Caption This: Captioning Explained
Captioning might seem like a small deal. It’s understandable that most people think that, seeing as captioning has always been such a little piece of the media puzzle.
Since photos were first printed, captions helped readers understand the particulars of an image. Most people didn’t read them, few people cared about them.
Captioning plays a different role now, however. Print and social media are two entirely different beasts. The role of captioning for videos on social media is an extremely valuable one for a couple of reasons. Before we get into the fine details, we should specify what kind of captions we’re talking about.
Video captions could be mistaken to mean subtitles or closed-captioning. We’re referring to straight-forward Instagram captioning that’s created with the post.
So, why is that straight-forward captioning so important?
People Are in Routines
Ok, a lot of people are in routines. It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about the entire population, but that’s what advertisers do in order to reach the largest amount of people. It’s alright to make assumptions about consumer behavior if consumer behavior in one platform or another is largely the same.
The routines we’re referring to have to do with habits of clicking on similarly crafted posts. Whether it’s the language used, imagery, branding, or something else, users tend to stay in their niche when it comes to content consumption.
Captioning allows you to distinguish yourself as a member of specific niches as well as refine your brand identity in that niche. In other words, when people read your caption, even if it doesn’t say a lot specifically, they will be able to glean a lot about you and your brand.
Just like search engines, social media sites run with the use of highly-refined algorithms.
Algorithms use metrics like keywords, hashtags, social signals, and more to determine which pieces of content should show up on your feed. Captioning is one of the ways that you can introduce hashtags and keywords into the content to make it more likely to come up.
Additionally, a well-formed caption will draw attention to the content when it’s in the feed. That way, people will be attracted to the content, watch it, like it, and share it.
Those metrics all do wonders for your ability to show up in more and more social media feeds.
Context and Application
So, captioning is important. But how do we do it in a way that’s conducive to our goals? Many businesses and site owners don’t have a good grasp of how captioning can be used to achieve your measures of success.
It’s important to remember that the caption is the first thing people see about your video. Even if they barely look at it, the caption is going to give them a good deal of information about what to expect.
In the early stages, the caption should serve to attract and frame the content. Attracting users is the simple idea of making them desire to watch the video.
Framing the content is a little more complicated. It’s the process of “priming the pump,” so to speak. This might entail using a powerful quote from the video, commenting on the value of something in the video, or informing users about something that the video represents.
It’s kind of like putting a can of sparkling water in front of someone and whispering “lemon” before they take their first sip. It’s going to frame their mind to be more aware of the lemon and maybe even taste it more intensely.
What’s Your goal?
Your goal is probably something like achieving sales or more brand awareness.
That goal is certainly incorporated into your video creation, and that’s the more important piece. At the same time, the caption does fit into the process of users working toward your success metrics.
Let’s say that your goal is to achieve sales.
Your video plays out with a call to action suggesting that users visit your site to learn more about a particular product or service. Users can’t click a link right from the video in most cases and they don’t want to hunt down your website.
Sure, it’s not difficult to follow the brand’s link back to a bio and find the link to the actual product pages, but people don’t necessarily want to do that these days.
Include the product link in your bio so that users have immediate access to the product. Each successive step that they take toward hunting your page down, the less likely they are to make a purchase.
That’s just one example. It’s important that you think through your goal and identify the captioning method that makes it most simple for users to come through and get conversions.
Framing Language to Reach Your Goal
Aside from including links in your caption, you’ll need to use your words in a way that has an impact.
It’s important to be specific and direct as opposed to rhetorical. Some brands might do well with rhetorical, vague captioning but this is not usually the case.
It depends on your goal as well. Let’s use two examples– one with the goal of brand awareness and one with the goal of sales.
The brand awareness company and the sales company both have the same piece of content. It’s a video of a man whose pants keep falling down.
The brand awareness’ caption is “This guy can’t catch a break! Check out our page for more videos like this.” The sales’ caption is “Poor guy. Should have thought to buy our new line of suspenders and this wouldn’t have happened.”
“New line of suspenders” would be linked to the suspender product page. These are simple examples of ways to frame language, and you’ll want to get more creative with the phrases you use.
Audience and Word Choice
Another thing to keep in mind is that your target demographic will respond differently to particular kinds of language. If you’re using words and phrases that don’t resonate with your target audience, you’re not going to see a lot of success.
Sites like Instagram have extremely niche-specific forms of captioning and communicating. You can tell this by using any one of your friends’ Instagram accounts for ten minutes. Each person exists in a slightly different version of social media.
This is because social media is created to cater directly to the user. Your friends, interests, and activities online will serve to sculpt your online experience. The algorithm uses those metrics to place content that you will enjoy in front of you. This means that the language you find on your friends’ social media accounts will be different than yours.
Even if you are pretty much the same as your friends, you’ll find that they have a different experience online. Those small differences among friends are stratified across our society, leaving different groups of people with vastly different social media worlds and modes of communication.
How Are You Keeping Up?
With that last piece in mind, you should be doing your research on who your target demographic is and how they caption and hashtag on social media. It won’t be too hard to get a feel for what sort of language and captioning you should use.
At the same time, it might take improvement of your critical eye. Most of us use social media to consume and enjoy our phones for a little while. You’ll have to break out of that mindset and look at captions in a more critical light.
Instead of taking in the content, break down the captions of successful sites and see what they have in common. What sort of language are they using and how long are their sentences? What sort of links do they have in their captions and how are they framing language to draw users?
While most captions seem natural, easily thought-up, and simple, you’ll find that successful posts are carefully calculated works of art.
Need Something to Caption?
We hope that that you will now be able to caption this or that post with a little more confidence than you had before.
If you’re sitting on all of this video captioning knowledge without any videos to caption, though, that should change. Contact us to learn more about the value of video creation and how it can work for you.