The Sound of Silence… on Facebook

They always say that everything old can be made new again. On Facebook, we’re jumping back to the 1920s. One of the newest developments on the social platform is the rise of silent video. Before we cue Charlie Chaplin and bring back silent films of the early 20th century, let’s dig into the trend.

Hand holding smartphone with mute sound during concert

In a recent blog post, Facebook revealed some interesting information about viewers’ video-watching habits. According to the social platform, users watched more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day. To add to that, Digiday reported that as many as 85 percent of Facebook video views are silent.

Within the last couple of years, Facebook made videos autoplay in a user’s newsfeed – silently.

And that’s probably because Facebook also found that “when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 (percent) react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser.”

One of the first brands that took advantage of Facebook’s silent autoplay videos was Hotels.com. The company poked fun at the system by creating a Facebook video ad that included subtitles and featured its mascot, Captain Obvious playing the piano. One of the subtitles is as follows: “Ads autoplay silently on Facebook, which is good for you because I don’t know how to play the piano.”

Captain Obvious Blog Image

If you listen to the video with the sound on, it’s clear that Captain Obvious, indeed, does not know how to play the piano. But with the sound off, most people wouldn’t recognize this if it weren’t communicated through the subtitles, adding a bit of humor to the video.

With Facebook’s autoplay video feature, whether users are in line at the grocery store, sitting on public transportation or even at work – Facebook knows that people don’t want to be blasted with the sudden start of audio from a video – especially an ad.

To combat this, Facebook has built a system in which videos can be watched without turning up the volume. The new, built-in tool allows brands to add captions to their videos. Facebook also encourages brands to “mak(e) sure their stories don’t require sound to communicate their message.”

Facebook’s blog also mentioned that “according to independent Fors-Marsh tests, people can recall mobile News Feed content after seeing it for only a quarter of a second. The value of your video ad—whether you’re measuring ad recall, brand awareness, or sales—happens quickly and increases with duration. Facebook found with Nielsen that up to 47 (percent) of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds, while up to 74 (percent) of the value was delivered in the first (10).”

Did you catch that? Facebook encourages brands to communicate their basic messages within the first three seconds of a video ad. That sounds tough, but there are some companies that have done this well. For instance, take a look at this A.1. Steak Sauce video.

Again, even without sound, the video is amusing and keeps viewers’ attention.

Another great example is this video from NowThis.

It’s not shocking that this new technique works. Facebook reported that “internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12 (percent).”

It goes without saying (pun intended) that videos with less dialogue and better visuals will perform better on Facebook. And if you want to take them up a notch, add captions.

The next time you’re scrolling through your Newsfeed, take note of how interesting videos are. Most probably capture your attention within the opening scenes. These new parameters open up a new channel for creativity. We’re looking forward to the results!

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