As of March 30, all Facebook brand pages will migrate to the timeline format, whether you like it or not. The timeline changes present some interesting opportunities but also challenges to brands with Facebook presences. For our perspective on what you need to be aware of, check out the Exploring Social Media lesson on Understanding Facebook Timelines for Brands.

But there’s one major opportunity many brands will see that really isn’t there because Facebook has implemented a very specific policy that deters you from being overly promotional with your new page layout. The cover photo, which many of you have seen and even implemented on your personal Facebook pages, is a big, empty landscape many brands and companies will try to take advantage of. Why upload just a simple picture when you can create one with some text and other info that better promotes your company? But doing so for certain marketing reasons is now against the rules.

From Facebook’s FAQs about Cover Photos:

Cover images must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:

  • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
  • References to user interface elements such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

So you can’t use this territory to market or promote, ask people to Like or Share, tell people how to find you elsewhere or online or otherwise get hold of you.

Here’s SME’s:

Social Media Explorer's Facebook Cover Photo

What Facebook is doing is cleansing the brand page of blatant marketing and promotions. They’re forcing a more social experience from brands through policy. And with their recent IPO, they have a lot of confidence (and money) that says they can fly in the face of the very brands that they depend upon for advertising revenue a bit.

But unless you click through to see the FAQs about Cover Photos, you’re not likely to see the policy. As such, many brands will violate these rules. It’s simply good business to take advantage of that image real estate to create one that presents calls to action, contact information or “Like Us” verbiage. That is until Facebook finds out you’re doing it.

Don’t make that mistake. Just create a masthead. For some neat examples, check out Spredfast (SME client), Coca-Cola and Wendy’s. It’s an image for branding purposes, not marketing.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://justessay.com/ custom essay

    Thanks for the great info. I’ll be
    implementing much of this soon!

  • http://twitter.com/DrinkCaliWine SJVWG Cornucopia

    I find it really odd that you can NOT make a call to action to “Like” the page seeings how the button has moved…again.

  • http://twitter.com/3rhinomedia Don Stanley

    Appreciate the insights Jason. I agree with SJVWG that it is odd you cannot make a call to action. Wondering how they will police it

  • http://www.facebook.com/romona.foster Romona Foster

    Just curious, does Facebook realize that companies can still be social while marketing their products/brands?  One thing that is certain is that it will force companies to get even more creative.

    • bizTag

      Reminds me of when large search engine companies started banning advertising under certain products and keywords, in
      which you had to then use pseudo language to promote products and services, diminishing the value of real time online search…. enter #hashtag #biztag for direct connect to intended information!

  • http://www.royalharvest.co/ Royal Harvest

    Very good to know. Thanks Jason

  • Robyn McIntyre

    How, if anything, do these restrictions apply to nonprofits?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Same restrictions for everyone. No calls to action, not contact information, etc.

  • http://www.socialidentities.com Hugh Briss

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about but where in the rules do you see anything that says you can’t promote something in the Timeline image?

    It says you can’t put prices or discounts, can’t ask people to Like the page, can’t use calls to action, can’t show contact information. How do you see any of those rules as saying that you can’t talk about your service or product or promote your business beyond just using a photo?

    I don’t know about you but I don’t find it difficult to promote something without putting a price in the ad or using a call to action.

    If I had a restaurant and showed a big photo of the interior with some inset photos of some of the dishes and then said “You’re going to love our restaurant. We’ve got the tastiest food, the tastiest drinks and the tastiest customers.” What part of that very promotional header image do you see as violating the rules?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good idea there, Hugh. There certainly are ways to use imagery to promote your business. But I’m willing to be 95% of the people running brand pages either A) Don’t know about the rules and B) Probably think, “OH! I can put my web address and a big call to action in that big cover image.”

      You have a very good point, but I do think that most people don’t think visually to that degree and if you’re talking about computer software, accounting services, heavy equipment manufacturing, pharma, etc., etc., you’re going to have a more difficult time painting that picture.

      I don’t see your copy really violating their terms, but “You’re going to love our restaurant,” may very well be construed as a call to action, too. Facebook wants these things to be non-marketing. So I’m guessing — if (And it’s a BIG if) they start policing it, lots more will fall into the violation of terms than not.

      But great points here, sir. Good thoughts for certain.

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  • bizTag

    I did not see anything about Implimenting biztag/QR Codes within your landscape image. Create a free biztag and start promoting your entire business through mobile. Biztag.com

  • http://twitter.com/eNyotaLearning eNyotaLearning

    Thanks for the information. Didnt know about it but would keep in mind now

  • Jared Espinoza

    Thanks for the info Jason. With Facebook’s terms of use changing so often its hard to keep up.

    Jared 

  • aaroneden

    Thanks Jason – this is very useful and just in time!  I wonder what will happen to your Welcome Tab when this change will take effect this 30th?  Can you still post a comment on other Facebook pages — as a page? I haven’t had time to check things out.

  • Jim

    Hi Jason,  one small correction; Facebook has not had a recent IPO.  They “Filed” for an IPO.

    Cheers

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Smeltzer/100003397903438 Scott Smeltzer

    I think it’s a great move.  There are a few companies out there that “get” that creative marketing will earn you more long term loyal followers than “Buy now” campaigns.  I can’t wait to see what my creative team comes up with for our page. 

    • Mgross5

      I agree Scott. Facebook is pushing marketers to follow a strategy they should have already been doing. Creativity wins the consumer, not an “in-your-face” promotion.

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  • Maria Fuster

    We are in the midst of creating our cover photo and have some great ideas.  I have seen a lot of people complain about the changes on FB’s timeline.  But, like everything else you need to change with the times and find the potential that’s what marketing is about.  

    Maria Fuster
    http://facebook.com/incitecreative

  • http://www.eaglemat.com/ Floor Mats

    Great article!  We’re in favor of these new rules.  Hopefully they will, as you say, improve the social experience that users share with brands.  Thanks for the coverage!

  • http://tribalstylemarketing.com/blog TribalStyleMarketing

    I think many brands are crying a foul because they really aren’t into it for the social interaction & long term brand equity.  They deemed it as another “media” channel to push push push.

    I like Gary Vaynerchuk’s definition, Web 2.0.

  • Carl Franzon

    What I don’t see on the Facebook FAQ is the dimensions or ratio of the picture should be.  

    • Carl Franzon

       Never mind, I just had to click on the 399 pixels in the main FAQ and it took me to a page that said, “851 x 315″. 

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  • http://www.kasradesign.com/ Explainer Videos

    Facebook is gone guys!…it is replaced with the old myspace..God knows how frustrated I am about the TIMELINE. 

  • http://panganmarketing.com/ Josh Pangan

    The only issue I have with the timeline is some content takes a little bit to load or scrolling through timeline to past years isn’t as smooth as I would like it to be.

  • Karen

    I can’t see anywhere that says you can’t add wording such as “your chance to win £250 if you play the game”. Would this be breaking the rules if added to the cover photo?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      In theory, it violates the non-promotional intent Facebook is looking to enforce.

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  • http://www.xfinityonline.com/xfinity-tv.aspx Ethan

    Thanks for the post. The concept of cover picture is good, i guess. If Structured properly, it can very well convey what your brand is all about and one more is the display of the map. It makes it easier to locate the venture, isn’t it?

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