Update June 27, 2013 – Facebook has yet again changed their rules with respect to cover photos…making parts of this article irrelevant.

Here are their new guidelines with respect to cover photos:

Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text.

Keep reading below, we fully explain that part about not including images with more than 20% text.


Facebook recently updated their rules surrounding cover photo use on business pages. The company doesn’t say much about why, but the sentiment is that they don’t want cover photos used as sales or LIKE-generating tools.

If you’re already familiar with the guidelines, the newest change restricts images to containing not more than 20% text. I’ll explain more below.

If you don’t think you’ll get caught, read this Mashable article about Facebook’s crackdown on non-compliant cover photos.

Alright, let’s dive into the rules. For the visual folks I’ll give an example of each rule being broken. THEN – we’ll look at some really great cover photos and talk ideas.

You know what they say…a picture is worth a thousand words. This is not a ‘finger-pointing’.  Well…except for the Rogers example maybe. :P


The Rules

These are taken verbatim from the Facebook ‘Page Guidelines‘ on their website. The commentary is my own.

Covers may not include:

1. Images with more than 20% text;

If you’re wondering if your photo complies, imagine dividing it into ten equal pieces…does your text occupy more than two full pieces? Yep, I know, 20% isn’t a lot!

But, why? In a nut shell, Facebook doesn’t want cover photos used as advertising or promotional space.


Let’s look at a few cover photo screen shots. To demonstrate, I created of grid overlay of 100 blocks and shaded the text areas in red. Per the new guidelines, text may not occupy more than 20 blocks. Let’s see how they did…


Their entire cover is text. If the powers that be knew, they’d promptly delete this.



Safe. Exactly 20 blocks, when you take the lack of ‘full block use’ into account. Also important…the readable word “popchips” on that chip bag counts as well. No image or logo is exempt!



Also coming in under 20 blocks…


2. Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;

Again it comes down to ‘promotional or not?’. Promoting your discounts, special offers and downloadable e-books is not permitted.

This Leon’s Furniture cover image is a great example of what Facebook wants to avoid.


3. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;

This image contains more than 20% text, as well as full contact details…thus breaking two of the rules.


4. references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features;

Referencing Facebook features, such as “LIKE US” or the infamous arrow pointing to the LIKE button was very popular back before Timeline. Even the largest brands were finding clever ways to hint at the LIKE.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an example as of writing this post…but you get the picture. :)



5. calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

This cover photo on a Cooke Insurance Facebook Page includes a call to action which I’ve highlighted in red. As you can see, it does come across as promotional…which is what we need to avoid.


“So what should I use as my cover photo?”

There are really two options, you can use a single photo, or have a professional cover image designed by a graphic designer. Here are some ideas and examples I like…

A fun photo of your staff

Your location

A branded design

Photos of real people connected to your brand (no stock photos please!)

A great photo of your product

Real people enjoying your product


A photo/image that relates to your brand

A photo of an item on your menu


An image that integrates your thumbnail in a clever way

Saint Clair Family Estate


If you only read one line of this article:

Facebook Cover Photos Must Not Be Promotional or Contain Text that Occupies More than 20% of the Total Image! :)


For those in the Saint John area, I’m facilitating an awesome half day Facebook Pages for Business workshop on February 26th.

It’ll be jam packed with smart advice on social marketing and strategy to create a following. Everyone who registers also gets  an hour of one-on-one consulting outside the workshop.

Register by Friday February 1st and enjoy an Early Bird Discount. Click here for details!