Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide


July 2013

6 Facebook covers: the good, the great, the ugly

Anyone who’s been in one of my Facebook 101 classes will know that we talk about the platforms’ terms and conditions including those surrounding cover images (those large banner images at the top of your Facebook page).

For a long time, Facebook had some pretty onerous rules around what we could do with our ‘covers’. Facebook said they couldn’t have calls to action, they couldn’t have more than 20% text and couldn’t contain contact details.

I think a lot of this was related to ensuring we didn’t turn our cover images into big, ugly, text-filled  (and non-paying) advertising spaces. This of course didn’t stop some Facebook cover images from having big, ugly, text-filled cover images. There’s always a plethora of organisations on Facebook that aren’t aware of the rules or just don’t care.

But now, you can throw those rules out of the window.

  • Your cover can contain more than 20% text.
  • You can have contact details in your cover.
  • You can have ‘calls to action’ in your cover.

Since this change (at the beginning of July), I’ve been looking at Facebook cover images to see how organisations have responded. This post will look at some examples. I aim to give you some food for thought, when you’re choosing your Facebook cover. What looks good? What looks icky? And what functional purposes might your cover image serve?

Woolworths cover image
Woolworths cover image

Woolworths – one of our major supermarket chains, has a cover image which reflects its slogan but is largely clean, symmetrical and easy-to-absorb. It might change its cover occasionally to support a new product or campaign, so it’s one Facebook cover to keep an eye on if you’re keen on gaining ‘seasonal ideas’.

Food SA cover image
Food SA cover image


Food SA, the food industry body in South Australia, has a cover image which supports an ongoing campaign in this state to ‘buy local’. Under the previous cover image regime, this amount of text would have been against the guidelines. But now cover images can contain more complex messages. It’s been used on other food-type Facebook pages.

Stereosonic cover image
Stereosonic cover image

Stereosonic, the two-day music festival, has a sensational cover image supported by the images for its Facebook apps. It has a few key phrases that don’t clutter the overall image.

Joseph Joseph cover image
Joseph Joseph cover image

I came across the Joseph Joseph kitchenware page while roaming the platform, and was captivated by the cover its used. The image features a lot of products set out neatly in a compelling format that’s ecstasy for homeware hoarders. There’s no need for text there – the catalogue of images says it all.

Now, let’s get onto some Facebook pages which are cramming a little more text into their covers. Not always to good effect.

Dominos Australia cover image
Dominos Australia cover image

What do you think of the Dominos Australia cover image? It looks like a cut-out voucher, no? It’s reminiscent of all the messages we see shared in letterbox leaflets and on Domino shop windows. That’s not a bad thing. For Dominos fans, this is important information. It could have been immensely ugly, but somehow I think they’ve gotten away with it …

For this post, I absolutely needed an ugly cover image. I don’t like offending people (and potentially clients and friends!) so I looked for international pages and found Hike Those Holidays. Enough said, I think. The abolition of the 20% text rule is no excuse for this! Incidentally, it has a lot of partner Facebook pages with the same cover images.

Hike Those Holidays cover image
Hike Those Holidays cover image

So think about these things with your Facebook cover image:

  • What first impression do you want to make? (Many people will only see your cover image when they first Like the page)
  • Can you use images of what you offer? Eg, product shots arranged attractively?
  • Is there an important slogan or service promise you’d like to include as text?
  • Is there a current campaign you want others to understand – do you have one sentence explaining it?
  • Do you operate in a seasonal industry? Consider changing covers for summer/spring/winter/autumn
  • Is there a big piece of news you want to share? Could your cover image illustrate that?

Of course, it’s not a case of ANYTHING GOES with covers:

“ Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.” Facebook page guidelines.

Read the cover-specific guidelines and size recommendations too.

I’d love to know if you have any favourite Facebook covers to share. Link to them in the Comments below.

To find out more about my social media training sessions, visit my Training page.

Dude! Where’s my plain language?

 There’s lots of reasons to like Don Watson.

My main reason? He’s a great writer. He’s well known for being speechwriter to former Australian PM Paul Keating (and wrote a marvellous book on Keating called Confessions of a Bleeding Heart). He’s also the author of two books much-loved in my circles: Weasel Words (Contemporary Clichés, Cant & Management Jargon) and Death Sentence (The Decay of Public Language).

The overriding point that Watson makes in those two volumes is this –  governments and corporations often uses tricky language designed more to hide information from us than enlighten us. Have some fun watching the short Don Watson YouTube clip below:

Don Watson books
Don Watson books

I was reminded of this again recently when my youngest son brought home a notice from his school which advised parents of a narrative incursion opportunity’.

I had to scratch my head over that headline.  Turns out the clues were in the following paragraphs. The notice was about an author visiting the school, not an impending invasion where the school expected us to climb some barricades waving paperbacks in the air.

It’s not the first time the school has used education department-speak which forces the reader to wade through thick obfuscation to decipher what’s being said. It’s language that excludes and frustrates me immensely (as my Facebook friends will recall).

Given all of this, I’m heartened when I see government social media accounts that leap over this obfuscation and use everyday words. A well-known example of this was the Census 2011 Twitter account, famed for its ability to make its data interesting. In digestible tweets, it shared updates like these:

Census 2011 Tweet
Census 2011 Tweet

And it’s kept up the good work with this recent tweet  (referencing a reality TV show you may or may not have seen):

Census 2011 tweet - in 2013
Census 2011 tweet – in 2013

Some government accounts make pop culture references or talk ‘in our lingo’ in a light-hearted way that brings their messages home:

SAPOL tweet
SAPOL tweet

Some reference song lyrics:

SA Gov tweet
SA Gov tweet
Qld Police Facebook post
Qld Police Facebook post

Others remind us they’re human:

Qld Police tweet
Qld Police tweet

You’ll have noticed that many of these ‘plain language’ or fun posts come from police social media accounts. Why is that?

Here’s some guesses: Police need to work closely with the public. They need our help and want to have good relationships with us. Hence they try to use warm or funny phrases when they can. No doubt this was difficult in the early days of their social media accounts. Some agency members would have been nervous about taking this route. But it’s paying off, in my opinion.

In my 2003 edition of Death Sentence Watson writes:

“All elegance and gravity has gone from public language, and all its light-footed potential to intrigue, delight and stimulate our hearts and minds.”

I’d like to see more social media accounts that delight and stimulate us.  And I think it’s vital that government agencies do. That is, if getting the message through to us matters. And perhaps that’s where the problem lies …

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