When it comes to videos on Facebook, there’s new research from multiple video publishers that shows that up to 85% of viewers keep the sound off while watching videos. This is critical information for marketers, because it means that to be successful, your Facebook video must deliver content that’s accessible without sound.
The research comes from Littlethings and Mic, both of which average 150 million monthly views on Facebook. On both, 85% of viewership watches video without sound.
In addition, Popsugar, one of the top 300 sites in America, reports that its Facebook silent video views range between 50 and 80 percent.
I’m guessing you’re not surprised by these numbers - because watching Facebook videos with the sound turned off is something we all do, all the time. Whether we’re at work and don’t want everyone to know what videos we’re watching, or we just don’t want to click the button to turn on the sound, watching videos soundlessly is the fastest, easiest and most private way to access Facebook video content.
What does Facebook say?
Facebook exhaustively studies viewers’ behavior around video. In its best practices for video, Facebook explicitly recommends that videos communicate their story both with AND without sound.
Here’s another alarming fact. In one Facebook study, 41% of videos were basically meaningless without sound.
You read that correctly. Nearly half of all Facebook videos have no meaning if they're played without sound - which is how most people view Facebook videos.
Put another way, an awful lot of Facebook videos are a complete waste of production dollars.
That’s the ugly, ugly truth. You can invest in beautiful Facebook videos, but if your story isn’t comprehensible without sound, you’ve wasted your money.
How do you make your videos accessible without sound?
There are a couple ways to do this. The first, and best, is to add onscreen text that’s clear and eye-catching. You want to make absorbing your story as easy as possible.
Take a look at this 19-second Facebook video we created for Traveling Vineyard, one of our clients.
Note the branded font and background color, as well as the eye-catching visuals. The CTA at the end is clickable on Facebook through Wistia hosting.
The other way to make your Facebook video content accessible is to upload captions.
Just like adding closed captions on YouTube or other hosting platform, you’ll create a transcript, and then an .srt file that you’ll upload.
Your captions will then appear as small text inside a black box at the bottom of your video. You’ll find directions here.
Facebook has also announced that it plans to start auto-captioning video. Why? Because Facebook knows that captions keep people engaged longer.
"Captions are a way to tell someone who's in a sound-off environment what the video is about quickly. What we've seen in some of our internal tests is adding captions actually increased view time by an average of 12%," said Matt Idema, VP-monetization product marketing at Facebook, as quoted in Ad Age.
Don’t get all excited about auto-captions, though. Speech-to-text isn’t perfect – especially if the speaker has an accent. Using auto-caption instead of uploading your own captions has the potential to garble your message and damage your brand.
Not only must your Facebook video be engaging and eye-catching – it must also communicate its story without sound.
Use onscreen text or captions to make sure the 85% of viewers who will watch your video without sound can absorb your message – or else you’re wasting your Facebook video dollars.