There’s a lot to think about when making a video for social media: what are you trying to say? What’s the most concise visual way of getting that message across? What music would suit the project?
When thinking about all of these, it can be easy to forget that one of the most important things that an online video can have is one of the least flashy: subtitles. Here’s why today’s video marketer shouldn’t overlook them.
When making videos for social media, one of the key aims is to create something that inspires social media users to stop idly scrolling through your feed and focus on your content. As marketer Rumble Romagnoli writes in The Drum, powerful social media content is something that “will make people stop scrolling and pay attention.”
And once you’ve gotten their attention, subtitles can be a vital tool in maintaining it, and ensuring that your message gets across. In 2016, Digiday reported that 85% of videos on Facebook were watched without sound:
“Facebook has built a video ecosystem that does not require users to turn the volume up ... users’ news feeds are now inundated with short videos that feature text or captions narrating what’s being shown on screen .. The intent is to make it easy for people to consume the information presented in the videos without needing to turn the sound on.”
As mobile video has only continued to flourish in the years since, particularly on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it makes sense that captions and subtitles have continued to play a big part in conveying information.
One of the most important reasons for subtitles gaining prominence in online video is that they make videos more accessible and inclusive to a wider audience - whether that’s by catering to people with hearing impairments, or by simply making your video easier to understand while the viewer is on a busy commute.
Certainly for businesses with a larger online presence, subtitles are a small but essential tool that brands can use to meet the expectations of their potentially global audience . Providing her content marketing prediction for 2021 to The Content Marketing Institute, Lisa Dougherty writes:
"Marketers will need to sharpen their focus on the accessibility and inclusivity of their content experience. It’s essential that all who engage with your brand, including people with disabilities, BIPOC audiences, and non-native English-speakers, feel equally seen, welcomed, and supported by your business. If you aren’t making universally accessible and resonant content, you put your customer relationships and brand reputation at risk."
Subtitles don’t have to be just a functional component, either. Your videos can creatively use text in a way that highlights important information or even enforces your business’ visual branding. Take a look at how online news outlet NowThis incorporate their colour scheme in their videos’ subtitles, for example - using yellow to emphasise key words and phrases.
Animating text can also be a great creative method for making information that little bit more eye-catching and engaging. As Carrie Cousins writes in DesignStack’s kinetic typography guide, it can also really help the emotional core of your message to land more effectively with your audience:
"The way type moves contributes to [emotional storytelling] as well, according to research. For example: loudness can be mimicked by changing the size of text, as well as its weight, and occasionally contrast or color. For high volumes, motions mimicking vibration can be used. In the creation of characters, type can be set to move in a way that mimics human motion…"
For something that can be so pivotal to the success of your video, it’s fairly simple to add subtitling to the video production process. Using Adobe Premiere, we can manually type in simple subtitles, or use transcribing tools such as Descript to save transcripts (in the .srt file format) that can easily be imported into our editing software. As Caroline Forsey explains in her guide for Hubspot as well, even the most basic text editors like Notepad and TextEdit can be used to create these types of files.
At Ember, we’re also lucky to work with an in-house animator and graphic designer who has developed more complex kinetic typography elements for a number of our past videos, such as this one for Birmingham City University’s Black Studies course.