Facebook Timeline Covers To Spread Your Organization's Brand? A good idea or not? | Beth's Blog

Facebook Timeline Covers To Spread Your Organization’s Brand? A good idea or not?

Digital Strategy

Last week,  Facebook rolled out the Facebook Timeline to all users.   While the timeline has the potential to embarrass some users who might have inappropriate photos buried along their timeline,  the cover image might be an opportunity for nonprofits to engage their champions to help spread the word about the organization.

The Ocean Conservancy has done just that!  They are offering “wall paper” and “covers” with wonderful photos of the ocean and ocean life to supporters to install on their personal Facebook profiles.   Here’s the link to the landing page with images.

I’ve been hearing from some nonprofits that they have these in the works or are using them.  I personally love the idea.    It has been used on Facebook by some commercial brands like ABC (hat tip to Vickie McMurchie).    It isn’t clear whether or not if nonprofits did to promote social good causes if this would be a violation of Facebook rules around use of cover images, though.   And, whether or not that is the most effective way to spread the mission, perhaps using the open social graph apps or simply commenting as individual on your brand page is better.    The technique of creating images for social media profiles for a cause has been used by many nonprofits on Twitter and other sites.

Ali Carlson from Global Giving pointed me to this post from Mari Smith talking about the issue of commercial content on cover pages.    Here’s what Mari had to say about it:

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.


Is your nonprofit doing something similar?  Leave a URL in the comments.



20 Responses

  1. What a great idea! Thanks for highlighting this opportunity!

  2. Anita says:

    Yeah, it was that “already in use on other people’s covers” that made me think Facebook was aiming this at nonprofits, too. But the ABC thing seems both commercial and promotional to me, so maybe people are just ignoring those warnings.

  3. Beth says:

    I updated the post with some additional thoughts, make sure you read it after my update .. hoping that we can find out whether or not this is against Facebook policy or not

  4. Dave Connell says:

    Hi, My name is Dave Connell and I’m the director of digital marketing at Ocean Conservancy. Thanks Beth, for blogging about this and noting Facebook’s rules on creating covers. And thanks especially for using our Cover on you FB profile!

    To be honest, we didn’t know about these rules when we created the covers. I honestly didn’t notice this pop-up when I uploaded my cover. Looking at the notice it seems to me that Facebook is trying to prevent people from doing two things:

    1. Using the cover for commercial gain, ie. W’ell give you a free product if you advertise for our product on your cover.

    2. Copyright infringement — posting someone else’s work as you cover without proper consent.

    We feel that offering up these covers is a way for our supporters to express their personal support for the ocean. The covers are lightly branded with the Ocean Conservancy logo and their use is covered by our copyright. Frankly, I would be surprised and disappointed if Facebook found this use objectionable. As you rightly note, non-profits have been using Twitter backgrounds and twibbons to spread awareness for awhile. This seems like a natural extension for this on Facebook.

    I sent a message to to Charles Porch over at non-profits on Facebook this morning to let him know we were doing this (this was before your post) and we haven’t heard back from him on it one way or the other. If we hear from Facebook, I’ll be sure to let you know with a comment on this post.

    Thanks for being such a great voice for those of us fighting the good fight!

  5. Beth says:

    Dave: I personally love the idea and would be sad to see nonprofit punished for doing it.

    I put your cute seal in my profile with note that I love the ocean and proud to support the nonprofits doing ocean conservation work like your organization – and others like Surfrider.

    Here’s another link worth looking at http://www.marismith.com/facebook-timeline-cover-images-promotional-content-allowed/

  6. When they first launched the cover photos…I noticed NRDC had a section for it: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150345377854454.366470.11791104453&type=3 Really smart, fun way to engage!

  7. Amy says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for this post, Beth. And yes, Dave – please let us know what Facebook says about this option for non-profits.


  8. To be honest, we didn’t know about these rules when we created the covers. I honestly didn’t notice this pop-up when I uploaded my cover. Looking at the notice it seems to me that. Facebook Timeline Covers

  9. Dave – would love to know what Facebook nonprofits says about this.

    Beth- thanks for highlighting this. It’s also a great reminder to create usable assets for constituents to use. I could really see a nonprofit using this to ask people to support a campaign. The drawback is that one’s friends on Facebook won’t see the cover photo normally, and it’s your friends that you want to motivate. I could see it being used with a sample FB post like “check out my new Facebook cover photo and the Surfrider Foundation.”

  10. Beth Kanter says:

    Debra, great idea. The photo does go in your newsfeed, but when you change it.

  11. There is a campaign against gender based segregation in Israel. Some people use the new FB cover to protest, see several examples here: http://room404.net/?p=47825
    The new cover is a nice feature, but as Debra said – most of your friend don’t see it.

  12. jim terry says:

    Hey Thanks For Sharing Such Good Knowledge(New Facebook Timeline Covers), We’re Just Trying To Make New Decent Covers For You Guys Hope You Guys Really Like Our Covers And You Can Also Get Latest Covers From Facebook Covers.

  13. PeterD says:

    It’s a great idea, plus it’s your profile, post whatever you want! 🙂

    This ones pretty good: http://www.coveryoface.com/2012/01/06/never-gonna-give-you-up/

  14. […] pitch for donations (which could violate Facebook’s Terms of Use). Rather, the covers are “lightly branded” beautiful photographs of animals, ocean life or related […]

  15. Brad Hunter says:

    I just noticed this thread and I’m wondering if the issue around lightly branded photos was ever clarified? Would love to use the idea with our non profit if possible. Thanks