Video may be a powerful LinkedIn marketing tool, but that power remains theoretical unless people actually play your videos.

While it’s true that, on mobile platforms, videos often play automatically, this can’t be counted on. If users have mobile data turned off, or have chosen not to auto-play videos, then the video won’t start playing by itself.

For this reason, the video thumbnail is important.

The thumbnail is usually a single frame from within the video itself (although it doesn’t have to be).

Platforms such as YouTube typically choose a frame from close to the start, middle and end of the video – and you can pick which one to use – or choose your own. 

LinkedIn doesn’t do this. The thumbnail for a LinkedIn video will generally be the first frameof the video. There’s a problem with this.

Many videos begin by fading from black. So, the first frame video is black – which means that the thumbnail is an empty, meaningless, black rectangle.

You may be surprised to learn that even big brands fall into this trap. I’ve seen blank frame thumbnails from companies such as Nissan and Pearson – and even from professional content creators. Heck, I’ve even done it myself. 

There’s (quote literally) nothing in a blank frame to encourage the user to click/tap play – and that’s the main purpose of the thumbnail. (A second, but equally important, use is that the thumbnail is used in Google video search.)

But if LinkedIn won’t let you choose a frame, what can you do?

Thankfully there’s a simple solution: drop in a single frame of your own choosing, right at the front of the video. All video editing programmes let you do this. (Don’t worry that people might see a distracting flash of the frame when they click play. Videos are usually 24/29 frames per second, so it’s almost too fast to see.)

The frame will need to be the same size and aspect ratio as the video – usually 1920 x 1080, but could be 1280 x 720.

It’s usually sufficient to skim through your video, looking for a suitable frame, and then export/save that as a still before adding that back in as the first frame.

But what you choose as a thumbnail can dramatically affect your click-through rates, so choose carefully. Things which can increase click-through rates include:

  • Frames with bright, primary colours, contrasting colours or aesthetic colour combinations.
  • Frames which depict what your video is about – its core message.
  • Frames which include something immediately recognisable.
  • Frames with something intriguing or compelling – but make sure it’s part of the core message, not something random and unrelated.
  • Frames with clear, large objects.
  • Frames with one object in focus and the rest not.
  • Frames with human faces.

Since you’re adding the frame manually, you can choose – should you wish – to create a frame which doesn’t appear in the video itself. This could be the equivalent of a movie poster, with title, for example. Or a graphic which encapsulates the message of the video. Or a question you’re posing.

However, it’s important to never bait and switch – for example, using a half-naked person to pique attention, before talking about demonstrating a lawnmower. 

If you don’t create your own videos, check with your content creator that they plan to drop in a thumbnail frame and discuss what it could be. You should also use the same thumbnail in marketing campaigns promoting the same content (video hosting company Wistia says that using video thumbnails in mailers also increases click-through rates).

Videos take time and money to create. A great video thumbnail is essential if you’re to maximise the return on that investment by encouraging as many people as possible to tap/click play.