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How do you make a viral thumbnail?

In the world of online content creation, a good thumbnail can make or break your video or article. With billions of pieces of content competing for people’s attention, an eye-catching and compelling thumbnail is essential to stand out. So what goes into a viral thumbnail that gets a ton of clicks? Let’s break it down.

Understand the Platform

The first step is understanding the requirements and best practices of the platform you’re publishing to. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and others have slightly different specs for thumbnails. Here’s a quick rundown:

Platform Thumbnail Size
YouTube 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 aspect ratio)
Facebook 1200 x 630 pixels
Instagram 1080 x 1080 pixels (square)

Study what thumbnails perform best on each platform and optimize accordingly. For example, YouTube prefers 16:9 horizontal rectangles while Instagram works best with perfect squares.

Use High-Impact Imagery

Imagery is arguably the most important part of a viral thumbnail. You want something that pops and immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. Some best practices for images include:

  • Use high-quality, eye-catching photos
  • Incorporate people’s faces/expressions
  • Try intriguing close-up shots
  • Leverage bold colors that stand out
  • Include relevant props or imagery
  • Text and graphics can complement the image

You generally want one consistent image so it’s recognizable as a brand. Avoid busy, distracting images with too many elements competing. Simple, high-impact imagery converted best. Test different options to see what imagery resonates most with your audience.

Highlight Key Elements of Your Content

Beyond eye-catching imagery, you want your thumbnail to communicate what the viewer can expect from your content. This allows you to draw in your target audience most interested in that topic. Some ways to feature key content elements include:

  • Showing unique objects or characters from the video/article
  • Displaying key stats or facts from the content
  • Featuring relevant text snippets or quotes
  • Incorporating logos or branding associated with the content
  • Using graphics that illustrate the topic

You generally want to pick 1-3 key elements to highlight rather than overwhelming the thumbnail. Make sure it’s clear at a quick glance what the content covers.

Use Striking Yet Simple Text

The right text can grab attention and convey what the content is about. Follow these best practices for thumbnail text:

  • Use brief, eye-catching headlines that spark curiosity
  • Ask interesting questions to get people clicking
  • Use relevant keywords and phrases that will rank in SEO
  • Make the text pop with contrasts, shadows, outlines etc.
  • Avoid blocky, dense paragraphs of text
  • Utilize big, bold font that stands out

Less is often more with thumbnail text. You want key phrases that will hook the viewer and be easy to read at small sizes. Test different headlines to see which ones perform best.

Leverage Trends and Topics

Latching onto popular trends and topics can give your thumbnail a built-in boost. Some ways to make a thumbnail timelier:

  • Reference current events, news or viral stories
  • Incorporate trending memes or reaction images
  • Mention influencers or celebrities of the moment
  • Align with seasonal topics like holidays
  • Capitalize on award shows, global sporting events, etc.

This ties in with the “FOMO” (fear of missing out) factor. People are drawn to thumbnails that promise timely, buzzworthy content. Just make sure your actual content delivers on the promise.

Test Out Different Options

One thumbnail that works for one video may flop for another. That’s why testing different thumbnails is so crucial. Some tips for testing:

  • Use A/B testing software to try out multiple thumbnails
  • Test on different platforms to see which images/text convert best
  • Try various