In the dynamic realm of social media, dominated by visual content, the use of subtitles has become indispensable for broadening audience engagement and promoting inclusivity. Whether you're creating content for Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, X (ex-Twitter), or LinkedIn, you can observe that automatic subtitles are the rule, even if the quality is not good at all.
In a profesional environment, it is then crucial to follow profesional subtitling best practices to ensure effective communication. Let's examine the nuances of subtitling on these platforms, considering the importance of placement, font selection, current trends, and potential challenges for individuals with hearing or visual impairments.

1. The basic rules of subtitling

Before you start subtitling your videos, it's important to know the basic rules that guarantee the quality and legibility of your subtitles. Here are the main ones, whether you create subtitles for the web, social network, television, etc:

Transcribe the audio content faithfully

Subtitles must reflect the message and tone of the video as faithfully as possible, without distorting or over-summarising the original message. Punctuation, capitalisation, accents and spelling rules must also be respected.

Adapt the length of the subtitles

Subtitles should be short and concise, so as not to overload the screen and make them easy to read. Your subtitles must not exceed two lines, and you have to limit the number of characters to around 40 per line, or 25 per line in case of square or vertical video.

Synchronise subtitles with the audio

Subtitles should appear and disappear at the same time as the words or sounds they translate, to avoid lag and confusion. It is also important to respect the reading time of the subtitles, which must be sufficient for the viewer to read them without rushing. It is advisable to leave a subtitle on the screen for at least 1.5 seconds, and not more than 6 seconds.

Choose a clear, legible font

Subtitles must be easy to read on all devices, without encroaching on the video. So choose a simple, no-frills font, preferably sans-serif (such as Arial or Verdana), in a colour that contrasts with the background (white on black, or black on white). You can also add an outline or plain background to subtitles to make them more visible.

Position subtitles wisely

Subtitles must be positioned so as not to interfere with the understanding of the video, or mask important elements (faces, text, logos, etc.). You should therefore avoid sticking them to the edges of the screen, or superimposing them over other subtitles or graphic overlays. It is generally advisable to place subtitles at the bottom of the screen, in the centre or slightly to the left or right, depending on the context.

2. Subtitling on social networks: importance of positioning and font choice

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Subtitling on Instagram & TikTok

Positioning: Given the fast-paced, short-form nature of content on Instagram and TikTok, subtitles should be strategically placed at the bottom center, allowing viewers to follow along without distraction. Avoid obstructing vital visuals, like buttons and text. 

Font Choice: Opt for bold, sans-serif fonts that are easily readable on small screens. Ensure sufficient contrast between the font color and background for maximum legibility.

Subtitling on Facebook & Linkedin

Positioning: With longer-form content on Facebook and LinkedIn, subtitles can be placed at the bottom, ensuring a clear line of sight. This allows viewers to engage with the content without compromising on the overall viewing experience. 

Font Choice: Choose clear and professional fonts, whether serif or sans-serif, with proper spacing. Professionalism is key on these platforms. You can also fit the graphic design of your subtitles to your brand.

Subtitling on X (ex-Twitter)

Positioning: concise subtitles are essential. Place them strategically at the bottom or top, avoiding interference with the tweet's content and buttons. 

Font Choice: Opt for legible fonts that maintain clarity even with character constraints. Balance creativity with readability to cater to X's diverse audience.

3. Current Trends in Subtitling on Social Networks 
and Disadvantages for hearing and visual impaired

Several studies have identified the key trends in advertising in 2024. Here are the top 10 trends:

1. Overly Creative Subtitles = lack of readability

- Animated text is gaining traction across all platforms. Adding a dynamic element enhances engagement, but it's crucial to strike a balance—overly animated text can be distracting. 
- Content creators also are increasingly using custom fonts and colors to align with their brand aesthetics. While this adds a personalized touch, ensure choices prioritize readability over style. 
- Transparent backgrounds and subtle effects behind subtitles are trendy, providing a visually appealing experience. However, these trends may pose challenges for viewers with visual impairments

All these trendy subtitle designs may prioritize aesthetics over clarity. Complex fonts, rapid animations, or blending with the background can hinder comprehension for those with visual or hearing impairments, but not only. So, sure, your subtitles are stylish... but that affects the message you want to get across! 

For example: the karaoke-style display of subtitles on TikTok, with one or two words at a time, and a rapid display rate -> nobody can read that fast. Meryl Evan (accessibility marketing consultant)s' videos explains this phenomenon very well!

2. Subtitles in capitals = not very legible

This is another very bad tendency, which undermines the accessibility of subtitles. 

Subtitles in capitals look to the eye like a rectangular block, without relief. 

The absence of visual differences complicates the reading experience. Disabled people, and even those who are not, have difficulty reading captions in capitals. 

Here again, this video by Meryl Evans explains very well the consequences for people with visual or hearing impairments!

4. How to add professional and inclusive subtitles on social networks?

Implementing effective subtitling practices on social media involves finding the right balance between creativity and accessibility. Content creators should prioritize clear fonts, strategic positioning, and considerate design choices to ensure that everyone, including the visual and hearing impaired, can engage with their content seamlessly. As the social media landscape continues to evolve, maintaining a commitment to inclusivity will be key in reaching diverse audiences and fostering a more accessible online environment.

Once you get all these in mind, it’s time to add subtitles to your videos on social networks. Most of social networks offer automatic subtitling, that does not fit the subtitling best practices, in terms of accuracy of content and accuracy of style. 

Subtitling tools like EoleCC can also help you transcribe or translate your content, in order to get quality subtitles and a graphic design that fit your brand and the subtitling best practices. You can then add your own subtitles to social networks: 
- Either you embed your subtitles to your video 
- Or you upload your .srt file on each platform

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