Rules for Facebook Cover Images

facebook-cover-imagesLast week I sent a message out to my email list with a tactical tip for using social media (Facebook specifically) to promote your show with your cast. I got some positive feedback on that email, and I received a particularly important response from subscriber Corina Mackay – who knows a thing or two about social media. Here’s her message:

Hi Clay,

This is a really good tip! I just wanted to check that you know about Facebook’s strict rules about promotional cover photos? I think personal pages are exempt, but for a show fan page or a theatre company’s page, there are pretty heavy restrictions on what you’re allowed to add to a cover image (no calls to action, no promotion or pricing details, etc).

Just wanted to check in case you didn’t know about that!

Corina 🙂

I had heard of these restrictions before, but I hadn’t given them much thought when I was sharing examples of great Facebook cover images with my email list. Here are the very general highlights of Facebook’s policy on cover images:

  • No calls-to-action
  • No contact information
  • No purchase information

You can check out the full explanation of the restrictions (which is pretty short), but it seems like if you want to live safely within the rules that Facebook has laid out you should avoid using text in your cover images as much as possible. That’s pretty restrictive, but it’s the clearest way to make sure you aren’t committing any violations.

What does this mean for a show?

So how does this break down when you are creating a cover image for your show. I don’t work for or have access to anyone at Facebook, but here’s my take.

  • Can I include the title of the show? Yes, I feel like this will fly – especially since you hopefully have a designed logo for the title as opposed to just the name of the show in black, Helvetica letters on a white background
  • Can I include the price of tickets? Based on the prohibition on purchase information, probably not
  • Can I include the theatre where the show is happening? The address of the theatre is almost certainly a “no” under these guidelines. Including the name of the venue is a little fuzzy, but is still probably a technical violation
  • Can I include the dates of the show? This one is very iffy for me. I feel like it doesn’t go against the spirit of these rules, but it does seem like it goes against the letter
  • Can I encourage people to buy tickets? Nope

Does this really matter?

Having just shared my take on how these rules apply to shows, I now pose the question how much does this really matter? There were over half a billion active users on Facebook in June 2012. There’s a lot of activity to monitor, and realistically Facebook just can’t police everything for strict adherence to there rules. In all likelihood, your event page isn’t going to see enough traffic for an extended enough period of time to draw the attention of the Facebook gods.

Of course that may not be true tomorrow. Now being a publicly traded company, Facebook could decide to pour resources into monitoring every page regardless of size. They could develop a new bit of code that makes it simple to review every single cover image for adherence to these rules. I don’t think something like that is likely, but you should realize that it is possible.

Ultimately Facebook is the one with all the power here. They can take their ball and go home whenever they want, but they also need you to use their platform to promote your show and engage with as many people as you can. That’s how their business runs.

Bottom line: I feel like if you try to be respectful of Facebook, you’ll be fine.

Thanks to Corina for taking the time to point out Facebook’s written policy on cover images.

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  1. I think you’re right that Facebook aren’t likely to come and check your page in case there’s a violation. However, the risk is that someone will report your page to Facebook and, with no means of communicating with a page admin on issues like this, if it’s found to be violating the T&Cs they could just shut the page down.

    It only takes a disgruntled or malicious person a couple of seconds to report a page – it’s not worth giving them the opportunity. Besides, you can ‘highlight’ a promotional update and ‘pin’ it to the top of the page and that does a similar job.

    Chris Unitt on Tue, Sep 4th, 2012 at 5:03pm
    • Chris, you bring up a good point with pinning a promotional update for a page. I haven’t looked into whether or not you can pin updates on an event, but if so that would be a great option there, too.

      I know part of the allure with putting the information on a cover image is you can encourage supporters of the show to make it their cover image on their personal pages, thereby carrying whatever text you put in the cover image along.

      Maybe a good hybrid model is to use a completely safe cover image on your own page, but provide an alternate cover image with a lot more detail that your fans could use as the cover on their personal pages. My understanding was that personal pages aren’t subject to these same restrictions (although I can’t imagine why not).

      Great input!

      Clay Mabbitt on Tue, Sep 4th, 2012 at 9:15pm
  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Clay! It’s definitely a fuzzy area, but worth being aware of at least.

    Corina Mackay on Tue, Sep 4th, 2012 at 7:05pm
    • Agreed. And thanks again for bringing it to my attention. 🙂

      Clay Mabbitt on Tue, Sep 4th, 2012 at 9:16pm

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