Facebook Cover Images and Ads Can Now Only Be 20% Text

by Adam Rosenberg on Dec 21, 2012
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Beginning on January 15th 2013, Facebook will be making some changes to their text overlay policies for cover photos and Page post ads and sponsored stories in the newsfeed.

The gist of these changes is that you can’t promote images with more than 20% text in them as page post ads, sponsored stories, or cover images. Facebook will be releasing a tool to help quickly determine whether your image satisfies the 20% limit.

This new policy replaces previous policies around “calls to action”, “price or purchase information”, etc. It only applies to cover images, feed eligible Page post ads and sponsored stories (including links, offers, and mobile app install units) – it does not apply to market place ads. Additionally, brands can still post images with more than 20% text on their timelines; they just can’t promote them with paid media.

Why this is important:

This has MAJOR implications for content strategies as Facebook is aiming to remove any grey areas in what can and can’t be posted in cover images and on images in general. While images can contain links and text in their descriptions, the visual itself has limited real-estate for this type of activity. That means charts and graphs that you try to promote as Page posts likely won’t make the cut (but could still be posted as regular content pieces).

It also means if you are posting a cover image that contains a URL, a Call to Action, or promotional text (“buy this”) then you should take it down. Facebook has taken down several cover images in recent weeks that violated the “No CTA” rule. If you THINK you are violating this rule, it’s better to play it safe and assume you are.

Here is a screenshot of a cover image from Tough Mudder’s Facebook page that follows Facebook’s guidelines:


Though what constitutes 20% text on an image will be subjective based on the content, Facebook gives the following suggestions as guidelines for good content posts:


  • Photos should include real people and real things. User sentiment research shows that emotions triggered by images of real people, real situations, and real objects, are more lasting and compelling than those with words or text
  • Text or text overlay should be minimal. Text in photos from friends is rare so text in photos from brands is seen as inauthentic and generates negative reactions
  • Brand logos, campaign slogans, and taglines should be used sparingly. Consider using a photo of your product in action instead of overlaying your brand logo or slogan on an unrelated image.
  • Keep it simple.

Here is a screenshot of a piece of content shared by Juniper Networks‘ Facebook Page that demonstrates creative use of visual content without heavy text:

Juniper Networks makes creative use of product photos and text that stay within the Facebook guidelines

Post Author

Adam Rosenberg is an Account Supervisor at Edelman Digital where he specializes in developing community management and content strategies for clients. He also DJs and co-owns his own record label. When not doing the digital marketing thing, he can frequently...

  • There goes Paris’ plans to sell her Facebook cover as ad space :P

  • This is getting a little out of hand. Looks like Facebook is really catering to the brands that have the budget to spend ad dollars and have a designer on staff. So much for Facebook working for the little guy. Sorry small business, Facebook wants nothing to do with you, and it’s only going to get harder – best stop wasting your time on Facebook now and move to platforms worthwhile.

  • Somewhat agree but not exactly. This policy actually says that you can’t do an ad that is a photo with 20% or more text either. So both sides lose there. The ad buyers and SMB.

  • anonyfacebook

    This made me laugh “Facebook will be releasing a tool to help quickly determine whether your image satisfies the 20% limit.” If it’s like anything else FB does, a few of the big brands will have to obey their rules but lots of smaller businesses will be able to continue to play by their own rules.

  • I thought that was strange, too. Talking to a friend who does a lot of work with Facebook ads, he suggested it will make it easier for Facebook’s ad review procedure and cut down on actual eyeball time.

  • surfarosa_666

    People other than Israelites still use Facebook? Kudos, Zuckerberg.