Whenever you make a piece of content, the idea is the same: to get attention. So, what could possibly be more important than the content which attracts the “window shopper” listeners - the thumbnail.
It may seem like another menial last minute task; one that, after a long planning and production process, doesn’t really seem that important.. You couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, often times the thumbnail is as important as the podcast itself. Think about it - unless listeners are coming specifically for you, the thumbnail is the only way to grab their attention.
More often than not, podcast listeners are multitasking**,** (42% listen in the car, 12% whilst exercising & 10% when cooking”) so, while they’re choosing a podcast, they’re forced to pay full attention, when, really, they want to get going with their run, commute or dinner, say. The point is, in today’s age, people don’t have a lot of time, and they’re looking to make a snappy decision. If your thumbnail is one of the first they’re drawn to, you’ve got a better chance of getting listened to.
This post describes how to design an eye-catching and descriptive thumbnail so that you have the best chance of reaching your audience. Let’s start with the basics.
If you’re spending the time creating a professional looking thumbnail, start with the correct sizes and dimensions.
Making a thumbnail that’s too small is a common mistake. Although they normally appear very small in the Podcast app, if your podcast is shared or embedded digitally it will be presented much larger. The Podcast App’s minimum requirement is 1300 x 1300 px and maximum is 3000 x 3000 px. It’s better to have a large image scaled down than a small image scaled up to avoid pixelation, so we’d suggest the latter.
If you have the knowledge or budget, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop gives you the most scope for creativity, if these programmes aren’t available, Canva and PicMonkey are perfectly good and have excellent free options, should you be on a stricter budget.
COMMUNICATE YOUR PURPOSE
Any design is the visual communication of an idea. Consider the message and tone of your podcast. What are you trying to communicate to your audience and how does that look visually? Make sure it’s on-brand and on-message and targeted at your audience. Neon text on a mindfulness podcast thumbnail would be as “on-brand” as a flower on an electronic music podcast thumbnail but they may work, vice versa. We might be stating the obvious here, but it has to do more than be aesthetically pleasing - it must be relevant too. If they’re going to stumble upon it, it’s got to let them know exactly what they’re getting right upfront.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
When it comes to the design, you have to think about context. Your thumbnail is going to be seen alongside many others, thus it needs to stand out. For that very reason keep it simple. You may want to consider sticking to two colours or fonts - if you mix too many it may appear too complicated and messy, and viewers won’t bother to read the title. If you are going to use a photograph of the host (or anything else), make sure it evokes an emotional response. Always remember:, they are probably very busy and looking to make a quick decision.
Choose a couple of relevant colours. If you already have a brand, these should already exist. This may be as simple as a colour background with black or white text. Social Entrepreneur’s thumbnail, seen below, is both eye-catching and communicates what the podcast is about which is it’s purpose.
Notice how, even though it is in the bottom-right-hand corner (which is the least attention grabbing position on the page according to the “F Layout” rule or hierarchy) it still catches the eye and communicates the subject or purpose of the podcast, perhaps best. If it’s on- brand, simple and bold works best, especially in the early stages.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE IT
By all means - update your thumbnail. It’s an option on every podcast platform app I’ve come across and can be a very valuable tool. Once you’ve captured your audience, you might want to communicate something different. Perhaps you have a new series with a slightly different angle or maybe you’ve released some merchandise which you want to portray visually. Or, perhaps you’re simply not getting any listens. A/B testing has forever been a part of marketing strategies. Why should this be any different in the case of podcasting? Have you ever noticed how often Netflix shows change their thumbnails all the time? For this exact reason. If it is broke, fix it!
Ultimately, keep it simple, make sure it’s eye-catching and communicate your podcasts purpose and you will give yourself a great chance of getting listeners. Good luck!