Video and text together make a powerful combination. Regardless of where your videos live, captions help to ensure that your viewers are consuming your content in ways that work best for them.
Video is used extensively on social media, but it has made huge inroads in the corporate world and education as well. Text can help to make or break a viewer’s experience.
What are captions?
Spoken dialogue and sound effects that appear on screen in real-time as the video plays are known as closed captions. Closed captions, or CC, can be toggled on or off as desired. Open captions, on the other hand, are permanently fixed to the video and are always visible.
The terms ‘subtitles’ and ‘captions’ are often used interchangeably, but there are differences. Subtitles convey only the dialogue or narrative happing in the video. Captions include other side effects that may be present, such as a knock at the door or someone screaming. In fact, to meet accessibility standards, captions are required to include those elements.
Why use captions?
Text overlays are changing the way we consume online video. See how Buzzfeed uses these successfully in its Tasty cooking series.
Adding closed captions to videos creates more accessibility, especially for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. To date, approximately 466 million people are affected by hearing loss, and this figure is expected to be closer to 900 million by 2050.
However, 80% of those who use captions are not deaf or hard of hearing. They are simply in situations where they want to watch videos without sound such as at work or in other places like a bus or a train. Captions offer more flexibility.
Closed captions can also make it easier for non-native English speakers to understand the message of the video
Captions boost SEO, making it possible for more people to find your video online. Google currently favors informative videos for the top spots in the results pages, and its spiders read the code and text of your pages for indicators of what your video is all about. If you add closed captions and transcribe audio into text, it boosts video SEO making your videos more searchable, and you have the possibility of outranking your competition.
Captions give context. They help people to understand what the video is about and they’re more likely to watch it right through to the end. If you want to compete with all the other content out there, spend some time on captions.
Research also shows that people tend to retain more information when videos have captions. They increase the chance of getting noticed and remembered. When captions aren’t available, it can be one of the most frustrating aspects of watching a video.
There are many ways to add captions to your videos. Social media sites have tools that allow you to caption your videos. Video-editing software also gives you this option. Here are some ways to make sure your captions have the most impact.
Create an impact with your video and text
Video and the right text together can create more impact than video alone.
Create captions with intention
Approach captions with the aim of adding value for the viewer. They should be a vital part of your marketing strategy.
One of the best ways to create high-quality captions is to bake them into the creative process from the very beginning. Many companies order a transcript from a professional service to help with the process.
Implement a keyword strategy
Using keywords in your video script will bring you more traffic. For example, working in relevant key terms, such as ‘time management’ and ‘job performance’ helps if you’re targeting an audience searching for productivity software.
Use longtail keywords as well as the most obvious ones. You can place a full transcript directly under the video, in the HTML header, or on a second linked page.
Use the right language
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to use appropriate language for your target audience. Here are a couple of pointers to help you finetune the language you use in your captions:
- Active voice works much better than passive voice because it communicates immediacy.
- Only use slang if it suits your brand voice. If you want to communicate with a younger audience, using popular slang can help your KPIs but make sure you get it right.
- Avoid using technical jargon that only a select few might understand.
- Keep it short, clear and simple. Clarity is all-important when using text with videos.
Tell a story
using storytelling in a video means to share a struggle or any anecdote that you believe your audience will relate to. This can help to create a real connection with them, evoking emotion and showing your brand personality.
Mashable relies on custom captions to tell a story in their videos. They do not include a voiceover of the text on the screen but add a simple backing track. One of their videos showcases a fully-robotic kitchen where a robot prepares delicious chef-quality food.
Keep your brand voice consistent
Video captions should sound and feel like the rest of your brand marketing. Stay true to your brand voice and the way you communicate because this is the way your audience identifies you. Whether your voice is witty, energetic, or kind, you need to be authentic.
The Dodo creates videos of dogs and children growing up together using text overlays. They all have a similar look and feel – and they are viral successes.
Encourage a response
To create a call-to-action in a caption, you need to ask your followers to do something after reading it – answer a question, go to a blog post, buy a product or watch another video.
You don’t need to have a call-to-action in every caption – asking them to do something too often could put them off. On the other hand, being too vague or unclear could make you lose a valuable opportunity.
A CTA does not have to be long – in fact, it should probably rather be direct and concise. A quick “Go to our website to learn more” is preferable to “Learn everything you want to know from our comprehensive site, which can be found at this address and is waiting for you to explore.”
HubSpot created a short video with five suggestions about how to convince your boss to let you work from home. They used stock footage and text with a question underneath asking viewers whether they already rock the WFH lifestyle and, if so, to comment on how they convinced their bosses to agree. Formulating an open-ended question is more likely to encourage comments.
The first part of your captions should be most engaging
If you want to bring attention to a new blog post, for example, add the title of your post early on in the caption, so followers immediately know that there’s a new post. If you add a giveaway or contest at the start of a caption, this can ramp up engagement.
People may not know who you’re interviewing in your video until they see a name and description written in the bottom corner of the screen. Using text to introduce people, your brand, or even a location or event can help to establish authority and credibility very quickly.
Use hashtags # wisely
Integrating hashtags in your captions adds dimension. Hashtags can help you gain more followers, connect with followers, find content about your brand created by followers and build relationships with partners. They can help to organize video content which helps with content discovery and optimization.
Hashtag usage needs to be strategic. Try to be specific, local and relevant if you want to create a sense of community – nothing too broad. To find creative, community-oriented hashtags, look at the type of hashtags your competitors and industry leaders are using.
Branded hashtags are a great way to connect with those who are already engaged with your brand. They can help to inspire user-generated content.
Be careful not to add too many hashtags as it can look spammy and draw attention away from the rest of the caption.
Text can improve your videos but it should never be the main focus
Some mistakes you can make when using text in your videos is to use big blocks of text. If videos have already been created with a non-audio environment in mind, the caption process must be amended to avoid having too much text on the screen.
Text should only be used to provide context but should never make up a large percentage of the video. Make sure that text is not so small that it cannot be read on a smartphone. Avoid using elaborate fonts and colors that don’t stand out against the background.
The bottom line
Content creators are increasingly relying on the popularity of captions to reach and build their audiences. Remember that your captions must provide accessibility, offer translations for non-native English speakers, and make videos accessible in non-audio environments. They should always add value to your video and make it more professional, rather than detracting from it.