Facebook mobile and headphones

You may have seen the statistic: As much as 85 percent of Facebook video content is viewed with the sound off.

Sahil Patel published that news on Digiday back in May, and it’s been echoing around web for months.

For good reason, I suppose. After all, Facebook reports approximately eight million video views per day. (Autoplay may inflate the numbers, but we’ll get to that.) So 85 percent — that’s a lot of silent video.

It makes you wonder, if Facebook video autoplays silently — and since Twitter and Instagram have followed suit — does background music even matter for online videos?

I think it does. (Admittedly, I have a horse in the race.)

How Solid Is That Stat?

Let’s go back to that statistic for a second.

Sahil attributes it to “multiple publishers.” He doesn’t disclose how many. And three brands he does mention — Mic, LittleThings, and PopSugar — are all pop media publishing sites.

It makes sense that their audience behavior might be similar, right?

But what about a retail brand or restaurant? Might their audiences behave differently?

And more importantly, if only a handful of Facebook pages were referenced to establish the statistic, is it really valid or representative of the whole?

In my experience — though limited — the difference in number of views with the sound on vs. sound off isn’t nearly as dramatic as Sahil suggests. In fact, some of my videos are actually viewed more often with the sound on.

Facebook video metrics

Oh, and one more thing: A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable that about 50 percent of video view time on Facebook is spent with the sound on.

So in short, don’t take the 85 percent statistic as gospel. It may not even apply to your audience.

What Counts as a View, Anyway?

If a video plays silently and no one notices, does it still count as a “view”?

In Facebook autoplay-land, where three seconds of play time constitutes a view, it does.

And this reality may account for some of the disparity between sound on vs. sound off views. That is to say, a portion of silent views may not be legitimate. So the true ratio may be much less significant.

But viewers who click the sound control — those folks are engaged. They’ve taken an action, opted into your message.

The quality of that view is indisputable.

What About People Who Do Watch with Sound?

Let’s say 100 people watch your Facebook video. If we borrow the statistic above — accuracy aside — that means approximately 15 of them watch it with the sound on.

So you have the opportunity to convince 15 people to buy your product, share your video, subscribe, or take whatever action you want them to take.

And because it establishes emotion, and emotion dictates how we act, music is paramount in creating a compelling video that influences behavior.

So don’t ignore the segment of your audience that turns the sound on. Give them something to listen to.

And while you’re at it, why not try to get more viewers to unmute your video, as Denny’s does here:

And then, of course, there’s the Hotels.com example we all know and love:

When you engage your viewers, they’ll be much more receptive to your message.

Not All Online Video Is Silent.

Facebook is a behemoth. But it’s not the only source of online video.

The medium’s pioneer and king, YouTube, boasts more than a billion users who watch hundreds of millions of hours of video — with sound — every day. (Plus, according to Moz, video viewers are more engaged on YouTube compared to Facebook.)

Snapchat is another sound-friendly platform. And its fueling 10 billion video views per day — that’s two billion more than Facebook.

Granted, different channels warrant different video strategies. A video that performs well on YouTube may be a disaster on Facebook.

But my point is that Facebook doesn’t = the Internet. (At least not yet.) Many online video viewers do still expect a rich auditory experience. If you want to give it to them, consider picking up some background music from my library of fresh, original songs »

Logan Nickleson

About the author: Logan is the founder of (and musician behind) Music for Makers — a simpler, more affordable music licensing solution for people who make videos, podcasts, and other creative stuff.