Does the Thumbnail for Your Video Make Anyone Want to Open It?

Never forget that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression—with investors, with customers, with PR, and with marketing.” ~Natalie Massenet

You know those pictures of you that you wish your “friends” had never posted on Facebook or Instagram? The ones when your mouth is open, you’re making a terrible face, or your hair looks like Godzilla was your stylist… Or in the case of the thumbnail here, I look like I’m savoring a piece of really good chocolate.

VideoBadOpen   Why is it that we will beg for those images to be removed ASAP, but we’ll post videos for our company, our online courses, or our lead magnets that show a thumbnail of us at our worst?

In July 2015, Periscope users were watching 40 years’ worth of videos every day.” 

The competition to get your video opened is fierce. Every detail counts.

If your thumbnail looks unprofessional, you may be preventing that critical click.

Six Simple Rules for Good Thumbnails

Check the thumbnail before you finalize your post. Make sure you:

  1. Look intelligent.
  2. Look professional.
  3. Look friendly. You don’t have to smile, but you shouldn’t be frowning.
  4. Have your eyes open and looking at the viewer.
  5. Aren’t scrunching up your face or looking like you’ve just eaten a lemon.
  6. Change the thumbnail if it’s not good enough.

Simple, right? And yet, I see thumbnails every day that break these simple rules.

I asked Producer/Director Zach Wolfson of ZW Film for a few tips on making effective thumbnails.  He suggests that you:

  1. Find a frame that implies motion, showcases an interesting moment, or demonstrates warmth and an engaging attitude.
  2. Add text to the thumbnail to give it more polish—e.g., your logo, title of the video, or the problem you’re trying to solve.
  3. If the still frames from your video all look the same and aren’t all that interesting, don’t be afraid to try working some magic on your still frame in Photoshop and combine a second image that anchors the message of your video. Click here for an example. The thumbnail on his “Start Small with Video” series is clean, professional, and cheerful. I want to hear what he has to say.

Visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.” 

More Ideas for Better Thumbnails

An enticing thumbnail can help increase shares as well as opens. Try these ideas:

  1. Use a “storyboard” approach to the thumbnail, posting frames for multiple scenes. (But bear in mind that the more you include, the harder it will be to “read” each one because of their size. This is a cool effect, however, until you reach that point.)
  2. Animate your thumbnail (turn it into a GIF file).
  3. Use a special effect, such as a round or square frame, rotation, shadow, or filter. (Please don’t overdo this! Keep it simple and classy unless you mean to be garish and lowbrow.)

Software and Tutorials for Making Custom Thumbnails

Fortunately, you can easily find tutorials on making custom thumbnails, for example:

Between April 2015 and November 2015, the amount of average daily video views on Facebook doubled from 4 billion video views per day to 8 billion.”

It really doesn’t take a lot of time to make a strong first impression, but you can’t beat the argument that it’s more important than ever. In terms of size, it might be only a thumbnail. But in terms of impact, it can be the key to the city.

Did you enjoy this post? Please share it! Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Would you like these 13 Tips for Making Great Thumbnails condensed in easy PDF form? Click here for your free copy.

Please send me your questions for future issues, and tune in next Friday for Issue #43 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.”

Contact Marcy for help crafting your online course. 


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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