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.
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:
- Look intelligent.
- Look professional.
- Look friendly. You don’t have to smile, but you shouldn’t be frowning.
- Have your eyes open and looking at the viewer.
- Aren’t scrunching up your face or looking like you’ve just eaten a lemon.
- 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:
- Find a frame that implies motion, showcases an interesting moment, or demonstrates warmth and an engaging attitude.
- 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.
- 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.
More Ideas for Better Thumbnails
An enticing thumbnail can help increase shares as well as opens. Try these ideas:
- 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.)
- Animate your thumbnail (turn it into a GIF file).
- 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:
- WordPress has a plug-in for thumbnails: (https://wordpress.org/plugins/video-thumbnails/)
- YouTube automatically uploads 3 thumbnails that you can choose from, or you can upload a custom one. Their process and some “best practices” can be found here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/72431?hl=en
- Vimeo lets you turn any frame into a thumbnail with their “thumbnails” feature: https://vimeo.com/blog/post/turn-any-video-frame-into-a-thumbnail
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.
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.”