JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

5 Crucial Tips for Captioning & Subtitling Social Media Videos

You’ve probably heard this before – about 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. That means that captioning and subtitling these videos is crucial to their success on this social media platform, and on just about any other. And of course, social media content has its own set of unique video localization challenges. What to do?

Start with this post, which lists the five things you must know to successfully caption and subtitle your social media videos.

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Captions & subtitles are crucial to a social media video strategy

The above statistic comes from Digiday, an online portal for digital media, marketing and advertising professionals, and it has been widely quoted within the online marketing industry. It makes sense intuitively, since many people check their social media feeds on public transportation, in restaurants, at work, or in other situations where the audio would be intrusive. However, according to Facebook Business in 2016, 41% of videos on their platform don’t make sense without the sound, which is why it's not surprising that videos with captions are watched 12% longer.

Online social media video with closed captioning and subtitling enabled. Caption with black background over image reads, "Native-speaker quality assurance professionals."

And of course, more and more video content is migrating to social media – both legacy content that’s getting repurposed, and new content created just for this growing audience. All these videos need captions and subtitles, and here’s what you need to know to get started on them.

1. Always caption your source videos

Captioning makes videos accessible to members of your audience who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It increases SEO on some platforms. And again, it’s crucial to video engagement in about half of the viewing scenarios.

In fact, most video hosting sites (including YouTube and Facebook) have speech-to-text auto-captioning features that users can trigger – and which sometimes don’t have great results, especially with brand and proprietary names. Thus, it’s crucial to source captions from a professional vendor like JBI Studios, to integrate with your video upload.

2. Plan for text-heavy videos – even ones without voice-over

Social media videos are so prevalent, and the need for them to work without sound is so predominant, that a specific type of text-heavy video has become quite common in the last three years. You’ve probably seen them from publishers like UNILAD, LADbible, NowThis, Mic, Popsugar, or or even more traditional publishers like the New York Times, CNN, or The Atlantic, who are all aggressively targeting social media users.

These kinds of videos are hard to subtitle for two reasons. First, many of them don’t have any voice-over, so there’s really nothing to caption or subtitle – effectively, localizing relies on on-screen titles replacement. This may even be less cost-effective if the titles are design-heavy. Second, videos with titles that heavily mirror the VO may end up with too much text on-screen, making them hard-to-watch.

So what do you do? Be aware that these videos have different needs, and create a comprehensive multimedia localization plan for them. Have a video with titles that mirror the voice-over? Decide early on whether you’ll replace them with full design elements, or provide a simplified text track. Or, you could create videos with simpler titles for the localized versions to be more cost-effective. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you're responsive to the video's specific localization needs.

3. Keep translations succinct

This is a good tip for any subtitles translation, but especially for social media videos. Remember that the videos are seen on phones and tablets, with much smaller fonts. Stick to the character limits assiduously, and go shorter if possible. This is difficult for Romance languages especially – you’ll run into this issue with French and Spanish subtitling projects, for example. But readability will be crucial to video engagement.

4. Burn subs in for harder-to-read character sets

Non-Latin languages may be even more difficult to read – think of Arabic or Japanese subtitles, or any other right-to-left or double-byte character set. For these languages, consider open subs (burning the text to video), so that you have more control over font size and placement. This will require a stand-alone video for each language audience, so make sure to work close with your international marketing team on this decision.

5. Consider subtitles for the deaf-and-hearing impaired

This is a relatively recent usability standard, but subtitles for the deaf-and-hearing impaired (SDH) is a great deliverable for social media videos. Why? Because SDH makes videos accessible in a way that doesn’t require any of the audio to play – perfect for a “no-audio” foreign-language environment. Make sure to look at this option when localizing for social media.

Plan localization workflows during the initial production

Ultimately, remember that your captions and subs have to do three things – provide accessibility to the deaf-and-hearing impaired, provide translations to foreign-language audiences, and make the videos accessible in no-audio environments. And remember that videos may have already been created with the no-audio environment in mind, so that the caption or subtitle process will have to be amended to avoid over-translation, or even just too much text on the screen. For this reason, it’s imperative to discuss the localization workflow while the source videos are developed by your marketing team. This is a best practice in general, but with social media, advance planning is crucial to keeping projects on budget and timeline, and maximizing the videos’ reach across multiple platforms.

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Topics: Subtitles & Captions Video Translation

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