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4 Reasons to Caption Your TikToks

The word caption spelled out on a Scrabble board

I see a lot of artists complain that their performances on TikTok don't get as much traction as the videos of them talking. Many musicians believe that there is a conspiracy against musicians playing their music.

In reality, the reason is far less nefarious. Whenever I see a musician making these complaints, I go look at their performance videos, and every time they don't have any captions on their videos.

My performance videos do fairly well, and garner me more followers than anything else I post, unlike most of these musicians, and I'm confident that the sole reason is the captions I put on my videos.

There are four main reasons why you'd want to caption your videos: accessibility, user experience, algorithmic optimization, and search engine optimization. TikTok privileges videos with captions for all of these reasons, so it's high time you start.

In this post, I'll go into more detail about these four reasons for captioning your TikToks, and end with some best practices to make the process less of a time consuming chore.

1. Accessibility

The most important reason to caption your TikToks is accessibility. If you don't think this is the most important reason, you can go fuck yourself.

There are many deaf and hard of hearing creators and users on the app, and when you don't caption your TikToks, you're just some person miming an instrument.

As a masked jester, it is especially important for me to caption my TikToks, since it is impossible to read my lips. If you're posting video from your shows, it is also likely difficult to read your lips behind the microphone.

Do you really want to cut out a chunk of your audience and sabotage your view count just because you're too lazy to type a few lyrics? Hopefully not.

2. User Experience

The second reason to caption your TikToks is user experience. I personally got tired of having TikTok blare out some nonsense every time I wanted to check my notification, so I set it to mute the sound when I open the app. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

I will often keep the app on mute while I'm swiping until I see something that I feel is worth listening to. So if you don't have captions, in all likelihood, I'm scrolling right past your video.

Further, you probably don't sing as clearly as you think you do. I try to make myself understandable with mic placement and carefully considered diction, but I'm under no delusion that that is sufficient for most people to be able to catch every word.

You put a lot of time and thought into your lyrics. Don't you want to make sure they're understood?

3. Algorithm

Okay, so if you came here because you're trying to get a wider reach this is where things start to get technical. Captioning your videos will boost your place in the algorithm.

There are a few reasons for this. First, as indicated by TikTok's recent move to automatically caption every video, the platform takes accessibility very seriously, and will actively privilege creators that are endeavoring to make their videos accessible to the largest audience possible. Don't expect to rely on automatic captions, because if you've ever tried to autogenerate captions for your music, you'll know that TikTok is godawful at captioning music.

Second, TikTok uses the content of your captions (and other text stickers) to determine the appropriate audience for your video. If the app is unable to make heads or tails of what your video is about, you will be relying solely on other users' behavior to locate your audience which is a much slower and haphazard process.

If you're upset that your videos aren't getting views, nevermind likes, comments and shares, this is probably the chief reason why.

4. Search Engine Optimization

Similar to algorithmic reasons, captions will also help your video be found by people searching for topics related to your lyrics. I put this reason fourth because this is probably the least likely way your audience will find you.

Still, search engines run primarily off of matching text content. If you have no captions, you are limiting your searchability to what you put in the description and cover of your video. (You are adding descriptions and covers to your videos, right? RIGHT?)

If you're looking to be discovered, you'll want to put as much relevant text in your video as practicable. That means not only captions, descriptions, and cover text, but also possibly a text sticker that describes the content of the song, who it's for, or anything else that might hook a user to finish watching the video.

Best Practices for Captioning Your TikToks

Okay, I get it. Captioning your TikToks is time consuming. But it doesn't need to be that way. Here are some tips for making captioning go quicker.

If you have any banter you're including in your video, put as much text into each text sticker as possible to save stickers for the actual song. (TikTok limits you to 24 text stickers.)

Second, you don't need to post the whole song in one video. I like to break my songs up into verse-chorus chunks and cut them so they loop perfectly. This will not only make captioning considerably less time consuming per video, but it will also economize on stickers and make it more likely for you to get repeat views.

You should also endeavor to make your captions as stationary as possible. I like to pick an object in the video to align my captions to so they don't look like they're jumping around. This makes it easier to read and generally makes your video look more professional.

Last, you should consider how many lines of text you have per caption. I try not to exceed four lines per caption, and six at the very most but only if it's because the text is spilling over to the next line. Try to make your captions end on rhymes to give people an idea of the musical flow of your lyrics.

Hopefully, this has convinced you that captioning your TikToks is not an onerous burden. You already know your lyrics, so the real task is finding the correct time stamp to start and end each sticker.

If you want more tips on how to optimize your content for social media, go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter below, so you can stay updated on my blog.


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