What Can Brands Promote in Facebook Cover Photos?

By Rob McNair

There’s still some grey areas in the new Facebook guidelines, specifically around what, and what you cannot promote in your brand’s cover photo. Below are the guidelines from Facebook, that we will dissect:

B. Cover
All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. 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:

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

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

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

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

At first glance they seem quite straight forward, it seems that Facebook are clamping down and pushing brands towards their ad products in order to promote the page, but when you dig a little deeper and really get to the words used there appears to be a little wiggle room for brand promotions. Below, we’ll go through each point, explain it, and see where the potential loopholes are; let the dissection begin:

Point i. price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”

Unfortunately, this one is pretty clear cut, brands are unable to disclose any price or purchase information in the cover photo. Although that’s not to say that brands cannot highlight a particular generic promotion that they have running at any particular time, such as “sale now on”. This statement is generic enough to exclude any price or purchase information, it is simply informing people that there is a sale on.

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

This one is airtight, and for good reason, it’s in Facebook’s interest to keep people on their site, and by allowing brands to have contact information, or links pointing away from the site they are encouraging people to leave.

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

This is where the guidelines start to get a little grey, and it is more about what is not said than what is. Have another look at the sentence with some key words highlighted:

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

The point I am making is that this “rule” refers exclusively to Facebook features such as like and share, it makes no mention to 3rd party apps, such as the ones most brands use to administer promotions. In which case, you can point the most ostentatious, over the top, garish arrow to your third party app, and it will be considered kosher by Facebook (if we take the law at its letter).

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

A call to action is defined by the Business Dictionary as:

Words that urge the reader, listener, or viewer of a sales promotion message to take an immediate action, such as “Write Now,” “Call Now,” or (on Internet) “Click Here.”

By that definition brands would not be able to use such obvious call to actions as ‘enter now’ or ‘click here to win now!’ But brands will be able to inform people, without an immediate call to action, with a question for instance, such as, ‘would you like to win an iPad?’ With an arrow point to your app, the timeline thumbnail could then contain the immediate call to action that is prohibited in the cover photo.

The nonprofit Facebook Guy recently raised the debate on his Facebook Page, and since then, I’ve had time to look into it. My interpretation is, if you’re careful you can get away with the biggest, most flamboyant promotional message in a cover photo that you want. BUT, and it is a big, fully-rounded BUT, I have to stress that this is just my interpretation, so please don’t take this as gospel truth!

I’d love to get your thoughts on the matter in the comments, let’s get this thing sorted once and for all!

This post was written by Rob McNair

Rob has experience advising some of the worlds most iconic brands. He thrives on helping improving social media knowledge within organisations with the ultimate goal of making theirs brands more social, transparent and accountable.