Facebook launched Timeline in February 2012 and ever since, Facebook has had strict rules for business pages and their cover photos. The photos couldn’t contain calls to action, price or purchase information, contact information or references to Facebook features. You were limited to posting just picture — so you had better be creative.

Well, times have changed and now business owners can (almost) forget those rules. Facebook relaxed their cover photo guidelines recently. The only rule left standing is that your text cannot take up more than 20% of the cover photo space. This is great news for page admins who are eager to leverage cover photos to their full potential.

Six ways businesses can take advantage of the new cover photo rules

1. Ask your fans to “like” you.

It seems simple, but up until recently a call to action like this was forbidden on cover photos. Take this opportunity to be straightforward with your fans and give them the most direct call to action out there: “Like us!”

We recommend packaging your request around a human face and using an obvious arrow or line to point toward the “like” button on your page. You can also combine the “like us” request with a reason that someone new should “like” you. For example, “Like us to receive exclusive offers.” Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want.

2. Use your cover to generate leads.

Are you offering fans a new eBook? Releasing a new product? Have a new feature to highlight? Try adding a unique link in your cover photo that connects to an offer such as an eBook, new product, coupon or infographic. In a text announcement that takes up 20% of the cover space or less, tell your fans how to get this offer or lead them to a landing page. If you decide to use a link, remember that it will not be active, so keep the URL short and clean, because users will have to type the URL into their browser manually. Instead of using bit.ly or another shortener, because they can be difficult to retype, buy a simple domain such as “www.yourcompanyname.com/offer.” From there, you can collect names and e-mail addresses from anyone who wants to download the item. And just like that, you’ve started generating leads from your cover photo.

Here’s an example from HubSpot who used their cover photo to promote a book they were launching.

hubspot_cover_photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Direct fans to a specific app.

Businesses and brands use Facebook applications to run contests, sweepstakes and fan-gates, as well as to build e-mail lists, tout landing pages and integrate with other social networks. Now that the rules have changed, use your cover photo to point out specific apps that are featured on your page.

A business page can have up to 12 custom apps installed; three of them can be “favorites,” meaning they will appear just below and to the right of the cover photo. Use your cover photo to direct fans to your specific apps. If you’re running a contest and the app is featured in your favorites, your cover photo could say “Enter our contest!” with an arrow pointing to the specific app thumbnail. Here’s an example of a cover photo we did when the rules were first changed.

cover_photo_appcallout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Direct fans to your website.

Chances are your website is the main hub for your company and as such contains the most information about your business. Now that Facebook allows contact information in the cover photo, you can send existing and potential fans straight to your website. Maybe there is information on your website that isn’t featured anywhere else, or maybe you’re an online store and they can purchase your product off your site. As I suggested, give them a motive to head to your website.

5. Show off your contact information.

For businesses that have a big in-store presence, the new cover photo is a great way to show off all of your contact information. If you’re a clothing store, show a photo of your shop and say “Come visit us at [insert address].” This is also a good idea for a restaurant — feature your weekly special, list your address and tell your fans to come in and try it! You can also include a simple map.

6. Encourage sharing.

In my first tip, I mentioned that sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. The new cover photo is the perfect opportunity to encourage fans to share your page and your content. By putting a nice call-to-action to “share this page with your friends,” you’re reminding your fans that if they like your page, their friends might too. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

The cover photo is a powerful marketing tool for Facebook business Pages and should never be neglected. At my company, we try to change our cover photo several times a month, and we see a big response whenever we do. With the new rules, the possibilities are almost endless, so start thinking about your marketing goals and ways you can use your cover photo to reach them. If you need some guidelines to help you make sure your content doesn’t exceed the 20% text rule, check out this template. Another great resource can be found on Mari Smith’s blog.

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service custom app design tool, used to create apps for Facebook pages, websites and mobile Web browsing. ShortStack provides the tools for small businesses, graphic designers, agencies and corporations to create apps with contests and forms, fan gates, product lines and more. You can follow ShortStack on Twitter @shortstacklab. For more tips and best practices for building your Facebook page, download ShortStack’s latest e-book, “Big Brand Facebook Secrets for Small Businesses.” You can download it for free on the ShortStack Facebook page.

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3 Responses to “6 ideas to help take advantage of Facebook’s new cover photo rules”

  1. dana says:

    Thanks for the link Chris. We'll check it out. We're just getting started with G+!

  2. JenSmithSocial says:

    Great tips on how to your Facebook cover photo – thanks!!! I'll repost on my biz page!

  3. upamanyu001 says:

    very good blog might help us.