So, how can subtitles (or closed captions) really make a difference to audience engagement with your videos in 2019?
Obviously, having subtitles is essential for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. Subtitles allow them to access and engage with your content in a way similar to those viewers without impairment, to find out why your product or service is the best and what action they should take to find out more.
You can either have subtitles hardcoded into your original video file, or if you’re uploading direct to YouTube, create machine-generated captions automatically. However, watch for errors! Editing is almost always required. [A good technique is actually to read your subtitles out loud to make sure that they make sense.] You can also create your own captions directly on YouTube - you’ll just need to produce a transcript of your video first and then sync that with your footage [YouTube Help has some advice on how best to do this].
By the same token, it’s always useful to provide short captions for the videos or images you share on social media as well, briefly explaining what they depict. Blind or visually impaired users with screen readers rely on these descriptions and it’s important to remember not all audiences experience content in the same way that you do. Side note, Facebook will automatically generate alternative text - or alt text - for you when uploading images or videos directly. Just make sure it’s an accurate reflection of your content! Twitter gives you the option to add your own alt text when sharing an image or video directly.
Subtitles can also be really useful for viewers who find themselves unable to watch your content with the sound on - perhaps because they’re commuting, they’re in a quiet setting, or they simply don’t want to! According to uscreen, 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute, while 2/3 Snapchat videos are played without sound. Subtitles can be a great way to peak user interest and encourage them to watch more attentively. A side effect of their real function, subtitles can really hook users into what you have to say and reinforce the points that you make in your video. Improving comprehension, they can make content clearer and more digestible (assuming you've heard of Huddersfield before...).
So, basically, next time you’ve got new video content to share, make sure you add subtitles and make it as easy to access and enjoy as possible.