In one of my final assessments at Deakin, I designed a fictional marketing campaign for Uber to address the issue of safety concerns with female passengers. In my critical reflection, I justified my strong use of visual cues through the proposed social media video I had storyboarded to a lack of audience who watch videos with sound. Throughout my work this year, the same statistic kept coming up in the analytics of my videos: less than 20% of audience members were watching with sound. However, this is no surprise given the nature of social media and how people use it.
At the Teaching and Learning Conference this year, my co-presenter, Dr Adam Brown, mentioned how the human attention span is now less than a goldfish and how it has been decreasing more and more over the digital age. Just think about how much time you spend on each post going through your social media feeds. If it doesn’t capture your attention in the quick glance, you’ll most likely keep scrolling. Even with autoplay content as a filmmaker it can be hard to capture your audience in this attention economy. While Facebook and Instagram videos do autoplay, they don’t play with sound. Of course, this is to avoid annoying users, popping people’s eardrums and ensuring users don’t fall victim to a prank without their opt-in on sound. However, this can lead to people continuing to watch videos without sound and perhaps missing out on critical information or the money you spent on a soundtrack.
So how can we as content creators take this information to create better videos or communicate better with our audience? There are a few different ways this problem of viewers watching without sound can be approached.
1 .Use titles or captions
Titles are a great way to provide context to a video. Both videos with or without a voiceover can benefit from this. A video with a voiceover or someone talking to the camera can capture viewers who are not in an environment where they can listen to audio (e.g. a noisy tram, in the quiet area of a library, or maybe your headphones are too tangled) by using captions. It allows for a viewer to read the information being present. It can also assist those watching with sound as to not mishear something and to reiterate the message. Just be sure to double check your captions if you use voice to text automation software.
Titles can be used on videos without voiceovers to provide context to what is happening with a video. If there was a video of some people in a park, the park shown could be mistaken for a number of parks which is concerning if you are trying to promote it. So titles can be an easy way of telling your audience where you are. They can also be used to communicate a message. If the aforementioned park video was to save it from being turned in a residential area, then without a title it could mistaken as a video to visit the park – which could be dirt by the time you get there.
Finally, I personally recommend making your titles interesting. The example below is a video that I recently made for the City of Melbourne. The use of titles conveys context and the message. I used very basic animation to make the titles interesting without detracting from the visuals.
2 . Use the speaker emoticons in your copy
Last year I was given some advice when it came to Twitter and running a Facebook page: use emoticons. They are a terrific vehicle to convey tone through textual communications. In addition, using emoticons can help your copy stand out in a social media feed. Our eyes are naturally drawn to colours and things that are different. In a sea of text and tweets that are simply black on white, the colours of the emoticons make them stick out to us while the range of different icons stand out as different amongst the language of letters.
Furthermore, in a microblogging environment such as Twitter, every character counts and an emoticon counts as one character. So instead of me writing “listen with sound” which is 17 characters with spaces I could just use the speaker emoticon which has become the universal symbol to tell your audience that audio is needed.
3 . Use visual cues
My background in Film Studies and Digital Communications has lead to my strong understandings of semiotics and more importantly how they can be used to convey story. Everyday we receive hundreds of messages and it is up to the human brain to decode them into understandable information. For example, Coca-Cola have ads where people are having fun with a bottle in their hand. This syntax of elements drives the message that Coca-Cola is fun.
In the example above, the video shows a group of friends leaving the football to go out. The opening shot of the iconic MCG is followed by a group of friends in footy gear. In these two shoots alone, there is a lot of unconscious understandings occurring in our heads. For instance, the fact that we start with a shot of the MCG establishes the location, as oppose to if it was closing shot, which would make it a destination. This is critical as the next shot shows the group walking away from where the ‘G was in the previous shot. When combined with how they are dressed, the subconscious breakdown of this edit equates to the reasoning that this group is leaving from a game.
In addition, it is assumed that these people know each other, most likely friends, by the way that they are interacting and laughing amongst one another. These are all reasonable assumptions that can be made within the first 8 seconds of the video. While these things may seem obscure and subtle, it’s the small things that make can contribute to making a video engaging without any audio at all.
These are just a few of my recommendations to combat against the issues faced in this attention economy. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to leave a comment below.