Understanding Facebook’s Cover Photo Guidelines – and what to do with it


On a prior article, I gave several examples of great Cover Photos used on Facebook’s Timeline Pages. Today, we’ll be looking at the Guidelines Facebook has set in choosing Cover Photos.

With the way the Cover Photo displays over the page, it is easy to imagine it to be something like a banner  that lays over your site, but we have to remember that it is not. Promotions or advertisements are not allowed on the Cover Photo. In fact, you cannot put too many text details in it at all. We’ll go through the different provisions below:

Price or purchase information

If you have a product to sell online, you can use a photo or illustration of said product, and even some details on the product’s features, but you can’t include anything about how much it costs or where you can get it. This information belongs in your Facebook page’s About section.

Contact information

This is self evident, but of course this information should also be in your About section. While it is true that some information in the About section is hidden in the Timeline page, the fact remains that it is there for that reason.

On the side, it is only annoying to see things like emails and urls on a Cover Photo. Why put it there when a fan can just scroll down to the About section to see it?

Calls to action

You cannot use the Cover photo to solicit likes, comments, or shares. Facebook’s motivation for blocking this is obvious: they already have an ads platform to request that sort of thing. You can also make these kind of requests on your posts on the Timeline itself. In fact, you are not allowed to make any mention of liking or sharing, or any other interaction you can do in Facebook, in any context.

Those are the guidelines mentioned here, but in fact, there is more. Quote Facebook, “all cover images are public”. Even when you have set your personal Facebook account to private, there is a basic set of data that is displayed to the public, even to people you have not added as friends, and that includes your profile photo, your about information and your cover photo. Because of this, there are additional limitations.

For one, you can’t have anything on your cover photo that is decidedly false, deceptive or misleading. It means, unfortunately, you can’t pull any April Fool’s pranks with the Cover photo, but for practical purposes this is meant to protect the consumer.

You also can’t use a cover photo that infringes on existing copyrights. So sorry guys, but even if you are a fan of a particular character on a TV show or movie, you are actually not allowed to use that on your cover photo. This is actually one of the reasons I have held off adding a cover photo to my own account. For what it’s worth, Facebook is more likely to focus on Pages rather than user accounts on this regard.

Ultimately, most of the limitations mentioned here are common mistakes made by overly eager online marketers. They may see all that space as valuable advertising space, much like the classified ads section in a newspaper, or the familiar Google ads box in a  blog. Of course, some marketers see these as opportunities all the time. For most users, however, this amounts to unwanted visual noise. Facebook itself  has an advertising platform, and has even expanded opportunities for promotion with Promoted Posts. They want advertisers to use these official platforms, and not abuse every opportunity available.

What to do with your Cover photo

Make no mistake, the Cover photo is still an opportunity for advertising. It’s just not the conventional type of advertising. Instead, think of the Cover photo as an avenue for branding. Add elements in there reminiscent of your brand. For businesses, of course you’ll want to depict your product or service in there. If you want to promote your personal brand, you don’t need to put a photo of yourself. Think of what you are best known for, your job or hobbies, like drawing or playing video games, and make that your cover photo. You get brownie points for creativity and good design.

For those who don’t remember, Cover Photos take the space previously occupied by Wall Posts, and before that, the ubiquitous text status update. It is the first thing people see when they go to your page, and you need to make sure that first impression is good and persistent.

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