Captions vs. Sound – How to Get Heard?

The rise of video in social media should be no surprise to anyone. We’ve all seen the bombardment of commercials for Facebook Live Video. So, while we’re all aware of video’s surge, here are some hard numbers:

  • 67 percent of users watched more video on social networks like Facebook and Snapchat than they did a year ago.
  • For those viewers, the amount of video in their newsfeeds has increased by 360 percent.

That kind of exponential growth should raise the eyebrows of anyone who wants to grab the attention of Facebook’s 1.71 billion monthly users.

However, there’s a huge difference between doing video, and doing video well, and one of them is knowing when to use captions vs. sound.


Turn down for what?AutoplayMeme

Have you ever been at work sneaking in a few quick Facebook status updates, or on the train or bus- trying to desperately hold onto what little privacy you have- when your phone starts blaring noise from some ad or FunnyOrDie clip? You’re not alone. One of the most annoying things you can find in your Facebook feed is a video that autoplays with the sound on.

Here’s Facebook’s take on the matter, stating the most obvious: “Our research found that when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 percent react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser” (Source)

Facebook found out that video generated content on social platforms is not the same as commercials on TV. “…it’s not TV ads. It’s TV ads with the sound turned off.” (Source). Users don’t want something that shouts at them; they want something that piques their interest without intruding on their enjoyment of the platform.

The age of captions

Millennials consume video in a much different way than their parents or grandparents. To burst into their social bubbles, these videos need to adapt to be on their level. Enter the art of captioning. Captions certainly are not a new concept for videos on TV, but they are a strategy that is proving more and more effective on all social media platforms. While scrolling through your social feeds with your sound turned off (which 85 percent of users do), most individuals will completely skip a video whose meaning is lost without sound. If they can’t hear it, then they won’t get it, so who cares?

However, when you add captions to that video, viewers are more likely to be drawn into it. Facebook’s internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12 percent. Anything you can do to capture a viewer’s attention — even seconds more than than they normally would — can add up. In fact, 74 percent of ad recall is achieved in 10 seconds of Facebook video campaigns. In a world without sound, captions are one of the best ways to increase those numbers. With these numbers, it’s no surprise why marketers are obsessed with Facebook video.


The rise of video isn’t just social

Facebook video is powerful, but video is on the rise in education and in the corporate world as well. As of 2015, 77 percent of U.S.-based companies offered online corporate training to improve professional development. With the non-social use of video, we also have to consider other reasons why captions are crucial. When you offer video-based training or learning, you need everyone to have access. Enter the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and compliance concerns. How can people who are deaf or hard of hearing learn from your video without being able to hear it? This is where video in particular can be a powerful tool, sound or not. Check out the below video explaining “Deaf Gain”:

Having trouble viewing this video? Watch it on YouTube here 

Universities, community colleges, and even K-12 are also adopting eLearning tools rapidly and with open arms. Since 2000, growth in the eLearning industry has skyrocketed by 900 percent!  To put this in perspective, 64 percent of full-time faculty at community colleges teach distance education classes. The question we have to ask ourselves is not if we should adapt to video, but what can we do to make our videos the most accessible, engaging and effective as they can be?

Don’t get caption crazy


Captioning is an effective tool when sound is not an option, but there will always be scenarios in which sound is simply required to communicate your message. Sometimes a teacher making an online video might want to personalize his or her video with their voice – add human warmth to an otherwise dry topic. Or add an air of authority to reinforce their lesson. Here’s an example of a student learning ESL – a scenario that would be impossible without the benefit of sound.  How would you caption a lesson on the violin?  In many ways, captioning is the wave of the future and of enhanced video comprehension.  That being said, some things can only be communicated by sound:


Having trouble viewing this video? Watch it on YouTube here


Video is an amazingly powerful tool for creating engaging and effective communications. That message may be a marketing ad, an academic lesson or maybe just muppets muppetin’. One thing is for sure — video is on the rise, and will be the de facto way we consume media. You don’t have to choose between the two. You just need to know the best tool in the toolbox for the job at hand.

Ready to start making videos that you can add captions to? It’s not as hard as you think! Here’s a blog post to help you get started: 4 Steps To Your First Video

Are you using captions in your videos? How do you decide when to use captions and when to use sound?

Posted in Tips & How To's
Casey Seiter

Casey Seiter is an Education Account Mananger for the Education Team at TechSmith.
His passions include reading, writing, and watching every episode of television available.