How to Caption Videos for Social Media

02 Captioning Videos for Social Media on Basic Editing Software (like iMovie)_emily kay stoker_blog header.jpg

Subtitles and captions... they can seem like more technical details when it comes to video campaigns & content marketing strategy, but they can be really important in making your video engaging.

You may have heard people before saying that you need to make sure you include subtitles in your videos, but here’s some more info on the reasons behind doing this, and how to save yourself some time when you do it.

Subtitling with simple editing software such as iMovie can be tricky, since usually only more advanced editors like Premiere Pro or DaVinci include functionalities that allow you to generate captions within the software itself. But I've got a trick for you that'll speed up your time creating subtitles or captions if your editing suite doesn't have the capability to generate captions.

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Subtitles are a great idea if you’re creating video for social media platforms where people are likely to be scrolling, as they may not have (or want to have) their audio turned on. In this case, subtitles are a great way to make sure that your audience can follow your story when there is dialogue involved. Let's not forget helping out our hearing-impaired friends, too!

Another instance where subtitles can be a great decision, is when you have a video that you need to distribute in more than one language. Of course it’s almost always easier to engage an audience by including dialogue in their own language, but for whatever reason, sometimes this isn’t an option, and this is where subtitling comes in.

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Creating subtitles for your video can be time-consuming. Here is my favourite trick for quickly creating subtitles for numerous social media platforms that should save you some time transcribing!

1. Upload your video to YouTube as a private video. Even if your final video will have a different format or export settings, export a temporary version that you can upload to YouTube for this step.

2. Find your auto-generated captions for the video by going to your YouTube Studio > Videos > Select (your video name) > Transcriptions. You'll see your auto-generated captions there.

3. Now click on where it says "published" next to the auto-generated captions to enter into the editing screen.

4. Select "edit" at the top right of the screen, and correct any mistakes on the auto-generated captions by typing your corrections in the left-hand window. Make sure they appear at the correct timecode by watching the video back on this screen, too.

5. If you’re only uploading to YouTube and you don’t need to translate into other languages, then your job is done here! Remember to save your changes by clicking "Publish Edits".

If you’re using the subtitles for another platform…
6. When you have saved your caption edits on YouTube, stay on the same screen and click on the "actions" button, then select ".srt" to download an srt file of your auto-generated captions. (This is one of the industry standard formats to work with captions and subtitles)

7. If you need to upload the subtitles in more than one language, save a second copy of the original .srt file and translate each phrase on the document in a program like “Text Edit” or “Word Pad” (right click on the file, select "Open with" and select your preferred program). Remember to respect the format of the file (where page breaks occur etc.). These files can be uploaded to your video on YouTube, Facebook and more!

Option A) If you’re using the subtitles for a native Facebook video…

- Once your video is uploaded on Facebook, click on "videos" along the left menu on your Facebook page to manage your videos. Select the video you want to upload your subtitles to by clicking on it.

- Click on the three dots at the bottom right of your video, and select "edit video".

- A pop-up edit window should appear. Click on "Subtitles & Captions" on the right menu of this window.

- Select which language your video is in at the top.

- Delete the automatic captions (third field on the pop-up window).

- Go to your .srt file and if your video is in English, add ".en_US" before the .srt (e.g. "" should become ""). If your video is in another language, continue with the following steps below and Facebook will inform you of the correct suffix to add to your video.

- Where it says "add new captions" back on the edit window of your Facebook video, select "upload" and choose your .srt file.

- Repeat above steps if uploading subtitles in more than one language.

- Remember to save your changes!

Option B) If you’re using the subtitles for any video type on Instagram (or another platform where you cant upload an srt file)…

- Unfortunately Instagram doesn’t currently offer you the option to upload .srt files directly. But your .srt file includes the exact phrases and time codes for your subtitles, so open the .srt file in Word Pad or Text Editor (by right clicking and selecting "open with" > choose your preferred program).

- Copy each phrase, and paste the text at the corresponding timecode directly on your preferred video editor and format it as easy-to-read text at the bottom of the frame before exporting.

And that's it! It may seem like a lot, but once you've done it once, you'll get the hang of it, and particularly on longer videos this will save you a lot of time from transcribing your videos manually!

Did you find this tip useful? Have an idea for a future blog post?
Let me know in the comments!