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3 reasons why captions for Stories, Reels and IGTV are a must

May 10, 2021
Kyra Goodman

Accessibility isn’t just about catering for the deaf or blind. There are many other reasons why people may rely on video captions, subtitles and transcripts.

Only 60% of Instagram Stories are viewed with sound, and (in 2016, at least) up to 85% of Facebook videos are viewed without sound.So before you start to sweat over your audio hook, remember:The majority of your audience won't even hear it.Instead of focusing on your soundtrack and matching your videography to the beat, here's what you should be focusing on instead:Captions.And here's why...

Captions are for everyone

Captions for videos are like turning stairs into ramps. Everyone can use them.For those who have visual or auditory impairments, captions provide content and context.So instead of:

  • Trying to lipread on a handheld screens
  • Listening to poorly generated AI alt text descriptions
  • Wondering what's going on and why

You're inviting this audience to enjoy your content without struggling.And for your non-impaired viewers?They lose nothing, and gain some.Captions (very, very rarely) get in the way of key visuals.And they also give you an awesome opportunity...

Captions are a great visual hook

Like a killer headline can make clicking irresistible, captions can make watching inevitable.Think about it this way:Your captions, whether they're seen on autoplay or as Stickers on Insta, are another chance at a headline.And it's likely the first thing your audience will see.No matter how talented you are as a visual marketer, it's harder to inspire curiosity with an image than it is with text.However, when you combine an intriguing image with provocative text...Well, that's when your video becomes a must-see.So when you're creating your captions, think about them as another chance to get your audience hooked on your content.Because you might actually be scaring away your audience without them...

Captions make viewing possible all the time

Most marketers, social media and otherwise, know a bit about their audience.What they like to view, when they like to view, how old they are and so on.But do you know where your audience is when they're viewing your videos?If you're seeing your most popular viewing time as between 7-8 in the morning, there's a good chance they might be taking public transport.'So what? They'll have headphones!'Will they? Also, will they want to hear your soundtrack or voice before they've had their coffee?If your audience contains a lot of new parents, how prepared are you to wake their babe they've just put to sleep so you can show off a hot soundtrack?Unlikely.And for those who wake up at 2am and can't go back to sleep, but don't want to wake up their partner?Bingo. Captions.Captions solve for environmental accessibility, making you a safe viewing choice for your audience.

How to include captions in your Stories, Reels, and IGTV

Now that we know all of the benefits of adding captions to your videos, let's talk about how to add them to your content.

Adding captions to Stories

Instagram finally launched a built-in captions feature but it's only currently for Stories. Here’s how you can easily add captions to your Stories. Step 1: Open Instagram and start your Story like normal.Step 2: Record your video or upload one that you've already taken.Step 3: Click the stickers button in the top tool bar.

Screenshot of Instagram Story showing the top bar at the top of the page with a red arrow pointing to the stickers button.

Step 4: Click captions and it will transcribe your audio.

Screenshot of Instagram stickers available in Instagram Stories with a red circle around the Captions sticker.

Step 5: Click on the text and all of the words will pop up and you can correct any typos or grammar errors from the transcription. Click Done in the top right corner when you've made your changes.

Screenshot of the Instagram story captions feature text expanded to show the feature where users can edit the text of the transcription.

Step 6: Scroll through the different styles to choose which one you like.

Screenshot of an Instagram Story with captions with a red arrow on the bottom of the screen pointing to the different text style options.

Step 7: Click the color wheel in the top to change the color of the text. You can select from their color options or use the dropper tool to match to a color on your screen.

Screenshot of Instagram story captions feature showing the different text color options on the bottom of the screen.
Screenshot of an Instagram Story using the captions feature with a red arrow pointing to a color wheel on the top of the screen showing users how to change the color of their captions text.

Step 8: Move the text around so it's not covering any important parts of the video by dragging it with one finger. Make the text bigger or smaller by pinching in or out with two fingers. Add any other stickers or designs and post away!

Adding captions to Reels

Instagram recently announced that they are working to release a similar Captions feature for Reels, but that hasn’t happened yet. So until then you have a couple easy-ish options:

  1. Record your videos in Stories and caption them there or
  2. Use the Reels text feature to type out and time your text manually

Option 1: The Stories option is probably the easiest and fastest way to add captions to your Reels. Here's how to use it.Step 1: Record or add your video as if you're doing a regular Story. Add your captions by following the same steps as above.Step 2: Instead of posting to your Story, save the Story to your device by clicking the save button. Instagram will save the video to your phone, captions and all.

Screenshot of Instagram Story with captions with a red arrow pointing to the save button in the top tool bar.

Step 3: Create a new Reel as you normally would and add the video that was saved to your device. Click add and you're ready to post!

Screenshot of an Instagram Reel using a saved video that already had captions on it from using a saved video from an Instagram Story.

Option 2: If you don't like the style of the built in Story captions or you don't have a lot of audio to transcribe, you can use the Reels text feature to make your own captions. The animated text feature works well for captions or you can just add regular text and change the duration that the text is on the screen. Step 1: Start your Reel like normal and either add videos from your camera roll or record your video on the spot. Click the right arrow.

Screenshot of an Instagram Reel in the process of being made. A video has been added and a red arrow points to the arrow that takes the user to the next page of editing the Reel.

Step 2: Click the text button (Aa) in the top menu bar and start typing out what you’re saying in the video.

Screenshot of making an Instagram Reel with a red arrow pointing to the text function on the top of the tool bar.

Step 3: Change the color of your text by clicking the color wheel in the top and selecting from the options or using the dropper tool to match color on from your video. Change the font style by clicking the A with stars in the top and sliding through the options in the bottom bar. Or make the text animated by clicking the A with two lines in the top.

Screenshot of editing an Instagram Reels with red arrows pointing to the options for changing the text color, text style and animated text.

Step 4: Move the text around so it's not covering any important parts of the video by dragging it with one finger. Make the text bigger or smaller by pinching in our out with two fingers.Step 5: Set the duration and timing of your captions. When do you want them to appear on screen? How long should they be up there. To do that, click on the text bubble on the bottom of the screen. It'll bring up a slide bar. Drag the bars on either side to set when the text will appear and disappear.

Screenshot of editing an Instagram Reel with a red arrow pointing to the tool to change the duration of the text.
Screenshot of editing a Reel with two red arrows pointing to how to change the duration of the Reel

If you have more than one text element, you'll do the same process for each so that you can control the duration of each one and make it look more natural with one appearing after the other. Tip: Don’t add the text of the entire video in one giant paragraph because it's really hard to read that way. Try to space it out to a sentence or two at a time and have them appear one after the other.Option 2 definitely takes more time if you have a lot to say but you have a little more control over the timing and style.

Adding captions to IGTV

Instagram has also added an automated captions feature for IGTV. Here's the step by step.Step 1: Turn on the auto-captioning feature. Go to your profile, click the three lines in the top right corner and click Settings then click Account.

Screenshot of Instagram settings with a red arrow point towards the settings button
Screenshot of Instagram Settings with a red arrow pointed towards the Account part of settings.

Step 2: Click Captions and make sure to toggle on auto-generated captions and select the default language. When auto-generated captions are on, the button will show blue like this.

Screenshot of Instagram account settings with a red arrow pointed at the captions settings.
Screenshot of Instagram captions settings showing the auto-caption button toggled on and the default language as English.

Step 3: You also have to make sure to turn on the auto-captions when you're uploading your individual IGTV videos. So start your IGTV video like normal, choose your cover image and then you'll get to this page. Click on Advanced Settings.

Screenshot of an IGTV upload page with a red circle around the Advanced Settings button.

Step 4: Toggle on the Auto-Generated Captions button. When they are on, the button will be blue. Click Done in the top right corner and post away.

Screenshot of IGTV advanced settings showing that auto-captions are toggled on.

Your auto-generated captions will appear as black and white text at the bottom of your screen like this.[caption id="attachment_19056" align="alignnone" width="1024"]

Image showing two phones with IGTV videos on them displaying black and white and captions on the screen.

Source: Instagram[/caption]The only problem with the Instagram auto-captions is that you can't edit the text. Instagram uses automatic speech recognition technology which means the transcription isn't always spot on. Accuracy will improve if you speak clearly and limit background noise but if you want to have more control over your IGTV captions, you can caption them outside of the app or use a third party captioning service like Rev.

The benefit of quality transcriptions

If you're not a fan of your channels' captions generation tech, you can use services like Rev or Otter.ai.And there's a few good reasons to:

  • Less time spent editing (aka listening to recordings in slow-motion to make sure every word was captured correctly)
  • Extending your content (you can turn your captions into posts, quotes, articles etc)
  • Better discoverability (search still relies on text, so the clearer your text, the more discoverable you'll be)

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