Last month, Facebook announced a new feature—automated video captions. The company’s employees have been hard at work transcribing 50,000 video ads to train the new captioning tool to be as accurate as possible.

If you’re an advertiser, and you’re not ready to trust an automated caption copywriter, you’ll have the opportunity to review and edit the captions in the ad creation tool before you post the ad.

It’s not difficult to guess why Facebook considers captions important. Audio off is the default for auto play for video ads. When you scroll through your Facebook news feed, you typically watch video without the sound.

As an advertiser, you need to ensure you communicate your message, even with the sound off. Many advertisers don’t bother. When announcing the new caption feature, Facebook referenced a study that found “41 percent of videos were basically meaningless without sound.”

How advertisers can communicate their message in silent Facebook video ads

There are many ways to use silent video effectively as a marketing tool. To demonstrate a few approaches, we created a silent video about silent video (yes, very Meta). And just like the silent pictures of the early 20th century, this version has a simple music soundtrack.

Video Transcription
Wasn’t that great? I’m here with Janine Harris today from Keyring Media and I’m so glad because I have all these questions about silent video and how to produce them.

Q: Janine, what kinds of video particularly lend themselves to the silent treatment?
I think this format is great for teaching you how to do a step-by-step process … like making a cake or how to knit, as long as you can see the story being told just through the visual. It’s also great for showing something off like a product that does something really neat. We see that a lot. Plus VINE is a great medium for silent videos where a problem is solved, like how to remove a stripped screw, solving problems, things like that.

Q: Are there any types of video that should never be silent?
No sound is great for showing a product’s credibility but not so good for showing a persons’ credibility. So anytime you need to communicate expertise, you probably want some sound. If a product or subject matter requires explanation, you’re probably better off to have sound. If all you are doing is making someone read captions on the screen instead of talking to them, then you are doing them a disservice.

Q: Do you think marketers will start producing videos without any sound at all? Or will they start by producing something with sound, then strip that sound out for Facebook?
I think these kinds of videos need to be produced very intentionally. I don’t think you can simply strip off sound and have the same effect

Q: What particular challenges are there to producing an effective silent video?
You want to know what parts of the process need more explanation, that aren’t so obvious with just the visuals. That’s where you’ll have captions to help tell the story. You want to be clear and concise, and plan accordingly.

Q: What about captions? What suggestions do you have to help people write them effectively?
Keep them short and quick to read. You don’t want to have a novel on screen. If it requires more than 2 lines of text, you should probably speak it.

Q: What are the key questions marketers should ask themselves before they start a silent video production?
Start by asking, “What’s the goal?” Make sure this format will help accomplish your objective. If you want to educate people on how to use your product to make a cake, and it can be done in 5-8 steps with easy explanations in text, proceed. If it takes 20 steps, lots of captions and doesn’t look pretty while it’s all happening, then consider a different approach.

Thanks for sharing this information with us today.

Everything Old is New Again

It’s been more than a century since silent pictures graced the screens of movie theaters across North America. After ‘talkies’ launched in the 1920s to widespread acclaim, who would have predicted that silent video would ever make a comeback?

Yet, if you want to ensure your audience understands the message in your Facebook video ads, you’ll need to take time to consider how your ads play without sound.

When you create Facebook ads for your brand, do you take steps to ensure your video works well without sound? Let us know more about your approach in the comments.