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How to make outstanding video thumbnails

Everyone is making videos. But not everyone takes the trouble to make an outstanding thumbnail preview. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to give prospects good reasons to click on your video. Thumbnails can all boost viewership.

It’s well-known that video links in email and social media increase opens and clickthroughs. But there’s so much video out there! If you’re marketing a technology solution, expectations of outstanding content are probably not high, so you need to give people a good reason to click. The opportunity to stand out is bigger than you might think, because many technology marketers don’t bother to make outstanding thumbnails to preview their videos. Too many galleries look like the one pictured below. Here are a few best practices that can help increase engagement with your videos.

Captions add context

Without captions to read, there’s very little information here, and not much eye appeal. Most technology marketers don’t put a lot of effort into telling prospective viewers why a video is worth their time. So much the better for those who do!

Thumbnails and buttons

The thumbnail is the preview image that represents the video. It may be a frame in the video selected by algorithm, or, preferably, a clickable image designed by you and uploaded to wherever the video is hosted.

CNN’s placement of the play button keeps the central image intact. Meaningful captions help, too.

Thumbnails should look enticing. They need to be clear because video is often viewed on phones at very small sizes. It’s customary to include a play button in the image, except in video galleries. It’s usually placed in the middle of the image — but there’s a good chance that it will end up hiding something you want people to notice. Feel free to put it not-in-the-middle.

Embed video in email?

You can embed video in email. Campaign Monitor has a good article on the pros and cons. But playback is iffy, so most email campaigns and newsletters use text and/or image links to video landing pages on their websites.

Animated gifs work well in email, especially if you can isolate a few seconds of the video that tell a story or show viewers how something is done.

Be clear

You can’t always count on having a caption with the image, so it’s a good idea to add a few words that tell the viewer why the video is worth clicking on.

Use bright colors and contrast

Bright, contrast-y thumbnails attract the eye — and are likely to stand out on the page, whether it’s a page of text or a video gallery.

Close-ups are key

People can’t help looking at faces — especially a photo of someone looking back at them. If you’re using a face in the thumbnail, use a closeup.

Add your logo

Your logo adds branding and consistency to thumbnails and videos. Put it in a corner.

20-second thumbnail primer

Here’s a link to a video in our Video Content Ideas series with essential tips for making video links and thumbnails outstanding.

Bruce McKenzie

A writer with a background in public broadcasting and corporate marketing communications, Bruce McKenzie pioneered the “2-Minute Explainer®” brand video for technology businesses in 2004. Customers have included numerous enterprise technology companies (Cisco, IBM, BMC, Brocade/Broadcom, Software AG, CA Technologies, CompuCom) as well as B2B startups. Rebranded “Technology Business Video” in 2017, the company today produces a variety of “tactical” videos to reach buying team members throughout the sales cycle. We take everything marketers want to say and transform it into short videos that communicate stuff buyers want to know. It’s basically what good writers do, made visual. Visit to learn more or set up a chat about tactical videos with the Technology Business Video professionals.

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