Why Youtubers Put Their Faces on Video Thumbnails

Face on Youtube Thumbnail
My stupid face on a Youtube Thumbnail.

I have seen this complaint so often, that I felt compelled to address it. In fact, I recently ran across a forum post where people were commenting on how “annoying” it is that I and other Youtubers put our faces on thumbnails.

Well, let me break it down for you. 

We don’t put our faces on thumbnails because we just LOVE making funny faces and can’t get enough of our own image. We don’t do it because we’re jumping on some trending Youtube bandwagon. We do it because IT WORKS.

Business

This is business. It’s marketing. It’s doing what it takes to compete and succeed.

I would prefer if thumbnails without faces performed better, but they don’t. I’ve done the A/B testing many times on my own thumbnails (Thanks TubeBuddy). EVERY SINGLE TIME the thumbnail with a face – preferably with an exaggerated facial expression – far outperforms the one without a face. Sometimes it performs as much as 50% better.

People fail to realize (or purposely ignore) that Youtube is a full-time job for many of the creators they’re complaining about. It not only takes hard work and resilience, but also the ability to learn/understand marketing and implement strategies that increase channel growth.

This is my career and I will do whatever it takes to be successful (as long as I’m not compromising my core morals or values). If that means putting a dumb face on my thumbnails, so be it.

I’m living a life that many people can only dream about. I will plaster my stupid face all over every video I make until the day I die if that’s what I have to do. Wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to succeed in your career or business?

Psychology

There is a reason people click on thumbnails with faces more often.

Human beings have evolved to detect eye contact, and this is most effective when the whites of the eyes are showing. When a close-up face is shown in a thumbnail, people are more likely to stop and look – and click to see more. 

Humans are visual creatures. We communicate by expressing and reading emotional cues in facial expressions. An emotional face on a thumbnail is an effective way to convey to viewers what feelings the video might invoke. 

Creators may have only a single chance and a couple seconds to convince a viewer to click. Over-the-top faces grab attention, convey emotion, and compel clicks. This is the purpose of the thumbnail on Youtube.

Branding

By putting my face on my thumbnails, I’ve also created a recognizable brand. People see my face and immediately equate the image with my brand of content – for better or worse.

This might mean some people avoid it like the plague because they hate me and everything I stand for. But more often, it means those who enjoy my content will click more often – sometimes even if they aren’t particularly interested in the topic.

Yes, it’s possible to create a brand on the platform without putting your face on the thumbnails. But it’s far easier to find success by doing what works from a marketing perspective.

As a Youtuber, it’s important to cultivate brand awareness and market yourself. Some people might find this annoying, but we know the truth. It works. 

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23 thoughts on “Why Youtubers Put Their Faces on Video Thumbnails”

  1. Hello Pleasant Sims,

    Just a Twitch follower who’s passing-by 🙂

    I find your explanation very interesting. Personally, I like the fact that you have taken some of your own personal time to write this article about how does marketing work on Youtube ?

    Even though I assume the reason is probably again *haters* that always find something to hurt somebody.
    But for me, I have followed you since you began to stream on Twitch and you have appeared to me as a kind and truthful person that I appreciate and help me to get through hard times.
    Thank you so much for that ! 😀
    Have a great day !

    Reply
      • I make true crime videos, and people complain about the same thing in that community. I saw someone once say something along the lines of “if it doesn’t show what the video is about, it shouldn’t be in the thumbnail.” But the purpose of thumbnails isn’t to show what the video is about — it’s to get you to click on the video. People are entitled to dislike it, of course, but I wish they’d do two seconds of thinking before saying things like that.

        Reply
        • Same! Most people don’t have any idea what it takes to run a successful channel. They don’t understand we do these things for a reason. It’s not just because we think it’s “cool” or something. Lol

          Reply
  2. Do people actually complain about that? wow… i actually think the thumbnails like this help a lot, it makes it easier to tell who’s the creator of the video, i’m not sure about the marketing side, but i think having a human face there does help, personally i don’t click on a video just because it’s about sims, i click if it’s a creator i liked watching. I binge watched a bunch of your videos recently, i really enjoyed watching them! Keep up the great work 🙂

    Reply
  3. Whaaat? People really are complaining about this? I don’t get why anyone would have a problem with someone’s face being in the thumbnail, it’s not like it takes away from the quality of the content. I personally like the thumbnails, plus it’s easier to tell that I’m watching one of your videos.

    Reply
  4. I agree with everything you’ve said in this article except for one – you don’t have a stupid face! Be nice to yourself 🙂

    Reply
  5. I actually discovered your channel specifically because of your thumbnails. One of your Sims 3 videos popped up in my recs and I clicked because I thought your blue hair was cool. Shallow? Maybe. But I found a channel I absolutely love that way. Do what you need to do. If people complain, they’re the problem.

    Reply
  6. I understand better now thank you, but it still annoying for me. keep up the awesome job, i love your channel and yuor site helps me sooo much, im sorry if its too much too ask but could you try and make a lets play series of any of the sims games? (excluding the edgewood series) like you did the TS3 pleasantview? thank you,again sorry for any troble or english mistakes

    Reply
  7. This is a fantastic write-up, and I will add that women get ‘complaints’ of this nature 10X more than men. We are criticized so comprehensively, especially in the gaming community. I love you and your content is of the highest quality! Keep rocking on, and P.S. thanks for finally convincing me to get back into The Sims 2. I’ve been having so much fun! Cheers.

    Reply
    • That’s a good point and I didn’t even consider that! But yes, women are definitely criticized more in gaming. I think that’s less so in The Sims community since the majority of players are women, but it still happens.

      Reply
  8. You are such a special YoTuber. You writing this to explain to your fans just goes to show what an honest, sincere and serious a YouTuber you are. I think I might have to start advertising you under those quote big shot unquote Simmer’s comment section. I love your website btw, great things you are doing.

    Reply
  9. Interesting to know! I thought it had something to do with copyright, so no one would “steal” your thumbnail and claim as their own. Or is this also a point?

    Reply
    • Well, it does mean no one can steal the thumbnail, but I don’t really consider that a reason to use my face. If thumbnails without faces performed better, I would use those with no question. 🙂

      Reply
  10. “I’m living a life that many people can only dream about. I will plaster my stupid face all over every video I make until the day I die if that’s what I have to do.” – Pleasant sims

    Say it again for the stupid ones in the back!

    Reply
  11. I’ve read comments, here, about those who hate thumbnails with faces as being “stupid” or “dumb.” I’ll be the dissenter since obviously the hate goes both ways.

    I hate thumbnails with faces, let alone those with awkward expressions and poses. I avoid them for a couple of basic reasons:
    1. It’s difficult to take a video seriously when someone is making a silly face. It looks like a cheap, immature gimmick often used by infomercials, which is an industry riddled with scammers despite some legitimate companies using that platform.
    2. Any YouTube thumbnail I clicked on that had a face with an “annoying” expression always began with minutes of an equally annoying monologue telling the viewers what they’re about to watch rather than just letting them watch it. It’s another unnecessary component that is for the self-aggrandizement of the uploaders making them the focus rather than their content. Add in the superficiality of unnatural faces attempting to look perfectly cosmetic, and the overall message becomes something that doesn’t appear trustworthy.

    Your article expresses some sound reasons, however, I’d argue thumbnails with ridiculous faces target a specific viewing audience — sadly, a majority of viewers attracted to superficial marketing and challenged with with being able to discern legitimacy.

    For those of us who don’t live on YouTube, and utilize it less for entertainment, but more for discovery and research, we will avoid thumbnails with silly faces and instead gravitate toward content that actually appears sincere.

    Reply

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