necessary.
In order to eliminate as many variables as possible, I alternate which tweet is scheduled in Sprout Social first every month. I also alternate which tweet gets the black circle emoji and which gets the white circle emoji.
The only variables that can't be accounted for with my organic A/B test are people knowingly skewing the test when they figure out which tweet has alt text and which does not. I also cannot account for if users have their timelines set to show them tweets in chronological order or by what Twitter’s algorithm recommends to them. To offset this, I will boost one random set in the A/B test each month to get paid data in addition to organic data.
Absolutely! My goal is to gather enough usable data that marketers will be able to use when asked that pesky question, "Why should we be adding alt text to our images on social media?" Obviously, the default answer to this question should always be, "Because it's the right thing to do," but we all know that some people in marketing want numbers to justify every single decision they make. I will gather all the data at the end and bundle it into what I assume will be a very large PDF.
You can do whatever you want with the A/B test posts that you see! Like them, retweet them, comment on them, interact with one, interact with both. I don't mind whatever you choose to do. I'm tracking their engagement results through Sprout Social, so you don't need to tell me which you saw first or second. If you respond to one of the posts directly, don't be surprised if I respond in a completely new tweet. I'm trying to avoid myself engaging with any of the test tweets.
Yep! I tag each post with the hashtag #AlexaAltText so that users can easily mute them. I mostly did this so that anyone who is blind or low vision and uses assistive tech to navigate through social media can mute the test since one of the images always excludes alt text. I didn't want the test to be an inconvenience to them. But of course, I understand that the test is very repetitive on the feed every day, and don't mind at all if anyone mutes it because they just don't want to see it anymore. No hard feelings!
Like almost all of the images I use for testing content, I get every image for the A/B test from the free stock website Pexels. They have a great selection of diverse photos and are also very supportive of my efforts to educate social media users on the impact and importance of alt text. I will be crediting each photographer alongside their respective photos in my published report once the test has been completed.
Probably not. The Twitter test is already pretty involved since it requires me to download, schedule, and track 730 images. But that's not to say I won't change my mind in the future!