Do Clickbait Thumbnails Work?


Blake Clancy, Leia Zirogiannis, and Iris Lee

As you’re scrolling through almost any social media site, you’re sure to come across a clickbait thumbnail. Bright colored thumbnails with huge letters — that usually attract our attention immediately. Some of us have seen enough of these thumbnails to the point that we ignore any videos with them.

While most agree clickbait thumbnails are unethical, (they get people to click on their videos even though the video doesn’t match the thumbnail) it’s technically not illegal or against YouTube TOS.

“Clickbait is not prohibited by YouTube. According to YouTube’s site, there is no reason why you can’t create clickbait for your videos.” explains MVOrganizing.

So here’s the big question: do clickbait thumbnails even work? Why do creators use them so much? An anonymous 7th grader responded, “They do it because they want to attract more viewers.” It seems that the thumbnails lead to extra views/clickthrough rate, because of the bright colors, appealing titles, interesting topics, and the background or poses in the thumbnail.

Some titles include “NEW 2021”, “*SCARY*”, “COPS CALLED”, “ALMOST DIED” , and (POLICE CALLED). They add those to the title for some sort of shock factor to the human eye. That shock factor causes people’s emotions to trigger and want to find out what happened. The main issue comes when the people realize the video isn’t true to  the thumbnail and it leaves them with a bad impression of the content creator

Some creators have noticed that using clickbait thumbnails aren’t useful anymore and actually cause their channel to die. This has resulted in more channels using thumbnails closer to the topic/ideas of the video. Most people have truly learned that most thumbnails that have bright text and surprised photos are click bait and aren’t going to contain the ideas in the thumbnail.

All of these factors lead to people clicking on videos because of clickbait. A lot of creators continue to make clickbait thumbnails even though there are negative results. In the long run, most people stop watching those creator’s videos because they keep getting tricked, causing them to lose trust. As a result, even though creating clickbait thumbnails seems fun and makes the creator think that there will be more views, it actually does not help and is better and easier not to make them. Overall, clickbait thumbnails used to work, but now people are trained not to click them.