Thumbnails that work on YouTube are incredibly different than thumbnails that work on Facebook or Instagram and often take a further step away from your branding. Effective thumbnails on YouTube have a slightly different look than you might think they do before doing your research on the platform.
What Goes Into An Effective Thumbnail
On YouTube, your thumbnails will likely be different than your typical branding. While you can still use your branding colors, you’ll very likely find other colors might translate better and get more clicks.
Bright pops of bold colors get people’s attention on YouTube and are often thought of as more professional even if they don’t match your branding scheme.
Using a photo of yourself in your thumbnail often helps get more clicks as well. Having a face to connect with the content lends itself to the trust factor when deciding where a viewer should spend their valuable time. The best images are those with a cut-out picture of the video’s speaker on a bright background where the video speaker is looking directly to the camera. The photo subject should either be smiling at the camera or dramatically posing with overly expressed features.
Bold words on the thumbnail are helpful as well. We’ll chat about those later in this article.
Taking Photos For Thumbnails
When taking photos for your thumbnails, use the best quality equipment that you have. If you can work a professional camera, use that. If you have a point and shoot camera, use this. If all you have available to you is a cell phone, use your cell phone camera to take your image.
All images should have good lighting. It’s best to take photos on a solid background so you can cut them out. If you chose not to cut them out, a solid background helps keep the focus on the subject—you.
Remember, smiling and being overly expressive is going to get more clicks. I recommend taking several images so you have options to choose from.
Editing Your Thumbnail
When editing your thumbnail, you can use whatever software you’d like to work on your thumbnail. If you have the skills to use Photoshop, stick with that. If there’s another program you’re familiar with, trying working with that program. If you don’t have the accessibility or skills to use these programs, you can always use canva.com, which is a free photo editing website that also has additional paid features if you decide you like it and want bonuses.
In fact, Canva has a section where you can create a YouTube thumbnail with just a few clicks. Try creating a thumbnail through Canva here.
Words on Thumbnails
The words you select for your video’s thumbnail are incredibly important. They should be reminiscent of your title but should not be the same. You want to use this to maximize your impact, so take advantage of the extra space to communicate to your potential viewers.
If your title is “How To Make Soy Candles (5 Simple Steps)” you might want your thumbnail to read “Soy Candles Without Stress”
If your title is “How To Train Your Dog To Sit On Command (In Ten Minutes)” you might want your thumbnail to say “One Day Dog Training”
I recommend using 3-7 words on your thumbnail. Keep them as big and bold as possible. I’ve also found it works well to have a rectangle of solid color behind them to ensure they are easily seen. Blacks and reds typically work best on YouTube for coloring behind the bold words in white font.
Optimize Your Thumbnail Name
YouTube analyzes everything you put on the site, from titles to captions to tags to file names. Before uploading your finished thumbnail to the site, change the name to match the name of your title.
Thumbnails are often what convinces people to watch a video over another, so putting effort into this is important. Once you have a gorgeous thumbnail, you need to work on posting more videos…but how often should you be posting?
In the next article, we’ll be talking about developing a strategy for how often you should post videos to grow your following.
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K.M. Robinson is a social media marketing strategist and best-selling author who has been spotlighted by the major social media platforms and other companies for her innovative work in the field of social media marketing. She’s represented the USA in a major World Social Media Day broadcast, and has appeared on live broadcasts, podcasts, and at in-person events and conventions to educate on working with the social media algorithms and how to create a profitable business through smart social media marketing. She loves to go live using BeLive to connect with her readers and interview other experts.