Tweet Accesibility Example Image 2

Tweet accessibility exampleI’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter accounts, both regular user accounts as well as brand accounts, using fancy, math and other symbol fonts in their tweets. These characters are all legal, and part of the Unicode standard. Akin to using a screenshot from a notes app in your tweet, we should take a closer look at these characters.

On one hand, I get it. These characters can make your tweet stand out and breathe some life into your message copy. This comes with a catch though. Those special characters can break accessibility. This includes being able to be read by screen readers and other speech tools.

Here’s an example I’ve seen recently. I want to be clear that I’m not attacking them, just using them as reference. Go Cavs!

Why is this bad?

In that tweet from the Cleveland Cavaliers, you can see the word “fifty” is actually small caps unicode characters. It’s a cool effect, but it can wreak havoc in screen readers.

Why are these characters bad? First, they were designed as mathematical and other symbols, so screen readers either skip them (which happens when I use my Mac’s speech feature) or read out to the user the symbol equivalent. You can see a great example in this video:

What about using Emojis in your tweets? They are fine to use as they have descriptions and when used in a tweet and read by a screenreader, can be described correctly so the user knows what they are.

I don’t have an alternative to suggest. Some people have talked about Twitter supporting Markdown,  which would be nice for formatting but doesn’t address the special Unicode character issue. I also don’t think Twitter will remove Unicode support, as there are legitimate use cases for the characters.

I write all that to say this: think about your audience and if you do in fact need to use these special characters in your tweet. Can you get  by with an image (using Twitter image alt descriptions), emoji or other method? All of those options are better for accessibility than straight up Unicode characters in some cases.

In days past, the best way to reach a large audience of people was to use a press release. You could spend hours to craft a message, create quotes, and prepare it for delivery. You’d then send, or even fax, the release to media outlets in the hope they’d pick it up and spread the news for you. For the big news, you’d pay a service to send out the release to hundreds or thousands of places.

Then came the Internet. Thanks to websites, and eventually blogs, companies, organizations, and even individuals could spread the word on their own terms, and at less cost.

Now, we are experience peak social media. There have never been more outlets for companies, businesses, and people to have direct access to customers, influencers, other brands and more.

I’ve enjoyed watching a new style of press release emerge in the last year. This type of press release is new and exciting – it’s a screenshot.

Yes, a screenshot. Usually of a notes app on someone’s phone, where they’ve typed or copy and pasted and then taken a screenshot. It’s a genius way to get around the character limits of a platform like Twitter. If you want to read the entire image, you just view the full-size image.

One audience I’ve seen using this new “press release” lately are college athletes who are announcing their departures from college to go pro. Here are two recent examples:

Screenshot as Press Release Example Screenshot as Press Release Example #2

The University of Missouri was one of the first schools I’ve seen use this when they used a screenshot to share a statement from campus leadership back in November of 2015.

Screenshot as Press release example #3

It’ll be interesting to see if larger and larger companies start to use this method for sharing news. In higher ed, I could see using it for weather closings, all-clears after emergencies, schedule changes, large announcements, and more.

Over the last couple of months, Twitter has rolled out their new polls functionality for users. It’s a great way to engage your audience with quick polls that last 24 hours. In a blog post announcing the launch in October, Twitter said this about polls:

If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter. For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.

We’re run a few polls at John Carroll, and they’ve done well in terms of engagement and interest. Todd Sherman at Twitter said this about polls:

From what I’ve seen, polls spur more conversations around the topic than asking the same question without a poll because people reflect on what others think.

Now that we’ve done a few, I have some quick thoughts on them.

There’s a character limit on poll items. I ran into that today with a poll we created. Luckily, my awesome team came up with a great idea – use emojis. I created this poll on Twitter’s browser version, and I was slightly nervous about entering an emoji in the browser and it working correctly in mobile, but it worked just fine. Here’s our poll:

Poll items with emoji

Creating polls is easy from Twitter’s web interface and from the latest versions of their mobile app. I use their desktop Mac OS official app while I’m at work, and I’m surprised you can’t both make them or vote on any polls from their official app. Maybe development has stopped on those apps.  Can other third-party apps vote and create polls? If you use Twitter’s Mac app, you get this, which seems like we just did something wrong:

Twitter poll on desktop app

If you’re logged into the account that created the poll, you can see a running tally of votes which is nice.

I’m not sure if this is a better measurement tool than the “RT and Favorite” type polls people have been doing for several years. Voting in polls may be more scientific, but I don’t know if it gets the same reach as the RT/Fav methodology. One area where polls may work better is that you can have up to 4 choices in a poll, not just two in the RT/fav model. In this model, voting is not made public, as a RT/fav is to all your followers.

Finally, this post from Buffer has an in-depth guide on how to create a poll on both desktop and mobile versions of Twitter.

Quick follow-up: So had a few questions about what “cura pedem” means. Both of the items in our poll are very Jesuit ideas. Saint Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, coined the saying “Go forth, and set the world on fire.” You’ll see many Jesuit schools say this to graduates as they leave their campuses.

Well, there’s a latin term, “Cura personalis,” which is a big part of the idealogoy of the Jesuits and their views when it comes to higher education. It means “care for the whole person.” We often make puns around some of these things, so we came up with “Cura pedem,” which means “Care for the feet.”

So, yeah.