Matt Gielen has a rad job. At a VidCon 2013 roundtable panel simply titled “Audience Development,” Gielen told us all about his job as director of audience development at Frederator Studios. He told us how to increase our views and subscriber numbers, then he talked about working with the amazing animated web show “Bravest Warriors” and YouTube animation channel Cartoon Hangover. It made us all feel like our jobs weren’t cool. Well, maybe not that one guy with the neck beard sitting next to me — he kept talking about how successful he was, then he left midway through the panel.
That guy sucked, but Matt Gielen didn’t. He actually had some really great advice about bringing in views and subscribers using really simple techniques like having consistent thumbnail images. Here’s what I learned:
Like racism, sexism and adolescent hostility, sunburst patterns can be found consistently scattered throughout the YouTube landscape.
With so much content on YouTube, channels are essentially fighting for your attention, and what is more visually compelling than a bright splash of color as seen in a sunburst? Of course, the sunburst has been used and reused by thousands of channels which means it no longer has the same eye-catching properties it may have had one or two years ago.
Experiment with different, consistent patterns that will stand out in subscription and video feeds. Think bright colors and bold patterns.
Have A Constant
Looking at “Bravest Warriors” uploads, each video’s thumbnail sports the Cartoon Hangover mascot in the bottom right corner. By adding this visual cue, Cartoon Hangover is building a brand that people will recognize. You may not know their mascot, but if you see it again while browsing YouTube you’ll already be familiar with it and more likely to click.
Develop a brand or logo that says “my channel.” It doesn’t matter what it is (well, not offensive, hopefully), just make sure to throw it onto every thumbnail you make.
Get Weird, But Not Too Weird
Moving back to the sunburst pattern, in order for your videos to stand out you’ll want eye-grabbing thumbnail artwork. Think of your audience when developing this artwork and tailor it to them. Take Sky Does Minecraft for example:
“Minecraft” is this guy’s life, and so his entire channel, including his thumbnails, mirrors that. Sky isn’t just using generic screenshots, however. As you can see from the caps above, he is keeping a consistent banner and then playing around with graphics that incorporate “Minecraft.”
Play to your channel’s strength when creating attention-grabbing thumbnails. Consider what fans love about your channel and stick to that while avoiding generic screencaps or graphics.
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