How to Add Closed Captions and Subtitles to TikTok Clips
TikTok currently only lets you upload one video file at a time, and there is no way to upload a second text or captions file like there is on other social media platforms. That doesn’t mean you are out of luck. There are a few popular workarounds that allow TikTok users to subtitle their videos on this popular social media platform and reach viewers in ways you just can’t without text.
What is TikTok?
You can’t have a social media discussion without mentioning TikTok, one of the most popular apps available and a source of income for top influencers across the globe.
How did it begin? The app’s parent company, ByteDance, purchased Musical.ly in 2018. Their marketing team rebranded the popular lip-syncing app as TikTok. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are banned in China, but TikTok, known as Douyin in China, had 400 million users in 2019. With half a billion monthly users around the world, TikTok is one of the most-downloaded free apps in the iTunes App Store.
TikTok has reach in every industry and cultural interest, from cooking to religion to health. TikTok videos are currently 60 seconds long, with options that include various stickers, filters, and text additions. While it’s a popular social media platform with teens, most users are young adults. The app is catching on with celebrities, as well, who are quick to offer advice, share moments from their personal lives, or sell their next book or project idea.
How Subtitles Can Help Engagement on TikTok
Did you ever wonder why some TikTok videos get big?
TikTok’s algorithm allows popular videos to appear in even more feeds as shares and likes accumulate. This makes it possible to reach trending status on the app in a short amount of time. Instead of focusing on only a select group of users, the algorithm doesn’t discriminate. Regularly posting relevant and attention-getting content could make you an overnight TikTok celebrity.
TikTok videos can also be shared easily to other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, making it possible to reach an exponential number of viewers – even those who would never download the TikTok app to their own devices.
But, there’s another way to help your TikTok videos “blow up” – captions! If TikTok captions make your videos fully accessible to a larger audience, including those who are hard of hearing, you’ll reach an even wider audience with your content. It also helps when viewers want to watch a TikTok video but can’t turn the sound on. (While part of TikTok’s appeal is its audio/musical component, not everyone can listen to videos. Those who watch with the sound off need subtitles to know what’s going on.)
How to add captions and subtitles to TikTok videos
Unfortunately, TikTok doesn’t currently offer a viable way to upload a caption file with the video like on other video platforms. But, there are three ways to get text to appear under your videos:
Use the TikTok app
Several features have been rolled out since the app first appeared, and one of the newer tools is auto-captioning. If you’re in a hurry, this can help you remain in the app and not do any additional work to create captions for your existing audio.
Unfortunately, the captions aren’t always very accurate, and it only appears in English. It may also be poorly-timed to the audio, and there’s no way to currently edit that to match the action in the video better. Your customization options are limited, as well. You can’t really control where the text appears, and you aren’t able to personalize fonts or colors.
After your video is recorded, from within the app, click V. You’ll see the next screen to select Captions, and you’re done! Since the text isn’t embedded into the video, viewers can toggle the captions on and off as they watch.
2. Use a captioning service and re-upload
Professional captions are the best option if you’re looking to save time and get really accurate captions. You might have several TikTok videos you’d like to add captions to, and Rev is great for that. The cost is only $1.50 per video minute.
To take advantage of this technology, follow these steps:
- Take videos on your cell phone’s camera/video app first – not from within the TikTok app.
(If you’ve already created the video in TikTok, just download your old TikTok videos to get the video file.)
- Upload your videos to Rev.com. Rev’s network of 50,000 freelancers will caption your videos in a matter of hours. You’ll receive an email when they’re ready. You can also paste a TikTok video URL if you click “Paste a URL” rather than uploading an entire video file.
- Order “Burned-In Captions” at checkout. These are the easiest option for a social media platform like TikTok. These are also called “open captions,” and you will receive a downloadable video with captions added directly to your video file.
- Upload your captioned videos to TikTok, using these steps:
- In your TikTok app, press the plus “+” button to start
- In the camera menu, tap the “Upload” icon. You might need to give TikTok access to your photos
- Choose the video or videos that you added captions to on your computer
- Edit your video length and any other TikTok edits like effects, then click “Save”
- Add descriptions, adjust final TikTok settings and click “Post”
This option also works great for foreign language subtitles, which can be ordered through Rev, as well. If you want your audio to be one language and your text to be another, Rev has you covered, using a similar process and ordering “foreign language subtitles” at a different per-minute cost (varies by language.)
3. How to add text to a TikTok video (manual solution)
Here’s the workaround for captioning TikTok videos when you want to transcribe dialogue personally to ensure that it has better accuracy than using the auto-captioning tool. Open the app and click the “+” icon.
- Record a video or upload one from a saved file.
- Click the checkbox in the bottom right corner when you finish recording or uploading the video.
- Click the “text” button located at the bottom of the TikTok screen to add captions.
- Choose a font style, text alignment, and color.
- Drag the text where you want it to appear on the screen.
- You can determine the timing of when the text appears in the video by selecting the text box and clicking the clock icon in the upper right corner. The word “duration” appears at the bottom of the screen with a slider located directly above them.
- Using the visual cues of various screenshots of your video inside the slider, adjust the pink box overlaying the timeline to correspond with where you want the text to appear in the video.
- Tap the “play” button to preview the video.
- Adjust the text as necessary.
- Repeat as many times as you need to for a fully captioned TikTok video.
- Press “done” in the top right corner of the screen.
Manually adding closed captions and subtitles on TikTok is a great way to increase engagement with your content.
How to post TikTok videos to YouTube with captions
To reach an even larger audience, be sure to download your TikTok videos, order closed captions for them (following the steps in the previous section), and post them to your YouTube channel. Post the URL for your YouTube channel with a note encouraging your TikTok followers and fans to view fully-accessible video content there.
Here’s how to put your TikTok content on YouTube:
- Download your TikTok video on your phone by clicking the down arrow located in the right corner of the screen.
- Click “save video .”You can find extra help on the TikTok site under “Download a video to your device,” as well.
- Open YouTube and make sure you are signed in with the right Google account.
- Click the camera icon in the right corner and choose “upload video.”
- Either drag and drop your video file or select it from the menu.
YouTube uploads the video while you fill out the title and description. Be sure to add your TikTok user name in the video description so your YouTube followers can find your profile on TikTok, as well.
Also, add your YouTube channel to your TikTok profile so users can access your fully captioned content there.
Caption your YouTube videos
When you caption your videos, you add timed transcription to your content. This allows viewers who want to watch with the volume turned down and those who have difficulty hearing to fully understand your video.
Here’s how to order captions for your YouTube video:
- Click “YouTube” under “Pull videos directly from your account” and allow Rev to access your content.
- Select the videos you want to caption and add to the Rev cart. Here, you can choose to have Rev automatically deliver captions to your YouTube videos. If you want subtitles in another language, you can indicate that here, as well.
- Click “checkout” to complete the process and let Rev handle the rest.
Sharing content across your TikTok and YouTube accounts is a great way to extend the reach of your videos and build a following. In fact, repurposing video content for all social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and even Twitter, can help you meet more of your next enthusiastic fan base.
If you place captions in your video ahead of time – before uploading to these platforms – you can skip the automated captioning tools they provide and go with something more accurate and customized to your brand.
While it may take more time to have professional captions and upload with them burned-in, it still really is the better option for accessibility, and it ensures your message is accurate and timed perfectly with the video. For those who want to project a professional brand (with color and font choice that reflects your personality), there is currently no better alternative.
TikTok has the potential to help you meet your outreach goals, and taking the time make your videos professional and accessibly the first time is a worthwhile investment.