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Video Thumbnails: What Are They and Why Are They Important in Marketing?

April 22, 2022
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Gone are the days when pop-up ads and sidebar slogans called the shots.1 Now, video ads reign supreme, influencing the decisions of consumers in every corner of the world wide web, from social media like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. 

But often, the element that distinguishes a video ad and catches the attention of potential viewers (and customers) is the small yet mighty video thumbnail. 

The bite-sized preview gives consumers a glimpse of your video content and, when done correctly, inspires them to click on your video and experience your ad in full. 

That means crafting aclick-inducing, great thumbnail should be an essential part of any digital marketing strategy. Below, we dive into everything you need to know about video thumbnails and what makes them such a crucial digital marketing tool. Keep reading to learn more.

What Are Video Thumbnails?

If you go online, video thumbnails are all around you. They’re the minimized images you see in apps and on websites that feature a small portion of a larger video advertisement. They serve as an invitation for a potential viewer  to engage with your ad and make it easy for them to do so.

Video thumbnails appear in three forms. They are:

  • Static image
  • Animated GIF 
  • Video 

Video thumbnails are one of the most recognizable features of the current online atmosphere. When people are looking to social media for business tips, video thumbnails are one of the most popular. They’re meant to grab the attention of consumers and convince them that your video content is worth a click. 

In a sense, video thumbnails are kind of like movie trailers. The best movie trailers give you just enough of a taste to pique your interest and get you to the movie theater. A great thumbnail will  do the same thing, enticing viewers and driving engagement.

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Why Are Video Thumbnails Important?

The increasing popularity of video ads in the digital marketing space is a driving force behind the importance of crafting an engaging video thumbnail. 

The Internet has been trending toward video for a few years. With more and more consumers preferring the medium for everything they consume, from entertainment to news and information, it’s expected that online videos will account for almost 82% of all Internet traffic in 2022. Likewise, video ads are now among the most popular current digital marketing strategies.2 

At the same time, short-form video platforms like TikTok are taking the world by storm, stoking consumer appeal for the format and forcing other web services to follow suit and develop their own ways for users to create and engage with videos. Professional and user-generated short-form videos of all kinds are now standard features on most social media platforms, including:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Twitter 

But the rise in the appeal of short-form entertainment may also signal that the attention spans of consumers are shortening more and more. When you’ve only got about 15 seconds to win your audience over with your ad itself, getting their attention in the first place means drawing their eye in a matter of seconds.3

When it comes to understanding what is hook rate success, it is all about first impression. The video thumbnail that previews your ad is your chance to make a grand first impression on your audience. In digital marketing, as in life, first impressions matter, and you only get one. An expertly chosen video thumbnail helps you make the most of that first impression, wherever consumers encounter it, whether that’s:

  • On their social media feeds
  • In online search results
  • On website sidebars
  • Websites main pages

And it isn’t just theory. According to a Columbia Business School study, a perfect  thumbnail has the potential to increase the attention a consumer pays to your ad by almost 14%.4

6 Tips for an Effective Video Thumbnail 

When there’s so much power in that tiny thumbnail image, it pays to be particular. Savvy marketers know that capturing your content at just the right moment is the secret to success.

To that end, here are six tips for producing clickable, attention-grabbing video thumbnails.

#1 Say No To Automated Thumbnails

In many cases, the service or platform that hosts your video advertisement will give you the option of automating your video thumbnail. Although this might be tempting to busy advertisers with packed agendas, keep in mind that you shouldn’t always trust the platform to do the work for you. 

After all, you know better than an algorithm where the true value of your content lies. A little extra meticulousness can result in a significant difference in social media engagement

However, there’s an exception to this rule—if the service offers thumbnail automation that claims to optimize performance, it might be worth giving it a shot. 

That said, be sure to keep an eye on your method for tracking ad performance to verify that the thumbnail image is generating clicks.

#2 Tell a Story (In Miniature)

Let’s go back to our earlier analogy that compares video thumbnails to movie previews for just a moment. If you were making a movie trailer, you wouldn’t cut together a few random scenes and call it a day. Instead, you’d choose the moments that best suggest the overall plot, tone, and unique appeal of the movie.

The same goes for crafting effective video thumbnails. That means choosing the most attention-grabbing moments from your content to feature in your thumbnail. Here’s what to consider:

  • Happy-peak frame – There’s a moment in every ad that pleases consumers most. That moment is known as the happy-peak frame. Studies show that using the happy-peak frame in video thumbnails has a significant impact on whether a consumer clicks on your ad and watches it through to the end.3
  • Images matter – Aside from the emotional power of your ad, you can harness its visual appeal to drive clicks. Studies suggest that thumbnail images with a warm and highly saturated color scheme can positively influence consumer receptivity to video thumbnails.4
  • Avoid branding – Just as there’s a happy-peak in your ad, there’s also an attention-peak, the moment when audiences are most engaged. That’s the time for branding. You can use your thumbnail to drive attention and get them there.4

#3 Choose Your Thumbnail Text Wisely

Although you should avoid using branding in your video thumbnails, you can use some text to give audiences a deeper sense of what your ad contains. Just make sure you use it sparingly and incorporate it wisely. Working with a branding agency can help you effectively gain brand awareness throughout your video thumbnails.  

It’s recommended that you use no more than six words total in your video thumbnail. Those six words must be chosen wisely because they need to: 

  • Give context for your ad 
  • Spark emotional resonance 
  • Capture the consumer’s interest 

#4 A Little Digital Face-to-Face Goes a Long Way

In crowded digital spaces, faces draw attention—this is particularly true when incorporating faces in your video thumbnails.1 Doing so can draw the eye and influence clicks. 

Beyond that, however, there are a few better ways to get the emotional tone of your ad across than by using a face. Even more than words, the right facial expression goes a long way to suggesting the emotional appeal of your ad. 

#5 Consider the Screens

From their smartphones to their desktop computers, consumers can interact with your ad across a variety of screens. These screens come in a wide range of sizes, so your video thumbnail needs to look good on all of them.5

For your video thumbnail design, make sure that it’s optimized for viewing on:

  • Mobile devices
  • Tablets
  • Laptop and desktop computers
  • TV screens 

#6 Platform Plays a Part

In addition to considering the screen size, you also need to consider where a potential viewer is  going to encounter your ad. From social media to the websites where they shop, order take-out, and catch up on current events, there are many places where your video thumbnail might appear. What works on one platform might not work on another. For example Facebook ads will not be the same as an Instagram video. This is why it is important to understand how to create successful Facebook ads as well as ads on all platforms.

When crafting a platform-custom video thumbnail, do your research and be aware of the specifications and regulations of each one. You should also consider whether the platform imposes any of its own overlays on your thumbnail, such as:

  • Timestamps
  • “Watched” icons
  • Platform logos
  • Default photos

Knowing where on the thumbnail design these overlays will appear will help you avoid the mistake of placing the most important parts of your thumbnail where they won’t be seen.

Stand Out Online with Power Digital Marketing

In a world where the average consumer encounters up to 10,000 distinct advertisements every day,6 standing out from the crowd can seem like a mighty endeavor. If you’re a brand or business that wants your digital marketing efforts to translate into positive results, you need experts in your corner backing you up every step of the way. 

You need Power Digital Marketing.

We’re a premier digital marketing agency and with our internet marketing service we can help you build, launch, and manage the perfect thumbnail for your  digital marketing campaign. We combine innovative marketing solutions with strategies customized to your business to execute flawless, resonant campaigns that elevate your brand and your sales.

Are you ready to take your digital marketing campaign to the next level? Launch it today with Power Digital Marketing. 



  1. Invideo. 13 Video Marketing Statistics You Can’t Ignore in 2022. https://invideo.io/blog/video-marketing-statistics/ 
  2. Forbes. How Videos Will Impact the Online Marketplace in the New Year. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2022/02/14/how-video-will-impact-the-online-marketplace-in-the-new-year/?sh=4e6b5ec5690d
  3. Forbes. Video Thumbnails: Leveraging A Powerful, Underappreciated Marketing Vehicle. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/02/24/video-thumbnails-leveraging-a-powerful-unappreciated-marketing-vehicle/?sh=68ef1afa3746 
  4. Real Eyes. Radically Boost Video Attention by Using a Happy-Frame Thumbnail. https://blog.realeyesit.com/boost-video-attention-by-using-a-happy-frame-thumbnail 
  5. Impact Plus. Video Marketing: 7 Tips for Creating an Irresistible Video Thumbnail. https://www.impactplus.com/blog/tips-for-creating-video-thumbnail 
  6. Forbes. Finding Brand Success in the Digital World. ​​https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/08/25/finding-brand-success-in-the-digital-world/?sh=36acc4ab626e 

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