Facebook Timeline Cover Images – Is Promotional Content Allowed?

Mari Smith - Facebook Timeline Cover Image

Mari Smith - Facebook Timeline Cover Image

When you switch to the new Facebook Timeline, one of the first new features you’ll see is the ability to add a large “Cover” image. You’ll also be able to see the Cover images of all other Facebook users who have switched to the new Timeline. (After December 21st, everyone on Facebook will have their profile replaced with Timeline).

What is a Cover?

The Cover is the large image that appears at the top of your new Timeline. This is your place to get creative and let your friends and extended community know a bit more about you. Facebook states:

We’ve found that people have a better experience viewing your timeline when they see a cover that is as unique and individualized as you are….

An easy way to ensure your cover image is unique, is to choose an image from your life, like a photo from a wedding, day at the beach, or birthday party. If you want to use a photo to show solidarity or express support for a cause or organization, you can still post a status or a photo and feature it on your timeline.

Facebook seems to be dissuading users from showcasing anything other than a personal image. However, keep reading…

What are the ideal Cover dimensions?

Your Cover should be at least 720 pixels wide. If it’s any narrower, you’ll be asked to select a different image. I’m seeing various reports that the ideal dimensions should be 850px wide by 315px high. The profile picture is resized to 125px by 125px. Cover images tend to get pixelated, so it’s best to load a high-res image.

Who can see my Cover image?

Cover images are public by default – just like your profile pictures. This means ANYONE visiting your profile, whether you are friends or not, will be able to see your cover image. You don’t have to add a Cover image, but you may as well!

Is business-related content allowed on Cover images?

Now, the main purpose of this blog post came about after a discussion began with some of my friends on Facebook. It seems there’s some confusion as to what you can/cannot have on your new Timeline Cover image. I have scoured Facebook’s Help Center and Terms and have found nothing to directly indicate that it is not permitted to have any business-related content on your Cover.

BUT, the first time you go to upload your Cover image, Facebook may display the following message:

Facebook Timeline - Cover Image Message

Image credit: Karen Clark

Clearly, Facebook want to prevent users from outright commerce on their profile/Timeline, and use of the Cover image for advertising. But outright commerce surely means something like users shouldn’t sell advertising space? Or, that we should have no commercial content? Hm.

The one rule Facebook has in its Terms regards how we cannot use our profiles commercially is this (Section 4.4):

“You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).”

This rule has been around for several years. It makes perfect sense – users cannot derive financial gain directly from their profiles. That’s what Facebook ads are designed for. And, of course, Facebook (fan) Pages are the primary product Facebook offers for building a business presence.

I activated my Timeline back in September via the Developer route. Then, when my latest book came out in October, I put up a Cover image to share details about my book. This has been my Cover image for almost two months now and Facebook has not contacted me to take it down. 😉 See below (click to see full size). The lower left corner is where my profile image goes.

Mari Smith - Facebook Timeline Cover Image - Book

Mari Smith - Facebook Timeline Cover Image - Book

By the way, as part of my research for this post, I switched up my Cover image (to the sunrise pictured above) to see if any warnings showed up about what could/could not be featured on Covers… they didn’t, which is why I had to borrow the screenshot above from Larna Pittiglio (found on our mutual friend Pam Brossman‘s wall).

Now, let me digress for a moment to talk about the Subscribe option

Facebook Subscribe Button

When Facebook introduced the Subscribe button, a noticeable shift occurred.

Subscribe is designed for those Facebook users who are journalists, celebrities, political figures, and other people too.

Allowing subscribers is a simple way to broaden your conversation on Facebook, while reserving personal updates for people you know well.

The way Subscribe works is any and all Facebook users can sign up to get the PUBLIC posts in their News Feed of any user who has enabled Subscribe. NOTE: Subscribe is optional. To enable Subscribe, if you haven’t already and would like to, go here.

Facebook is really pushing the Subscribe option (maybe to compete with Google+? Shh!). For Facebook users that have enabled Subscribe, the button now shows in the Comments plugin on websites, so you can easily find and subscribe to new people. Plus, Facebook recently introduced the Subscribe button plugin for websites, which you can see in action below. Feel free to subscribe to my public updates by clicking the button below!

Though it would seem the Subscribe option is designed for public figure types, a large number of Facebook employees, for example, have enabled his/her Subscribe button. And, clearly, many folks are following suit whether they consider themselves a “public figure” type or not. (See your Subscription suggestions here).

In addition, Mark Zuckerberg himself was one of the first public figures to MERGE his fan page into his personal profile, thus having only one presence on Facebook. (Of course, Zuckerberg owns Facebook and has many business pages too!)

At the time of the Subscribe launch, Facebook approached several “power users” to see if they too would like their fan pages merged into their profiles. (For the record, I was not one of the folks approached – and I’m, quite frankly, more than happy to maintain two very different channels on Facebook. I’ll expand on this in a later post. Or, you’ll find my article on why I love the Subscribe feature in the next issue of the fb & Business magazine).

There is demand for the fan-page-to-profile merge; it’s not available as an option to anyone who wants it yet, though.

So, back to the topic of this post…

Public Profile with business-related content?

Given Facebook offers users a single “public profile” presence with Subscribe option enabled, it’s perfectly feasible that such public figures may wish to have business-related content on their Cover, yes?

What are your thoughts? Is it important to you to be able to feature something related to your business on your Cover image? Do you think personal profiles (now Timelines) should be strictly personal? Or, are you one of the folks eagerly awaiting the option to merge your fan page (likes) into your profile (subscribers). Share your answers in the comments below! And, of course, if you know the definitive answer as to what users can/cannot feature on Timeline Cover images, do share below too!

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Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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Posted in Facebook for Business, Facebook Marketing, Facebook Tips, Social Media
  • Acergriseum

    Not so much ‘bs’ as old information… the blog post was written in 2011 while the FB policy you quote is new.

  • http://www.cpssecurity.com/ Security Services Companies

    Good points . I especially like your point about responding to comments and trying to promote the guest post on stumbleupon and other social media sites. The more you give back the more writing opportunities you will get.

  • http://www.cpssecurity.com/ Security Services Companies

    Good points . I especially like your point about responding to comments and trying to promote the guest post on stumbleupon and other social media sites. The more you give back the more writing opportunities you will get.

  • Pickura

    we LOVE http://www.pickura.com for cover designs! :)

  • AllYourBanter
  • http://marketpowerLLC.com/ Jeff Cotrupe

    Hi, Mari. 850×315 pixels was close; it’s actually 838×311. How I know this: I use Firefox. After reading your great entry here I tried a 850×315 image, then after it was live clicked on it to go into ‘photo detail’ view, right-clicked on the image, chose View Image Info and saw it was “resized to 838×311 pixels.” So made another copy of the original image, edited to 838×311, uploaded as new cover image, and now when I check image there is no resizing.

    Same thing will work with any image on any page using Firefox to test.

    Maybe you or someone else has an answer to something Timeline is doing even after I’ve uploaded the “ideal” image size:
    + When I first go to my page in any browser, it “loads low” (about 1/2-inch low in browser slider bar) so it cuts off the top of my cover image. To see top of page (and full image) I must mousewheel up.
    + Never did that before Timeline, and when I go to Friends’ pages who have yet to switch to Timeline their pages load fine as always.

    Does same thing on my mobile phone if I view page in Standard rather than Mobile view.

    Don’t know what causes this glitch and wish I (or FB) could fix it.

  • http://marketpowerLLC.com/ Jeff Cotrupe

     Sorry, grammar alert: please make that “aN 850×315 image” above…

  • Li09

    i really hope that  facebook timeline cover page can give us choose whether we want share everyone can see our cover image or we just want our friend see only,the cover page for us is also our privacy,so i really dont like it’s only public,i hope we can choose freedom but not only share with public

  • Rrrrrr_88

    i like the timeline cover page,but one i dont like is why our cover page only share with public but no give us to choose whether we want only share with friend or custom .

  • Yuyu

    i dont want cover page are public,i want we can choose want to be friend can view our cover page only or we want to let it be public,please change it and give us to choose

  • Lolo

    can facebook owner change the timeline cover page to share with firend only,or public?

  • Christine

    Facebook uses 4 levels of privacy:
    EveryoneFriends of FriendsOnly FriendsCustom………please do it on cover page also,please

  • http://www.couponsforindia.com/yebhi.com/ Yebhi Coupons

    Really Creative
    Now I REALLY feel my FB profile is lame. There’s some pretty cool ideas there.
    Thanx for Sharing 😉

  • http://www.copperreflections.com/ handmadejewelry

    Thank you for the information. Many things to learn :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XITF3ZKR5NIPNYTGS7GTRXVLWQ chads

    the necessity of social media and a businesses online marketing efforts is going to be vital to their business.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CSIBE2XIWWBGRT4C3MUR6ZWOBA Daniela

     Put a cool timeline cover on your Facebook profile and help a good cause


  • Luweezla

    can I add a created picture movie with sound as my timeline cover? If so, how?

  • Anonymous

    It was very important to know the current fan page cover size. Now got it. Thanks

  • Gregg

    Would you keep “everyone can add” posts or photos checked off in the settings?

  • No

    Useful, thanks! :)

  • Keene Bathan

    it says your cover appears to be larger than your profile picture it has to be atleast 399 pixels wide.i dont get it.how am i suppose to put an uploaded photo to make me my cover

  • http://www.facebook.com/TouteBeauteBoutique Rachel G

    The specs for the timeline have changed! Profile pictures must be at least 150×150 pixels in order to upload.
    The timeline covers are still the same pixels though, and facebook does pixel them, but not too much. As long as you save your images in non-compressed format and in a .gif file they will come out smoothly.

  • Guest

    Did they ever say your profile picture couldnt have arrows pointing towards the like button? lol I think i’ve found a loophole for the new facebook rules theyve updated!

  • Accidental Techie

    Your information was very helpful as I prepared an image for use as our organization’s  cover photo. As one of two administrators for our organization, I wonder what your advice would be about how to utilize the subscribe feature when my personal profile is just that personal.

  • Astrid Bidanec

    It does not make any sense to me that the page cover image should not contain any kind of advertisement on professional/business pages. But I guess it forces a business or organization to look deep into their company cultures and figure out what they want to stand for when they cannot “hide” behind their products or services. Especially for humanitarian and non-profit organizations this is a powerful opportunity to share their mission in an expressive and compelling image that transcends lingual and cultural limitations.

  • http://www.localprice.com/columbus-oh/home-security home monitoring Columbus OH

    I was not aware of the importance of cover image to such extent. Thank you so much for educating me about this. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mari. I’m working on a cover image that gives a few details about an ongoing campaign. You have since changed your FB cover photo…was there any problems with the one above? 

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/ Facebook Developers

    Facebook Timeline is disliked by most of the people, as it has changed the way everyone utilizes it.

  • adi

    The most annoying thing about the cover photo is the fact that all your friends are notified when you change the stupid picture, WHY Facebook?

  • Benjamin

    More than our cover photo, we must be concern about how to build our personal branding. Realationship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jynmeyer Jyn Meyer

    It does state here https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=276329115767498

    “:How should I choose a cover photo for my Page?Use a unique image that represents your Page. This might be a photo of a popular menu item, album artwork or a picture of people using your product. Be creative and experiment with images your audience responds well to. Cover images must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
    Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
    References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
    Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”To get the best quality image and fastest load times for your Page, upload an sRGB JPG file that’s 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall and less than 100 kilobytes. All cover images are public, which means anyone visiting your Page will be able to see the image you choose. Covers must not be false, deceptive or misleading, and must not infringe on third parties’ intellectual property. You may not encourage or incentivize people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines. “So that first line kind of explains why you CANT do what you posted there without breaking the rules. BReaking the rules doesnt mean you WILL get caught, but when I guess.More info here https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

  • James

    Section 3 b, clearly states you can’t use the cover photo for business, try harder next time.

  • James
  • Glen
  • http://www.freerateupdate.com/ Interest Rates

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  • http://www.freerateupdate.com/ Interest Rates

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  • http://www.freerateupdate.com/ Interest Rates

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  • http://www.gameonade.com/ Gameonade

    Why my cover photo is so low quality even if I’m loading a picture with high quality?

  • Korniskateboards

    why can’t i upload or change my cover photo for a new one?
    it says that the chosen photo must be at least 399 pixels wide but the one that i choose is much wider than the required size.. please help me .. :(

  • SUcantare

    Mari, once again an incredible article. Very comprehensive. I’m inspired to re-make my Facebook cover photo right now! 

  • Pingback: Facebook Update/ Personal Profile: | Becky Robinson Weaving Influence()

  • Tarawoodruff Bodybyvi

    I did find specific rules regarding what we can display for a timeline cover, now I have not witnessed any cracking down on it, bet the rules are clear 

  • tubieso
  • http://www.facebook.com/leoquangvn Leo Quang
  • Pingback: Pamela Poole: What Do You Stand For? Growing Up Your Online Image | Setya News()

  • http://www.timelinecovershelp.com/ Facebook Cover Photos

    Facebook Covers For Timeline. We have thousands of Facebook covers to choose from. Facebook Cover photos updated everyday!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AriaDainera Aria Dainera

    Hi, all are beautiful, but I have a problem. I can’t change birth photo. When I was try to change this, nothing happen and after I pressed the x button … Nothing and now it’s empty … there is only this little pencil, but not work because there is no photo anyware. How can I fix this? 

  • http://twitter.com/Thought_Dog Thought Dog

    This is my stuff dawg.

  • IMWell

    No references to “like” or share”; NO price or purchase info; NO URL’s, email addresses, phone #’s; and NO calls to action( “get it now”)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sebetha.orlovetz Sebetha Orlovetz

    This helped me alot. I started a page for a custom tack shop, and the original cover picture I made was plenty long (half missing) but it wouldnt let me move it left or right. redid it, closer to the correct dimensions, and it worked out great.

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