There are a multitude of things that makes our Vimeo community special, but one of the major ones is that so many of us take chances and watch cool content that we know nothing about. Other video platforms rely on embeds, celebrity power and social media to power their views, but we are members of diverse Groups and Channels. We avidly pick things that pique our curiosity from the Discover tab, and eagerly await the next Staff Pick.

As a curator of Vimeo, part of my job is to feature videos every day in the Staff Picks Channel, and in order to do my job well, I watch tons of videos every day. Believe me like waaaaay more than you. Even so, thousands more are being constantly uploaded, far more than can possibly be screened. How do you stand out from the crowd and make sure that your video is given the opportunity to be the next big thing on the site? Let me tell you, first impressions count, and the two best ways to exercise control over your video presentation and encourage people to take a chance on your work are your video’s thumbnail and its description.

There is a very mathematical and precise theorem known as the Picturus proof which shows that a quality thumbnail increases the probability that someone will click play on your video by about billion percent.

One of my favorite examples of this is Solipsist by Andy Huang. On its surface the video seems like a tough sell: a 10 minute experimental film with no dialogue and no narrative? Umm…what’s next in my feed? But, look at that thumbnail! The subject is large, taking up a lot of the frame, and the contrast between the black background and the crazy facepaint is striking. It also seems like he looking right out at the viewer— what is he up to? It is both an enticing scenario and a stunning composition, and the viewer is teased into learning more—exactly what you want.

How can you get a great thumbnail? Well, just last month we unveiled a new feature that allows you to pick a frame from anywhere in your video. You shot at least one terrific image right? And of course you can upload a custom thumbnail to the site in JPG, GIF or PNG formats, allowing you to tweak an image to perfection.

Next, the description. This is your opportunity to ‘pitch’ your potential audience, and you shouldn’t take it any more lackadaisically than if you were pitching a Hollywood big shot! Remember, while your descriptions can be really really long, and include things like your collaborators, equipment lists or anecdotes from filming, only the first few lines will follow the video through the site and are able to be seen at just a glance in the Discover tab, Feeds or as a featured thumbnail in a Channel or Group. This is restricted real estate, so make it count!

As to what to put there, I think it is always best to lead off with a short description of what your video is about. Here is a recent video that had a really well written description, telling people exactly what it was, and briefly touching upon the themes it explores–

It might be a bit long, but the first sentence is a great summation, followed a slightly more- in-depth explication. Good combo!

Other things to include after the description are snippets that lend validation to your film. Festival honors are great, but don’t do a laundry list, only the one or two that are most prestigious. Pulling quotes from respected websites, curators or fellow filmmakers can be a smart addition as well.

Remember on the web, even 5 minutes can tax someone’s attention past breaking. At Vimeo you have great tools to display your work, and access to an amazing community of viewers, but you still have to convince them to take the leap and press play. So put your best foot forward and give effort and care into your thumbnails and descriptions. The thousands of potential viewers whom may discover and subsequently love your work will be thankful that you did!