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    March 22, 2013 // 12:39 PM

    Facebook Updates Cover Photo Guidelines to Allow Calls-to-Action

    Written by Anum Hussain | @

    facebook-cta-coverphotos

    I've always considered myself quite the sneak when it comes to marketing on Facebook. But today, I learned that Facebook has been keeping secrets from me, too ...

    Due to Facebook's heretofore rather strict guidelines on what businesses can and cannot do when it comes to cover photos -- specifically, the rule that businesses can't include calls-to-action (CTAs) in their cover photos -- I was forced to brainstorm clever ways to get some CTA action on that prime visual real estate. You know, by including a shortened link in the caption void of copy that suggests you should click it. Or uploading a picture that looks like something awesome you want to attend ... but not suggesting you attend it.

    But it turns out I could have stopped all my maneuvering weeks ago when Facebook quietly updated their Facebook Page Terms to allow calls-to-action in cover photos. Awesome! I also realized that the last revision on the page was made on March 6th -- a mere day before the announcement of the new Facebook News Feed. During that announcement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared how almost 50% of News Feed content today is photos and visual content. So now, Facebook is making it even easier for businesses to take advantage of this growing visual platform to generate some ... you guessed it ... leads, baby!

    Here's what you need to know about this cover photo update to start taking advantage of it right now.

    Updates to Facebook's Cover Photo Guidelines

    Not only did Facebook quietly make these changes, they didn't explicitly announce that CTAs are now allowed. They simply removed the clause about offer/product promotion. Here's how the updated guidelines read:

    "All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. 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. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text."

    Previously -- we dug this up from an old blog post -- Facebook's policies regarding cover photos clearly stated that cover photos cannot include:

    • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website.”
    • Contact information of any sort, like a website address or email address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section.
    • References to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share,” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features.
    • Calls-to-action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”
    • Covers must not be false, deceptive, or misleading, and must not infringe on third parties’ intellectual property.

    Now, that section has simply been removed, and only the guidelines in the italics above remain.

    What These Changes Mean for Marketers

    The ability to include a call-to-action in your Facebook cover photo presents the opportunity to reap even more benefit from your Facebook marketing strategy.

    1) Generate More Facebook Leads

    By 2012, 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies had acquired a customer from Facebook. In order to generate customers, though, you need to generate leads. While Facebook has been a hub for attracting new visitors and prospects, the conversion path to lead isn't as smooth. By allowing calls-to-action in your Facebook cover photos, marketers can now include links to specific offers such as ebooks, coupons, webinars, free gifts, applications, and the like. For example, if you're hosting an event, you could include a promotional event photo and clearly write a call-to-action prompting Facebook users to register, with a link to event registration.

    Here's an example we created for our own Facebook page after hearing today's announcement:

    cover-photo-facebook-cta

    2) Better Analyze Your Facebook Photo Efforts

    According to SEOmoz's 2012 industry survey, 60.2% of marketers are looking for analysis options, as well as other analytics options, in their social media management tools. While the updated CTA rules don't directly provide analytics, the allowance of CTA copy allows you to include bitly links that you can track and analyze for cover photo engagement. A bitly link allows you to easily shorten any link so that the link takes up less space in a caption. If you want to really start analyzing your cover photo success, make sure these shortened links include campaign tracking tokens. Here's what these look like:

    /?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=coverphoto

    This tracking token tells your analytics software three things: which medium the visitor/lead/customer is coming from (social), which source (Facebook), and which campaign (cover photo). This allows you to drill down specifically into how many visitors, leads, and customers you're attracting from your cover photos! Brilliant!

    3) Promote More Content for Your Customer

    37% of brands would like to use social media engagement to create customer-tailored marketing campaigns, according to a Forrester report. Problem is, if you want to share a big product launch with a call-to-action for more information, you previously couldn't do it. How upsetting would it be to a customer to come to your Facebook Page, hear about a new product that delights them, but then no have a way to click to learn more? Not very delightful.

    With Facebook's adjusted guidelines, businesses can now post cover photos targeted to their customers with clear CTA copy about where they can go to learn more. For example, if your cookie company launches green-dyed cookies for St. Patrick's Day, you could upload an image with CTA copy about where your customers can go in order to request a free batch of cookies!

    4) Improve Conversation Around Your CTAs

    Facebook has also been testing "thread commenting" since November. This feature essentially allows users to "reply" to comments on Facebook assets, such as cover photos. If this reply feature rolls out of beta and onto all business pages, not only will you be able to promote your offers, you'll also be able to host better conversations around them. More conversations mean more appearance of those conversations in news feeds -- that's how Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm works -- which means more leads. We all know how frustrating it is to see a swarm of Facebook comments come in and not have ample time to respond to a specific one. It makes Facebook comment conversations messy. Thread commenting will solve that, increase conversations, and help businesses reap even more leads from organic conversations.

    5) Reap More Timeline Photo Value

    After the roll-out of Facebook Timeline, brands saw a 46% increase in user engagement with the new business timeline, according to Simply Measured. Furthermore, Dan Zarrrella's analysis shows that photos perform best for likes, comments, and shares as compared to text, video, and links. While there's no proof of correlation between these two stats, the ability to include CTAs on your Facebook cover photos will likely help improve engagement with your brand on Facebook. Think strategically about what visuals will captivate your audience, promote engagement, and generate leads from your audience the most.

    How do you see these cover photo guideline changes impacting your Facebook strategy?

    Image credit: Tor Lindstrand

    Topics: Social Media

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