Facebook launched Timeline in February 2012, and ever since then it has had strict rules for business pages and their cover photos.
The photos couldn't contain calls to action, prices or purchase information, contact information or references to Facebook features. You were limited to
just posting a picture. You had to be creative.
But times have changed, and now business owners can (almost) forget those rules.
Facebook recently relaxed its cover photo guidelines. The only rule left standing is that your text cannot take up more than 20 percent of the cover photo
space. This is great news for page administrators who are eager to use cover photos to their full potential.
Here are six ways businesses can take advantage of the new cover photo rules:
1. Ask your fans to like you.
It seems simple, but until recently Facebook forbade a call to action like this 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!"
Package your request around a human face, and use an obvious arrow or line to point to the like button on your page. You can also combine the "like us"
request with a reason someone 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 photo to produce leads.
Are you offering fans an eBook, or releasing a new product? Do you have a new feature to highlight?
Try adding a unique link to 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 percent 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. Keep the URL short and clean because users will have to type it into their browsers.
Instead of using Bit.ly or another link shortener—those links can be difficult to retype—buy a simple domain such as "www.yourcompanyname.com/offer." From
there, you can collect names and email addresses from anyone who wants to download the item.
And just like that you've started producing leads from your cover photo.
Here's an example from HubSpot. It used its cover photo to promote a book it was launching:
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 email lists, tout landing pages and
integrate with other social networks. Now that Facebook changed the rules, use your cover photo to point out specific apps on your page.
A business page can have up to 12 custom apps, and three of them can be "favorites." This means they will appear just below and to the right of the cover
photo. Use your cover photo to direct fans to these apps.
If you're running a contest and feature the app in your favorites, your cover photo could say "Enter our contest!" with an arrow pointing to the specific
Here's an example of a cover photo my company used:
4. Direct fans to your website.
Chances are your website is the main hub for your company and 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 people can purchase your product from
your site. Give people 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 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 specials, list your address and tell fans to come in and try them. You can also include a
6. Encourage sharing.
In the first tip I mentioned that sometimes you have to ask for what you want.
The new cover photo is the perfect opportunity to encourage fans to share your page and content. By putting a call-to-action to "share this page with your
friends," you remind your fans that if they like your page, their friends might, too. It doesn't hurt to ask!
The cover photo is a powerful marketing tool for Facebook business pages, and you should never neglect it.
At my company, we try to change our cover photo several times a month. We see a big response whenever we do.
With the new rules, the possibilities are almost endless. 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 percent text rule,
check out this template. You can find another great resource 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.
A version of this article originally appeared on
SmartBlog on Social Media.