The Art of Thumbnailing Your Videos

by James Loizou
the art of thumbnailing videos

Netflix recently released research that breaks down the art (or maybe science?) of selecting thumbnail images. More than a title, this graphic is oftentimes the best way to grab new viewers in a sea video noise. The image not only needs to evoke specific emotions, but it also needs to appropriately reflect the essence of any video... or you'll lose your hard-earned new viewers as quickly as you got them.

Netflix spells out three things to keep in mind:

1. Choose images containing fewer people. Thumbnails are often small and featuring large groups can overwhelm viewers.

2. People pause at complex emotions. Don't show simplistic expressions (like smiling). Show expressions that viewers must decipher.

3. Different audiences have different tastes. While some international viewers may be drawn to more artistic images, American audiences prefer thumbnails that reveal actual story elements.

After you select a thumbnail, LAI Video recommends that you monitor viewing statistics. But not just the total eyeballs. Pop open the hood and look for the exact timing of audience drop off. This can be monitored in any number of platforms, including YouTubeVimeo and other proprietary services.

If you see a steep decline within the first 10-seconds, your perfect thumbnail image might be misleading viewers about the video contents. They click on it expecting one thing, and see something else.

Go back through your videos. Even the popular ones. Look at viewer retention statistics and consider a change in your thumbnailing strategy. It might be a guess-and-check thing. Trial-and-error. But you'll find a 'nail that attracts viewers and keeps them.

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