In recent years, Facebook has become a powerful platform for posting, sharing, and watching videos. In fact, nowadays, people watch more than 100 million hours of Facebook videos on a daily basis.
However, unlike traditional viewing on television and even YouTube, a large percentage of people watch Facebook videos from their smartphones, and play them silently from their news feed.
This is creating an environment where content creators and brands must compete in a soundless, auto-play Facebook environment.
In addition, after Facebook went public and had pressure to monetize their platform, the social media giant turned to a paid-only ad-revenue model.
Due to Facebook's pay-to-play environment, brands have to pay for Facebook reach, and also make sure what they're putting out is getting high return on investment (ROI). Therefore, many brands are turning to video, as opposed to images, for their ads, since video typically results in higher engagement and improved conversions.
This creates a marketplace where brands have to keep two things in mind:
- To get seen, you have to pay
- To get attention, video is better but it'll have to work without audio
Unfortunately, as more businesses jump into the Facebook marketplace, there are more and more mistakes being made. Graham Mudd, Facebook's Director of Ads Product Marketing, estimates that up to 40% of Facebook video ads fail to communicate when the sound isn't on.
When it comes to silent video ads for Facebook, the luxuries of audio are gone, but the pressure for conversions is still there. Therefore, brands and entrepreneurs need to change their thinking on what it means to communicate through video, and more specifically, silent video.
Storytelling Visually, Not Verbally
To satisfy the majority of viewers who will watch videos without sound, brands and entrepreneurs need to master what it means to tell a story without verbally saying anything.
Here are a few tips on how to do just that.
1. Create a script that can work with or without dialogue.
Notably, video production is usually based on a script. But you should avoid depending on the dialogue entirely, since this could set you up for a loss.
Content creators often know readers won't read every line of content you publish — they might skim, skip paragraphs, or leave the page before reaching the end. Similarly, the majority of Facebook users will not listen to your videos.
Some filmmakers may find this odd, since traditional videos have a beautiful mix of both visuals and audio. But change is inevitable, so you need to adapt to the current methods that people view content.
When creating Facebook silent video ads, you want to get a competitive edge with a script that can still sell your brand even when silent.
Right off the bat, concepts such as interviews or a speaking host should be placed at bay. This includes those that could also pass the message through subtitles. Always remember that context is key, and you need to use a strong visual narrative.
For instance, Reolink's Argus Security Camera offers a simple, yet effective example of a video that worked with no dialogue. At first glance it looks like the video is just images with captions, but a couple seconds in, a hand swoops in and yanks the camera out of the frame.
It's a perfect example of communicating a product's value with a combination of text and movement, without needing to rely on any narration or verbal explanation.
2. Emphasize big, bold visuals.
It's equally important to make the images bold, big, and highly visual for your video to 'pop.' You have to catch the eyes of your viewers as they scroll the sea of jokes, celebrity gossip, their exes, and opinionated posts.
The images you choose should be high-contrast with bold visuals, and noticeable enough to prevent confusion with any regular video content with audio. By building a reputation of digestible silent content, your viewers will always slow down to check out any new videos from you on their feed.
You can see an example of this creative visual approach with the UAG MacBook Drop Test video.
Whatever it is, just make sure your visual editing touches add something that people aren't used to seeing.
3. Create content that explains itself.
For an immediate impact, you need to come up with content that does not need audio or words to explain the happiness, frustration, or 'cool factors' of your brand. You can begin with a question or a shocking statement with great visuals.
This is one of those times where you don't want to overcomplicate things. Think about your product or service and cut to the core of what you're offering. There is no room for anything subtle or meta here — just cut to the chase.
Privacy Pop executes this extremely well in their videos. While introducing a relatively innovative product to the market, they cut straight to the core of what they are offering and communicate the value of their bed tents.
Often in the name of creativity, companies can really go off the deep end of messaging and symbolism. For Facebook Video Ads, everything is silent and you really only have a handful of seconds to stop the viewer from scrolling. A confusing message will ensure that they will not stop on your ad.
4. Place your call-to-action wisely.
Though not in the video itself, call-to-action buttons are extremely important in getting conversions. There are two decisions to make regarding your call-to-action. The first regards which CTA prompt will produce the best results.
To find out, Adespresso A/B tested four prompts (in addition to a CTA with no button at all) using a Facebook call-to-action button.
The results were compelling:
● No button at all produced the worst results — 20 leads for $12.50 each
● "Sign Up" generated 26 leads at $9.62 per lead
● "Learn More" generated 36 leads at $9.94 per lead
● “Download” garnered 49 leads at $5.10 per lead
The best performance was for "Download," which generated 49 leads at a cost of $5.10 per lead.
The reason? Researchers suspect it's because "Sign Up" creates concerns that users will need to provide credit card information and "Learn More" suggests more reading, which would be time-consuming.
The second decision involves where in your video you want to place the CTA. The CTA of the video and the Facebook video ads should tie together.
Remember, your CTA in the video should ultimately urge the person to click the CTA button below the video. This is something you should A/B test — try placing your CTA at the opening, in the middle, and at the end to see which placement your viewers prefer.
You should also try displaying the CTA in graphic text throughout the video. See which placement performs best before launching your campaign.
5. Drop your discount or offer early.
There's no guarantee consumers will watch an ad all the way through. In fact, Facebook ads on average capture just 60 seconds of viewers' attention — some people, of course, will leave before that — so it's important to frontload your most important information, like a discount or special offer.
Additionally, make sure your offer works naturally with what precedes and follows it — in other words, don't segregate your discount from other video features, like the value and benefits of your product or service.
Visual Storytelling Toolset
Here are some tactics we use in our Facebook video production strategy that you can use to create successful silent video ads for Facebook.
1. Use Animations
Due to their visual-heavy nature, animations allow for an easy and effective transition to silent videos. We have found that for clients who are strapped on budget, animations provide a great alternative. Animated videos do not require actors, cameras, multiple locations, or other typical expenses needed for a video shoot.
Be sure to design an outline or script that can work without a voiceover. This way, the animated silent video ad could make a fast transition to the social platform without much effort.
When creating these silent animated videos there are certain factors that you need to think about beyond a typical video commercial shoot, including:
- Creating a Mood Board/Style Guide: The video you create will be all graphics, so it's extremely important to keep colors, graphics, text, and transitions on-brand and looking clean. If you have ever tried designing a flier on your own, without design experience, you'll know that people tend to go overboard with colors and clutter. Animations are exactly the same. Mood boards allow you to stay on theme and remind you of the aesthetic that you're trying to achieve. Common tools that our team uses is Abduzeedo.com and Pinterest to share ideas when formulating mood boards.
- Create a Storyboard: With animations, video storyboards are extremely important. It reminds you of the message you are trying to tell and helps keep the animation concise.
2. Establish a Quick Connection
You must connect and capture the attention of your audience right away. According to research, 65% of viewers who watch the initial three seconds of a video ad will continue watching for more than 10 seconds. Therefore, you must consider videos and thumbnail images that can hook people to your story.
To connect the silent video to your brand, you might try using brand colors, imagery, and themes.
In this video, Airtable effectively grabs your attention with the use of child actors to detail the product's features. It provides a nice change of pace from the usual business videos we see every day.
This is where your creativity needs to shine. You need to pique that curiosity. Create an introduction that makes people think, "What is this?"
When ideating on how to do this, our team always likes to review movie trailers and commercials that have caught our eye. When looking for these techniques, you don't need to keep your search only to Facebook video ads — instead, you might check out Superbowl ads, trending YouTube commercials, or ads on Hulu.
3. Make Graphics Large
Need some extra help to get your point or idea across without using audio? You can get creative and use large titles that emphasize the key features or steps of your video.
To draw more attention to your video, you can also include flashy transitions. However, it's critical you ensure they remain within your brand's signature feel and look to retain consistency with your overall marketing strategy.
You might also consider keeping the title or point of the video at the top of the video at all times.
Here's a great example from BBC Three:
This style of presenting videos is becoming more and more popular for brands and content creators as it helps overcome the silent aspects of videos, since it tells viewers who might not have been paying attention at the beginning of the video what the video is about.
4. Add Subtitles
Understandably, you might feel you can't completely get your point across without using words. In this case, you can add subtitles as you upload.
Fortunately, Facebook has a feature where you can automatically add captions using their software.
We always recommend reviewing the captions before publishing. Captioning technology isn't at the point where it gets everything 100% right. There are many tools that exist that can help you transcribe if you want a more exact transcription, but many can get pricey if you want 100% accuracy. Alternatively, if you use Facebook's feature, you can go through and edit yourself for clarity.
5. Optimize the Ad Description and Title
For more a successful silent video ad, you need to keep the title and description engaging to let viewers know what to expect. These two sections also provide important information on your video topic to the site's targeting algorithms. Therefore, you need to ensure that all the relevant keywords are included in your ad. Other than ensuring relevance in your copy, always generate enough curiosity since some titles are catchier than others.
To optimize the title and ad description, you need to refer back to your initial goals. Ad descriptions and titles are often an afterthought where companies have someone quickly upload and write the first thing that comes to mind. This is not the way to do it.
Facebook titles and descriptions are like the subject line of an email. They are often written last and with the least amount of time spent, yet they are often the most important part of the email. The same goes for Facebook titles.
6. Keep It Short
Considering most people tune out so fast, what is the ideal length for a Facebook video to tell your story and sell your brand? If you intend to use in-stream videos (those placed during or before other content), it is recommended that you keep it in the five –15 second range. The maximum allowance, however, stands at 31 seconds. Alternatively, standalone ads should last less than 15 seconds, since shorter video ads have higher completion rates.
A great example is the throwback Google Chrome YouTube commercials that the company used to demonstrate the browser's superior speed.
What we recommend here is to be ruthless when creating your storyboard and script. Having discipline in the beginning of your video ideation will help reign in the excess further down the line.
Don't wait until the end when all shots are done and you are trying to stuff everything in. You'll often find that your video is at least 10x longer than needed. Having a strict storyboard and script in the beginning will help drive decision-making when certain members on the team have fallen in love with a scene and don't want to make any cuts.
7. Copy the "News" Style
Most marketers are familiar with Facebook's algorithm changes earlier this year, the ones that prioritized news from friends and family over those from publishers. This placed a new onus on advertisers to create ads which mimic what a user typically sees in their news feed.
Of course, this isn't a new concept in advertising — "native ads" have been around for quite a while, as have best practice strategies for creating them. To get the most out of your Facebook ads, then, you might try copying the "news" style.
That means, among other things, using images and short video clips overlayed with text on colored backgrounds and using third-person delivery, similar to the style used in news feeds.
A great tool that you can use is Lumen5. Many publications use tools like Lumen5 to create real-time videos so that they can be the first to report, despite not having produced a short segment yet.
Below is an example of using the "news" style for brand marketing purposes:
You'll notice that rather than looking like an overt advertisement, the Tesla video looks almost like a review.
Entrepreneurs can leverage tools like this to help create the same look and leverage the authoritative style that is associated with this style.
8. Blur Your Introduction
People watch a lot of videos on Facebook. According to WordStream, for example, almost half of Facebook users watch at least one hour of Facebook videos every day. That means, to be effective, your ad needs to make an impact in the first few seconds.
As Social Media Examiner notes, "To be effective, video ads have to accomplish two things: grab the user's attention in 2-3 seconds and have a short duration, probably no more than 20 seconds total."
There are several ways to grab the user's attention at the start of your Facebook video ad. One trick you might try is to blur your introduction. This creates suspense as users become curious about what will follow, especially if they're quickly scrolling through multiple video ads. For best results, limit the blurring to the first couple of seconds.
Ultimately, producing and distributing effective Facebook video ads — the kind that increase clickthrough and conversion rates and boost sales — is challenging, especially given the increasing competition among advertisers. Ideally, you can use the strategies above to get started, and iterate on your process as you learn more about what works for your brand's unique Facebook audience.
Interested in further inspiration? Check out HubSpot's 11 Soundless Videos We Love (And Why).
Originally published Dec 23, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated June 11 2021