May 13, 2020

Why Your Videos Need to Work With No Sound (and How to Optimize for Silence)

Silent Video-Featured

Video marketing is easily the most powerful technique in the modern digital marketer's toolkit. As of 2019, the average internet user spent  6 hours and 48 minutes each week watching video content, and approximately  51 percent of marketers identify video as the content category that produces the best return on investment.

With all of this said, many video marketers are leaving money on the table by creating content that isn't optimized for silent viewing. Here's what all marketers, business owners and content creators need to know about why video should work without sound and how to optimize video content for silence.

Why Should You Plan for Silent Viewing?

Many people are understandably confused when they first hear that videos should be planned out with silent viewing in mind. After all, silent films went out in the 1920s, right? 

The reason for this push toward silent optimization can be summed up in a single word: Social. With more video views than ever coming from social media platforms that default to a muted experience, it is more important now than ever to accommodate these platforms. 

Facebook, the world's largest social media platform leaves video content muted by default, and between 83%–92% viewed on the site is watched without the viewer choosing to turn the audio on. As a result, creators have been  forced to adapt to an environment in which their videos have to perform on a purely visual basis, with sound being largely an afterthought.

How to Optimize Your Videos for Silence

Fortunately, Facebook's silent viewing default has been around long enough for a set of best practices to emerge for marketers using the platform. The following are some of the top tips you can use to ensure that your video content delivers the best possible experience for viewers who don't turn up their audio.

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Add subtitles

Adding subtitles to your video is the easiest, most direct way to make up for the lack of sound. This method works on all videos, even those that were originally created for platforms without a silent default. 

Subtitles are at their best when combined with other methods listed here, since they can help to add context and provide additional information once a viewer has become interested in a video.

Lead with a bold visual statement

When audio can't be depended upon to tell a story, you'll have to think in terms of visuals. Starting your ad with a  bold visual that captures the viewer's attention is a great technique since it will naturally lead to the viewer watching the rest of the video. 

Consider using either a video clip of some unusual action or an image with high contrast and deep color saturation that will stand out from the content and empty space surrounding it in a social media news feed.

Plan videos that are self-explanatory

Another useful strategy is to plan videos that largely explain themselves through the action shown on the screen without the need for audio. By showing the viewer exactly what you want him or her to take away from the video directly, you can circumvent the need for audio altogether. 

For inspiration on how to do this, take a look at old silent films, where actions, gestures and the facial expressions of actors were used to convey messages to the audience. These films told entire stories without anyone speaking a single word, and the basic techniques that allowed them to do that are still relevant today.

Use some animation

When you're trying to communicate ideas visually, animation can be your best friend. Animated characters and scenes can often convey ideas much more directly than live-action video. By incorporating animation into your video marketing campaigns, you can give viewers an engaging and entertaining experience, even if they never turn the sound up on your videos.

The Takeaway

By using these simple tips, your business can make the most of its marketing efforts on social media and leverage the full power of video as a promotional medium. Once you optimize your videos for silent viewing, you'll see higher engagement rates, longer watch times, better conversion rates and higher ROIs from your campaigns.

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Torrey Tayenaka

Torrey Tayenaka is the co-founder and CEO at Sparkhouse, an Orange County–based video production agency. He is often asked to contribute expertise in publications like Entrepreneur, Single Grain and Forbes. Sparkhouse is known for transforming video marketing and advertising into real conversations. Rather than...


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