Practical Ecommerce

Facebook Timeline Cover Images: 6 Pointers

Facebook states that on Friday, March 30, it will convert all Fan pages to the new Timeline format. The most obvious component of Timeline is the large cover image at the top of the page.

Facebook has restrictions on these images. They cannot contain the following elements.

  • Price or purchase information. Examples include “40% off” or “Download it at our website.”
  • Contact information. Web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for the Page’s “About” section.
  • References to user interface elements. This includes “Like” or “Share” or any other Facebook site features.
  • Calls to action. This could be statements such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

To help businesses prepare for the Timeline change, here are six best practices, with examples, for creating acceptable cover images.

1. Optimize the Size

Facebook says cover images should be at least 399 pixels wide. However, the optimum size is 855 pixels wide x 350 pixels down the page. Some articles I’ve read suggest slightly different dimensions — such as 850 x 315 — but most recommend 855 x 350.

2. Center or Right-align the Focal Point

Due to the fact that the page avatar — i.e., the icon — is inset in the lower left-hand corner of the cover, it’s best to either use an image that has no particular focal point or, if one exists, align it to the center or right-hand side. Here are two examples.

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TopRank Marketing's cover photo has no particular focal point.

TopRank Marketing’s cover photo has no particular focal point.

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Palm Beach Jewelry's cover has a right-aligned focal point.

Palm Beach Jewelry’s cover has a right-aligned focal point.

3. Abide by Facebook’s Requirements

The cover image may look like a billboard and, as such, the temptation may be to build in promotional elements. I don’t know how Facebook plans to monitor the millions of images that are soon to be uploaded, but it’s best to abide by the rules from the outset rather than be forced to make changes later.

Here are two examples of covers that may cross the line.

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This cover contains elements forbidden by Facebook.

This cover contains elements forbidden by Facebook.

Notice the call to action, which encourages visitors to “get your copy” along with an arrow pointing to the “Like” button. Though no mention is made to Like the page, the inference is obvious and, therefore, questionable. Calls to action are forbidden.

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The use of a web address is prohibited on cover images.

The use of a web address is prohibited on cover images.

According to Facebook’s requirements, the use of a web address — as seen in this cover — is prohibited.

4. Think Branding

Absent the ability to incorporate overt promotional elements, get creative and use images that present the uniqueness of your brand. That’s what large retailers are doing and it can also work for smaller ecommerce merchants. Here are some good examples of this approach.

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Lake Champlain Chocolates cover image.

Lake Champlain Chocolates cover image.

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Hubspot's cover uses its logo as the focal point.

Hubspot’s cover uses its logo as the focal point.

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Magnolia Bakery's cover features its products.

Magnolia Bakery’s cover features its products.

5. Update Often

To keep your page looking fresh, update images frequently — at least once a month. You can also update image around holidays, or special occasions.

6. Use Apps for Promotion

Even though the cover image cannot contain promotional elements, app icons located just beneath the cover can. Facebook allows page owners to change images associated with custom apps and rename them with a call to action message. Here are two examples.

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App icons can contain promotional text and images.

App icons can contain promotional text and images.

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Another example of app icons with promotional messages.

Another example of app icons with promotional messages.

Conclusion

After March 30, Facebook will force page owners to switch to Timeline. Use the change as an opportunity to enhance your company’s image with the use of attention-getting cover images that tell the story of your brand and present your unique value proposition.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney
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Comments ( 16 )

  1. Steve Weiss March 29, 2012 Reply

    We’ve attempted to have some fun with our timeline image, integrating it with the profile image. Check it out!

    https://www.facebook.com/steveweissmusic

  2. jmarkj March 29, 2012 Reply

    "Most recommend 855×350"? In several months of working with Facebook covers, this is the first time I’ve seen 855×350 used as a suggested dimension. And the bottom line: it’s wrong. There had been confusion as to whether 850 pixels or 851 pixels was the correct maximum width. Do a Google search. Perform a Photoshop test. 851×315 is the tested and proven correct maximum size.

  3. Rebecca Levinson March 29, 2012 Reply

    Hi Paul,

    We have enjoyed using the Facebook Timeline cover to help our online audience enjoy our conference as if they were there with solid and strong imagery. On our Business page we’ve let the pictures tell the story of our company and its brand advocates, along with helping to advocate for events that really matter within our industry-education- like World Read Aloud Day.
    We are loving Facebook covers and the opportunity to tell more stories and let our advocates tell stories for us.

    http://www.facebook.com/newleafinlearning

  4. Coeus March 29, 2012 Reply

    Adhering to FB guidelines is not complicated. The trick is merely to follow what the big boys (Coke, Nike, etc) do. That’s how any changes can be spotted. For a better idea:

    http://www.facebook.com/froomerce

  5. Paul Chaney March 29, 2012 Reply

    Steve – I agree. That’s a very creative use of your cover and profile image. Kudos to you!

    Mark – I’ll defer to your judgment, but I’ve seen several specs on dimensions. Thanks for adding your insights.

    Rebecca – Love the cover. Very creative as well.

    Coeus – Some good advice there. Doubtless, the big brands won’t get it wrong, so following their lead is a great idea.

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Keep them coming! Also, if there are other small businesses/ecommerce merchants that wish to share a link to your page, I’ll do a round up in an upcoming article.

  6. Patrick King March 29, 2012 Reply

    Yes, 315 deep worked like a charm for both my personal profile and that of my venture TypographyShop. Here’s our solution: http://www.facebook.com/TypographyShop (Feel free to like us while you’re there.)

  7. oshackle March 29, 2012 Reply

    Great post. I love the time line on FB. I’m creating my ecommerce store timeline as we speak. Check out my timeline on my business opportunities blog.

    http://www.facebook.com/bizoppsbuzz

  8. Susan Etter March 29, 2012 Reply

    Just updated the Makaboo.com FB cover image and sizing it to 851×315 worked perfect for us. Balanced product photography with brand centered messaging (not at all promotional)

    http://www.facebook.com/MakabooGifts

  9. Paul Chaney March 30, 2012 Reply

    Susan – Just noticed that your cover includes your the web address to your website, which Facebook expressly forbids. Facebook considers that promotional.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how Facebook plans to monitor the millions of covers to ensure they abide by the restrictions. I’m guessing it has some mechanism for doing so, however.

  10. jmarkj March 30, 2012 Reply

    Sorry Paul, when I read my response, it sounds a bit abrasive. Probably because I’ve dealt with this issue for so long. And you’re right, Susan’s probably going to get some heat from Facebook for the web address.

  11. Strilets Irina April 3, 2012 Reply

    I definitely like new profile look in FB!!! it’s really cool to have big image infront of you when you open profile… moreover it’s very attractive for business promotion, could be used more effectively for designing promotion campaigns …
    although I use just for fan :) and have Porche picture there… because it’s my dream :)

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000676991430

  12. Ridha Mallick April 3, 2012 Reply

    The new FB look with cover photos are a definite opportunity for Businesses! The restrictions on copy can also always be avoided by clever use of imagery.

    Check out
    http://www.facebook.com/QikCommerce

    Clearly says 1000 words ;)

  13. Tudor Iova April 24, 2012 Reply

    If you want some awesome covers for your private FB account, check http://www.timelinemods.com/ for thousands of watermarks free timeline covers

  14. Leo Quang May 31, 2012 Reply

    Cover Size Facebook at http://coversizefacebook.com

  15. Rick Smith June 30, 2012 Reply

    I’ve got a tricky one for you. Our Facebook page is the same as our website. (http://facebook.com/noahsdadcom/) Do you think I could say – "Be sure to join our journey on NoahsDad.com" – since that is the name of the page also…?

  16. Mike Darnell December 30, 2012 Reply

    The importance of the cover photo is hugely overblown. Presumably to cover up for the limited conversion potential of Facebook pages for average businesses. Ah he tried and true "don’t let them see the forest for the trees" strategy. Works every time.

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