According to a new study by Facebook, silence is golden – at least when it comes to video, that is.
In fact, a reported 85% of all video on the platform are watched without sound.
As a marketer, this is vital information to take note of. This article will focus on the recent study conducted by Facebook and why it’s so crucial to your marketing strategies, as well as how to implement silent video optimization for yourself.
What We’ll Cover:
- Why silent video works
- Why marketers are hesitant to adopt silent video
- How to optimize videos without sound
- Examples of silent videos that work
Video is fast becoming one of the most vital marketing strategies for any business with an online presence, due to the fact that video is simply more engaging to users than static images or links.
In fact, a recent study conducted on publishing techniques found that posts that include just links received on average about 571 shares. Posts with images earned far more, with 3,364 shares. And videos won the highest number of shares with an average of 4,036.
But it’s not enough to just have a video anymore. The key now is silence.
Facebook and other social media platforms have been inundated with video ads for several years now. In fact, nearly 8 billion videos are viewed every day on Facebook alone.
But did you know that nearly 85% of those videos occur without sound? That’s not to say that sound does not exist for most videos, but that most people choose to watch them without the sound turned on.
But why? Why would you watch videos without the sound?
Think about it. When do you typically find yourself scrolling through your Facebook feed? Is it on your way to work in the morning on a commuter train full of people? The lunch or break room where others are trying to unwind from the last few hours? Or maybe at home after dinner, while the family watches TV around you?
Silent Video Works
A recent Facebook study shows that the most popular times for people to scroll through Facebook and watch videos are when they are in very public places or under circumstances where loud or distracting noises are frowned upon.
None of these are ideal situations for loud ads to pop up on your phone, startling you and those around you. It’s the same reason most people keep their phone on silent throughout the day.
In fact, 80% of Facebook users say that when a video ad pops up, playing loudly, they “react negatively” to this noise and automatically think less of the brand attributed to the ad.
As a business owner or marketer, that is the last thing you want for your brand. However, you also don’t want to run the risk of being one of the 41% of videos that are “basically meaningless without sound” either.
And that is precisely why Facebook says, “Advertisers should take this into account when creating video ads, making sure their stories don’t require sound to communicate their message.”
According to Facebook’s study, it wasn’t just one or two publishers that recorded videos being watched in silence 85% of the time. Multiple sites all had similar results, such as the millennial news site Mic. They average about 150 million monthly Facebook views, and 85% of those 30-second views are done without sound.
PopSugar said between 50% and 80% of all their video views were completed in silence. And Little Things, a feel-good lifestyle and DIY website with around 150 million monthly Facebook views so far this year, found that 85% of those occurred without the users’ volume being on.
And it even works for branded content. MEC North America reported that branded videos from its clients are watched 85-90% of the time in silence.
The simple fact is that silent video works.
As Director of Experience at GSD&M, Rye Clifton says, “Sound is still an option (on Facebook), but it’s not required. If you can make something compelling without needing people to turn the audio on, you’re ahead of people who are not thinking that way.”
Why Isn’t Everyone Onboard With Silent Video?
Critics of silent video say that the prevalent use of it has caused several problems and they worry that it won’t convert users, primarily because it so widely used now. However, Facebook’s study proves otherwise.
If you scroll through your newsfeed at any given point, you will notice that most of the silent videos there pretty much have the same idea. They may talk about entirely different products or ideas, but the look and feel of them are the same.
First, as any good video should, they begin with eye-catching visuals that portray a message of some sort. The rest of the video then uses text overlay or captions to explain or expand on that message.
This fact gives many publishers pause in using the most common silent video tactics, fearing that their ad will get lost in the sea of millions that are just like them. However, it seems that this is an unsubstantiated fear.
Sure, many silent videos tend to have the same essential ingredients, but the fact is that they work. People stop and watch them anyway. Just look at the statistics of videos viewed in silence above for proof. And so, publishers will and should continue to produce these ads.
Another worry is that the silence in many videos allows consumers to not really engage with the brands. Sure, they watch them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually buying into the product or service, right?
But once again, evidence to the contrary has been supplied. MEC North America, for one, conducted an internal study showing that sound or the lack thereof did not affect business KPIs like intent to purchase and brand lift.
Noah Mallin, head of social for MEC North America, said it didn’t matter whether viewers watched their client’s videos with the sound on or off. Consumers still bought into or engaged with the brand at the same level.
How to Optimize for Silent Videos
To make your silent video work, most advertisers include some sort of text or captioning that narrates what is going in the video enough to get the point across to viewers. But it won’t matter what your message is if people don’t stop to watch it.
Chief Operating Officer for feel-good site Little Things Gretchen Tibbits says, “From day one, there pretty much has been the psychology that you have to catch their attention immediately. For Facebook, that means within the first three seconds, as that is the time required to count as a view.
This means you have no more than three seconds to grab your audience’s attention and convince them to stick around to watch your video. And that task becomes even more complicated with most people watching without the sound, it means “the video also has to be designed to capture attention without needing sound,” as Tibbits says.
Without the added information that sound brings to your viewers, you have to make sure your video, including those first critical three seconds, is of excellent visual quality.
Here are some great ideas to make sure your video ads can compete in a silent but aggressive environment.
Focus on Engaging Visuals
Without sound, the only sense your users can rely on is sight. Therefore, your visual effects need to be spot-on and as engaging as possible.
You will need to incorporate color (or the dramatic lack thereof), movement, and images that grab attention. A clip of some guy talking, even if there are subtitles provided, doesn’t always work. Make viewers want to stop and watch your ad all the way through.
Also, keep in mind that nearly 65% of Facebook videos are viewed on a mobile device. This means that the screen the video is being seen on is fairly small. So, images and visual effects need to be even more captivating.
Plan Ahead and Create a Script
In this day and age, organic and natural is all the rage, and I’m not just talking about food.
People want to feel like your video is real and authentic, not something drummed up and pre-scripted. However, that doesn’t mean you should just go out there and shoot your scenes on the fly or without a lot of prior planning.
Shooting without sound makes it extra challenging to capture interest and get your point across. You will need to think about precisely what the story is you want to tell, and how to get it across sans sound.
An excellent way to do this is to write out a script of sorts, or at least a rough one. Then, break it down into the most visual elements possible, making the story as clear as possible.
You may find that you still need to use some sort of text or wording to make it all fit together. And that’s fine. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of room to do this without cramping the space on the screen or competing with your images.
Think About Adding Text
Facebook says that people watch videos with captions 12% longer than they will with ads that do not include captions. This means it is critical you find some way to narrate your ad using text.
Whether it’s captions, subtitles, text overlays, or some other use of language, text lets you ensure that your message is seen even if it isn’t heard.
Add Music or Sound Effects
Now, you may think this seems a little contradictory to our topic. After all, you just put a lot of hard work into making a soundless video, right?
But the fact is that some people still want to watch their videos with sound. And some will watch them first without and then later when they are in a less public space, will watch them again with sound.
This means that while your video doesn’t have to incorporate specific sounds or ear-catching effects, sound can’t be completely forgotten about either.
Some publishers have tried to put out videos without any noise whatsoever, and it has backfired on them. Viewers typically think something is wrong with the video, making your company look bad. Or worse yet, they believe their speakers aren’t working.
The simple solution is to just add some interesting and related music. Something that pairs well with your message but doesn’t overpower it. Or, you can use some playful sound effects to draw emphasis to certain parts of your ad.
Examples of Silent Videos that Work
BuzzFeed gets millions of viewers each month from their Tasty channel, which is known for its short but informational how-to recipe videos.
What makes their videos so eye-catching and watchable, regardless of sound, is not just the delicious-looking food.
It’s also the way the video is put together and scripted. The silent video, with fun music in the background for that do want sound, gives viewers all the instructions they need to replicate the food, complete with short text overlays that list the ingredients to use.
You don’t need sound to understand how to cook these treats/meals or experience how tasty they will be.
The Weather Channel
In this video from The Weather Channel, beautiful images of both people and the environment are shown with large text overlay to let you know that every time you check the forecast through them, they will donate clean water to areas in need.
The video is filled with images of people using clean water from all over the world, and it doesn’t take sound for you to see just how important having this resource is for most people.
Another excellent technique for silent video is using time-lapse.
This allows the advertiser to show users complicated or time-consuming ideas in a short amount of time. Lowe’s uses this to their advantage in this silent video, allowing potential consumers to visually see how easy it is to give your home some much-needed curb appeal.
While the average user will miss the small steps, most know that they can go to the home improvement store’s website to get all the nitty-gritty details needed to complete these DIY projects for themselves.
It doesn’t take a pair of ears to learn that Lowe’s has everything you need, including detailed instructions and ideas to make your home better than ever.
In this silent video, Tech Insider has paired bright and clean images of a new electric smart bike that folds and locks for extra security while you are away.
The images make it clear that the bike is easy to ride, and the video uses short captions to let you know important information such as how many speeds it has, or long it will last on a single charge.
The video is eye-catching right from the get-go, easy to understand, and engaging throughout, making it likely that users will stick around to watch—with or without sound. And you can see that 5.1 million have already stopped to do just that.
When it comes to wild visual elements, this one does not disappoint.
Right off the bat, your eyes are exposed to ideas so far-fetched that the average Facebook user is going to want to stick around to find out what, exactly, is happening.
This video, unlike some of our others, does include quite a bit of talking by Prince Charming, but Squatty Potty has cleverly used captions so you don’t miss a word.
It’s proof that even ads with lots of words and talking can be useful and viewed many, many times if given the right visuals.
Hotels.com is one of the best when it comes to getting its point across through silent videos. In fact, one of their videos won the 2016 Shorty Award for Best Use of Facebook.
This one makes the idea of booking a room with them something of a fairy tale, complete with creatures from another world and inspired one of Hollywood’s top producers. No sound is needed to recognize just how exciting a stay booked by Hotels.com could be.
Another one of the greats when it comes to silent video is Allbirds.
But instead of going for full-on videos, Allbirds takes advantage of visuals by turning its ads into animated GIFs.
In doing so, the shoe brand combines quick visuals with small movements to get its point across.
Take, for example, this short GIF. There’s not a whole lot happening, but based on the visual alone, users can tell that Allbirds is pointing out the extreme comfort its shoes are known for.
Wrapping Up Silent Video
If you want to get ahead of the marketing videos posted on Facebook and other social media platforms, then you need to make your videos are optimized for silence. User behavior drives marketing, and right now, that behavior says silence is a must-have for your Facebook video ads.
As says Nicolas Papas, CEO of SwellShark says, “As a paid advertising channel, (Facebook) works sometimes, but it’s so important to have creative that meets the criteria of the platform — otherwise it can be a waste of money.”
It would be a shame to spend money on advertising that doesn’t work. So put these new silent video tactics to work for you to increase your views and make sure you can compete with the best of the best.