Should You Use Facebook’s Automatic Video Captioning Tool?
Updated: January 8, 2020
We’ve all known that fleeting sensation of disappointment — you’re scrolling through your mobile Facebook newsfeed on your commute and you encounter an interesting video that has no captions or subtitles.
Do you dare turn on the volume and risk annoying those seated nearby, or do you keep scrolling and risk never seeing that video ever again? Nobody wants to be in that situation.
Well, now there’s hope.
Facebook offers a free video captioning on all English-language Facebook pages in the US.
Because Facebook videos auto-play on mute, closed captions are instrumental in capturing viewers’ attention while scrolling down their news feed. Closed captions are also necessary to make videos accessible to people with hearing disabilities, learning or cognitive disabilities, or who are simply watching video in a sound-sensitive environment. Overall, captioning Facebook videos makes them more watchable.
Free but Imperfect
Free automated audio transcription is certainly a step in the right direction of making videos more enjoyable and accessible. But that doesn’t mean video producers and Facebook page admins are going to stop adding their own captions or subtitles any time soon.
If you haven’t experienced automatic captions yourself, try taking the #CaptionFail quiz and see if you can decipher them.
Are Your Captions Accurate?
For businesses trying to get viewers’ attention using online video, accurate captions are essential. Facebook’s research show that video captions increase view time by an average of 12%.
Inaccurate captions can be harmful to your company’s brand. They can drive viewers away from your video, prevent Deaf and hard of hearing viewers from fully understanding the content, and can lead to embarrassing spelling errors.
The Risk in Facebook Autocaptioning
Facebook’s automatic captioning option for an ad video looks like this:
An advertiser can choose to either personally review the captions for quality or outsource the task to Facebook. Either way, automatic captions are not expected to go live without careful review.
The problems here are quality control and hidden cost.
If you choose to have an employee review the captions, this costs you money. The person reviewing the captions will need to be trained in best practices, and time they spend reviewing captions could be spent on less tedious tasks.
Choose to hand the task off to an untrained contractor or an intern, and you’re more likely to have quality issues that could damage your reputation. (It only takes one type-o to make a #CaptionFail go viral.)
If you choose to let Facebook review your captions, you don’t have much control over quality.
Can you trust that they will be thorough in catching mistakes?
Are their caption editors native English speakers?
What is the recourse if something slips through the cracks?
Will you need to assign someone internally to perform QC reviews? (And what does that cost?)
These are all concerns to consider.
If You Want Accurate Captions…
Luckily, adding quality captions or subtitles to your Facebook videos is pretty easy.
First, you’ll need an SRT file which is the caption file format Facebook uses. It’s a simple text file that you can create on your own, or hire a professional captioning service to do it for you.
When you upload a video to your Facebook page, click Edit Video after the video has completed processing.
Where it says Captions, browse your computer for the SRT file, hit Save and — voilà! When you click on your video you’ll see a small ‘CC’ symbol indicating the option to turn on closed captions.
Download the full guide, A Beginner’s Guide to Accessible Social Media Videos + Checklist:
This blog post was originally published on January 7, 2017 by Patrick Loftus as”Facebook Adds Automatic Video Captioning Tool” and has since been updated.
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