Whether you are part of team Twitter, a Facebook fanatic or you are insatiable about Instagram, if you’ve been scrolling through your respective social media timeline lately you will have been hard pressed not to have noticed that social media subtitles are on the rise – but why?

Engagement, engagement, engagement

With video content accounting for 74% of all consumer based web-traffic in 2017, there’s little wonder why brands are investing so many resources into video publishing. But, for the smart brands and marketeers, merely publishing video content is only half of the journey as it’s by adding social media subtitles, to increase video engagement, that video content grasps viewers attention and stands out from the video-saturated social media timelines.

The Rock (@TheRock), regularly publishes subtitled video content across social media to increase engagement with his 100m+ followers.

Social Media Subtitles | The Rock

How much more engagement?

In an era where all social media videos are muted by default and 85% of all Facebook videos are watched with no sound, subtitles are essential to catch social media users’ eyes and increase video engagement.

Facebook recently published a report which found that videos which included subtitles enjoyed a 12% boost in engagement.

Nissan’s 2016 Olympics’s ad campaign featured open caption subtitles across social media:

Social Media Subtitles | NissanSubtitle foresight

The surge of subtitled social media content has also seen some publishers, like Business Insider, take proactive steps to maximise their video engagement by planning the inclusion of subtitles from the outset of video production.

As you can see in the example below, the video subject’s placement is right aligned to allow for the burned in open captions to take up the majority of the screen’s real estate:

Social Media Subtitles | Business Insider

Subtitle rules? What subtitle rules?

It’s worth reminding yourself that, though social media subtitles are great at catching users’ eyes, captions were initially created for accessibility obligations and, at least in terms of broadcast requirements, had some pretty officious standards to be met (Netflix were infamously sued for their lack of subtitled content).

However, when it comes to social media subtitles, and no accessibility ‘rules’ being enforced, this has allowed content publishers to experiment with their subtitles.

Which social media subtitles are right for you?

There are three different types of subtitle services – closed captions, open captions and SDH subtitles – so it’s important to chose the right option for your video content. Depending on what you want to achieve, each subtitle format has their purpose.

When it comes to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, open captions – burned-in always on subtitles – are the best for increasing video views and viewer engagement.

With YouTube, closed captions – subtitles which can be turned on and off – are what you’ll be looking for. Easy to upload via YouTube’s dashboard, the beauty of closed captions are that you can offer multiple language subtitles to engage different demographics on one video.

3 subtitle face palms and faux pas ‍

  1. None of our customers are deaf 
    Wow! You’d be surprised how many marketers say this and, besides being a highly litigious statement that a HR department could spend a seminar examining, it wreaks of ignorance when it comes to the versatility of subtitles and video marketing.
  2. All of our employees speak English 
    Without naming names, we’ve heard of a marketing manager of a Premier League football club – that publishes over three hours of video content a week – who felt that subtitles weren’t needed on their video content because all of their players could speak or ‘had a grasp’ of English. Where to begin…
  3. YouTube auto-captions suck!
    Yes, YouTube is the largest video hosting site in the world.
    Yes, YouTube is a pioneer in video content.
    Yes, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world – second only to its parent company, Google.
    And yes, YouTube’s auto-captions suck! Just ask Crystal Palace who had the distinct embarrassment of an ‘F-bomb’ turn up in a player interview video. In fact YouTube’s auto-captions are so terrible that any serious marketer or brand that publishes video content is being negligent, at best, if they opt to use auto-captions ahead of getting subtitles created properly. Don’t take our word for it, YouTube’s very own product manager, Matthew Glotzbach, said: “Although I think having auto caption(s) is better than nothing I fully admit and I fully recognise that it is by no means good enough yet.”
Ben Dobson

Ben Dobson is Marketing Manager at VoiceBox. Ben has a passion for digital and social media marketing. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and surfing across the Gower peninsula.