Video marketing is an important weapon in the modern advertiser’s arsenal.
High-quality video has become a central part of outreach and campaigns, especially on social media, where videos are people’s favourite type of content.
Video is rich, engaging and incredibly shareable. And when it is used well it can increase sales and help you build longer-lasting relationships with your customers.
Most online advertisers are already waking up to the new reality of online video.
In a survey by social media management software company Buffer, 83 per cent of marketers said that they will create more video content – with 30 per cent saying they would focus on Facebook video.
But to make the most out of online videos, marketers need to do everything they can to improve the engagement, clarity and inclusivity of their video messages.
One great way of doing this is to add subtitles to videos.
On-screen captions help entice viewers and make them stick around for longer. Facebook says that these captions increase viewer watch time by 12 per cent.
One reason why is because many of us like to watch videos on social media without the sound turned on.
It’s embarrassing to watch a noisy video on a busy bus or in the office, so a lot of people browse social media with the sound off and rely on subtitles to provide context.
Subtitles also make your videos more inclusive, making them more easily accessible for people with hearing difficulties and many people for non-native English speakers who can often read the language more naturally than they can listen to it.
Some people just like having subtitles. Everywhere. One Wired writer recently extolled the virtues of subtitles on Netflix and YouTube – “you can appreciate the script, you know whose off-screen voice you’re hearing, you can chuckle at the poetic attempts by caption writers to convey background noises ([bestial squall])”.
How to Add Subtitles to Videos
There are two ways to add subtitles to your videos, uploading the captions as a text file or embedding the subtitles directly into the video.
We get asked about this a lot, so we have explained each method and the relative benefits and drawbacks of each in the rest of this blog post.
Uploading Captions as a Text File
The first way to get subtitles onto your video is to create a SubRip Subtitle (SRT) File alongside your video.
This is a type of text file that includes captions and timestamps indicating when text should appear and disappear. Rather than burning the subtitles onto a video file, popular video sharing services like YouTube and Vimeo let you upload these text files alongside the video so viewers can choose to have the subtitles on or off.
Advantages of Uploading Captions as a Text File
- SRT files are simple to create. They don’t require video editing software or skills.
- Viewers can choose whether to have captions turned on or off.
- Text file captions are better for creating closed captions, which are used to communicate all audio information like sound effects and music cues rather than just speech. This kind of captioning is designed for people who have difficulty hearing.
- Many online video platforms let viewers change the font size of closed captions, making them more accessible for people with poor eyesight.
- The quality of the definition of the captions is independent of the video resolution. This means that blurry or pixelated videos will have crisp subtitles.
- Text files can easily be translated into different languages. This means you only have to create, store and upload one video instead of several videos in different languages.
- Text files make your videos more search engine friendly. Search engines like Google and YouTube can crawl your video text files and collect information about the video content.
Drawbacks of Using Text File Captions
- Some viewers will not know how to turn captions on and off, which could hurt engagement.
- Text file captions will work on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook but not LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
- It isn’t always suitable for ‘offline’ videos, like a video playing at a conference or trade show.
When You Should Use Text File Captions
If you are uploading a video to YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook.
When You Should Avoid Text File Captions
If you are uploading the video to Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or if you are showing the video at a trade show or conference without sound.
How to Add Text File Captions to YouTube Videos
YouTube makes it easy to add text files to videos.
If you are using the YouTube Studio beta, you can select videos, click on the video you want to caption, open the advanced tab and select Upload subtitles/CC. You should then select the ‘With timing’ option and choose the file you want to upload.
YouTube can also use speech recognition technology to automatically create captions for your videos. If this is available, it will automatically be published on your video.
How to Add Text File Captions to Facebook Videos
You can upload text file captions to Facebook when you upload a new video.
Click Photo/Video at the top of your News Feed, select the video you want to publish. When the video is ready to upload, click the date and time at the top of the post then click the three dots at the bottom of the menu and select ‘Edit Video’. Now you can upload the text file by pressing ‘Choose File’ and ‘Upload SRT files’.
Embedding Subtitles into a Video
The second way to get subtitles into your video is to directly embed or ‘burn’ them into the video during the editing process.
At first, this may sound like the more straightforward thing to do. But it does require more technical know-how. And because the subtitles always appear on the video, it gives viewers less choice about how they watch.
But on some platforms, the lack of flexibility is a good trade-off for higher rates of engagement.
Advantages of Burning Subtitles into a Video
- The subtitles will always appear, so people will always know what’s going on, even if the video plays without sound.
- On some social media platforms, videos automatically play without sound. Using subtitles can help hook viewers – increasing time watched and other engagement metrics.
- You have more control over subtitles and can choose different fonts, colours and positions across the screen. This is valuable if you have more artistic freedom.
- It can be used on platforms that don’t allow text files like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
- You don’t have to remember to upload a text file when uploading a video.
Drawbacks of Burning Subtitles into a Video
- Some people find always on subtitles annoying or distracting.
- It makes it harder to translate videos into different languages and can result in uploading the same video multiple times in different languages.
- It is harder to do and requires some familiarity with video editing software.
- If the video quality is poor the quality of the subtitles can suffer, making it harder to understand what’s going on.
When You Should Use Embedded Subtitles
Social media platforms that auto-play videos without subtitles, social media platforms that don’t allow text file captions and videos designed to be played in public, such as at trade shows and conventions.
When You Should Avoid Using Embedded Subtitles
On video hosting platforms like YouTube.
How to Create Subtitles
So that’s the two ways that you can get subtitles onto your video, but how should you actually go about creating the subtitles.
Using a Video Production Company
Adding subtitles to a video might sound like a job that’s too small for a video production company, but if you plan on embedding the subtitles into the video then you will need someone with video editing skills.
You could also use a video production company to create subtitle text files, but this might be an expensive way of going about it.
Using Automatic Subtitle Generators
We have already talked about how YouTube will use speech recognition technology to automatically generate text file captions.
There are lots of different services that will do this for you, but they are far from accurate. And it’s not something you want to mess up on an important video – even if the results can be funny sometimes.
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) July 3, 2017
Using a Cheap Subtitle Company
A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of these companies offering to create subtitles from as little as $1 per video minute.
If you have a lot of work to get through, these services can represent good value for money. Just don’t expect them to be 100% accurate all the time.
Get the Intern
Sometimes it’s the old fashioned ways that work the best.
Those of us who have been video production interns still grimace at the prospect of a full day’s transcribing, but doing subtitles in-house does mean you can get your subtitles exactly the way you want them.