Facebook has been doubling as Houdini lately, making users’ cover photos disappear right before their eyes. Why? The social media site is making an aggressive effort to remove any cover photos that may be deemed promotional or risk copyright-infringement. Facebook claims that they haven’t changed their cover photo policies for individuals; it simply seems that they are now fiercely enforcing these guidelines, seen below.
“Pick a unique photo from your life to feature at the top of your timeline. Note: This space is not meant for banner ads or other promotions. Please don’t use content that is commercial, promotional, copyright-infringing or already in use on other people’s covers.”
Thus, individuals who have used images from their favorite shows, movies, brands, or artists have been noticing that their cover photos are there one minute and gone the next. Not only does this limit users in their self-expression, it eliminates a free promotional opportunity for brands.
We understand that Facebook is attempting to protect companies’ intellectual property, but as business owners, we must choose what is more valuable to us: retaining control of our logo, taglines, and other promotional materials or allowing the use of these items in the public domain, like Facebook, to increase our reach. It’s a double edged sword.
As both Facebook users and marketers, we lean towards the latter. Social media has opened up new worlds of word-of-mouth marketing opportunities, and cover photos should be just another tool that Facebook users can use to show their support for your company. Prohibiting this action limits customers’ engagement with brands, the exact behavior that businesses are looking for when they begin marketing on Facebook.
In our opinion, Facebook’s decision to disallow the use of commercial cover photos by users entirely is two-pronged.
Allowing users to upload cover photos containing the intellectual property of other companies puts Facebook at risk of legal retribution from those few companies who would not appreciate this free publicity.
It’s no secret that Facebook has been making progressive moves towards monetizing business pages, limiting the reach of non-promoted posts, providing “offers,” and making a big push for ads by setting a minimum number of page likes required to take advantage of these tools. We see removing an opportunity for free publicity on the site as yet another step towards full monetization.
With this newly imposed, or at least enforced, limitation, brands must find new ways of helping their customers engage with their companies on Facebook. Visual marketing will surely come into play, with brands posting eye-catching, highly sharable content on their pages. This puts the obligation back on the companies’ shoulders.
Since there can be two sides to this discussion, we want to know – what do you think? Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about this from a company or consumer perspective.