We’ve all heard the statistics. YouTube gets 4 billion views a day and Facebook serves up around 8 billion views per day. It’s clear that people are watching video online. It’s also clear that there is strong competition for viewer’s attention. What’s interesting is that 85% of those 8 billion Facebook views are with the sound turned off. Subtitles and captions are one way to capture a viewer’s and make them watch a bit longer. They can also help your videos to show up higher in web searches.
Subtitles – for most people they mean foreign film (or Monty Python if you’re having trouble with the accent). While subtitles are useful for enjoying a film in a foreign language and captions help make a video more accessible, they do have other advantages.
Let’s clarify some terms
Captions are a text transcript of the soundtrack of a video and can be open or closed. Closed captions appear on the screen only after they are turned on – when you press that little “CC” button (usually accidentally) on your remote. Open captions are visible at all times (some people say they’re “burned in” to the video).
When people talk about subtitles, they’re usually referring to a translation of dialogue from another language. If you want to watch “Amelie” and understand what people are saying, you turn on the subtitles in English.
Video on Facebook
When Facebook added the autoplay feature to videos in your timeline, it was thought to be a big step forward. Viewers no longer had to click on a still image to see a video. It now played automagically. But without sound. Hmmmmm… not as exciting as everyone thought.
Subtitles and captions solve that problem. At a glance, you can tell what a video’s about. Many of the videos you’re seeing now have cap
tions – they’ve become a part of the design of the piece. I believe that video with subtitles and captions draw you in and engage you more. They’re less passive than a video with audio. The fact that these videos are different and new also make them more attractive and get a viewer’s attention.
We recently produced a video for an Executive Councilor’s race. The candidate’s
team knew that the videos were destined for YouTube and Facebook and were edited with captions and subtitles. They’re getting a good amount of organic play and helping the candidate to spread the word about their campaign.
Subtitles and captions are good for you (and your video)
Discovery Digital Networks captioned some of their videos and saw an increase in views after running a 16-month test across 8 of their YouTube channels. They saw an initial jump of almost 14% in views and found that their video ranked high for keywords that appeared in the closed captioned file. That’s an impressive gain in SEO for something with a relatively low cost. You can read more about their results in this case study.
Sounds great, how do I do it?
If you want to use captions, just add them as you would any other graphic element such as a lower third or title.
Adding subtitles to a video is a little more complicated, but fortunately Facebook and YouTube walk you through it.
Subtitles and captions are great tools for accessibility, but they can also improve your reach. You’ve already made the investment to create a video. Think about how you’ll use the video, where it will be shown, and whether captions or subtitles make sense for you.