Stop Complaining About the 20% Rule

By Ike Brooker

Facebook has been refining its brand advertising regulations as of late. This has naturally created some uproar. I mean, this is the internet; if there’s a comment to be made, it will be made.

First let’s do the requisite visual link to Shortstack’s 20% guidelines. That is basically what you are working with for text.

Now let’s now talk about why. Facebook is trying to create a visually driven platform. Much like a billboard, economy and brevity of text are a must. An effective billboard looks something like this:


Notice that the text and logo are roughly 20% of the available space. The rest is populated by a visual. This is very effective for attracting eyeballs to a post.

The heavy lifting of the copy should, in theory, be done in the accompanying text of the post.  Trying to put every message in the image leaves you with something that looks like this:

via: my nightmares

Who knows what that ad wants the viewer to do? We do know that it has a money fan (OLD MEME ALERT), and that they speak Spanish.

Though it seems a bit draconian to force everyone to follow good design rules, it really does make sense from a marketing standpoint. The visual should do the communication, not loud text and 20% off offers.

How has Facebook’s 20% rule changed your visual approach to Facebook content?

Jason Keath March 13, 2013
1. I'm no Ogilvy, but I went to school for design and worked as a creative lead in agencies. And as best I can remember, "good design rules" have nothing to do with an arbitrary restriction on the size or amount of text. As soon as you start regulating design, you have bitten off more than you can chew, especially if you hope to automate it with an algorithm. 2. The billboard example you use when the "text and logo" are taken into account, and when applied to Facebook's own grid tool, takes is 36% text. Without the logo even, it is 24% text. Both would be rejected. The spirit of the rule is good. The execution is crap.
Benjamin A March 9, 2013
I don't believe in that rule. Not all infographics that have more than 20% are disorganized. Sometimes you'll find that a photo with only large text gets your message across without any visuals. And just like Jon said, some content that you don't post, but share you have no control over. Facebook should stop with all these new rules to enforce how they want things to be done instead of how people regularly do them.
Jon Loomer March 8, 2013
I agree with the intent of the rule, but the way it is being executed is maddening. Not only is what they allow and not allow inconsistent, but there are two major issues: 1) Applying the 20% rule to link share thumbnails (this has happened to me multiple times), and 2) Applying the rule to ads intended only for the sidebar. #1 is ridiculous. I might be sharing someone else's link and have no control over that thumbnail. Or when I publish a blog post, I'm not thinking about how that featured image will be used/rejected in a Facebook ad if I share it to Facebook and then promote. It's unreasonable for Facebook to require I create featured images on my site that are acceptable to their advertising rules. And to be honest, I don't think the spirit of the rule was meant to apply to thumbnails. #2 has a lot to do with Facebook not allowing advertisers to focus a Page Post Ad on the sidebar only. You can focus on "Desktop" (which includes the News Feed), but you can't focus only on the sidebar. So if you want to run a Page Post ad that has an image in it with 20%+ text, you could technically run it in the sidebar (because the 20% rule doesn't apply there). Unfortunately, you can't tell Facebook that you want to keep it out of News Feeds, so that ad will be rejected. So I get it. I like the spirit of the rule. But it's far more complicated than it seems on the surface.

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