What’s Up with Facebook’s 20% Text Rule?

Getting found on Facebook is the same as getting found on Google. In that you are limited by organic reach. Facebook, like Google wants you to pay in order for your target market to find your business. But they even want you to pay so that your customers can see your content, that’s right… they want to charge you for showing your posts to your customers. That’s why we are all considering Facebook ads right, because not enough people are seeing the posts on our business page.

So remember anything Facebook does, it does out of love money.

It’s all about the money, money, money.
-Jessie J

So the news that Facebook are changing the rules (as they are want to do) and seem to be phasing out the 20% text rule on ads makes me question why, and why does it matter?

Some will say the change comes in response to customer demand, advertisers want to put more text in their ads. And on the one hand that’s true, some business owners have been pulling their hair out trying to advertise books and magazines as the covers are text heavy. Even some product shots are rejected where the amount of text on the packaging exceeds 20%.

And so the good news is that these types of images will no longer be rejected by the 20% text rule and won’t be penalised by the replacement rule.

Of course there’s a replacement. Facebook isn’t giving you free reign on the amount of text you can use, instead they will classify your ad as low, medium or high text. And if your ad is medium or high text then they will either charge you to get your ad seen by more people or penalise you by not showing your ad to as many people. You can find out more about the new rules in Facebook's Help Centre.

Money Money Money

If you are feeling favourable and want to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt this could be their way of saying ads with more text are bad. I mean the 20% rule was in place for a reason. Their guidelines say that too much text can look like spam and make people think your ad is low quality.

But instead of educating business owners on what makes a good ad, instead of sharing the data they have no doubt collected on the millions of adverts that are run on the Facebook platform, instead of letting us know the optimum text to image ratio from this data, they are letting business owners self sabotage and pay for the privilege.

What do the changes to Facebook ads mean?

My experience of business owners running their own Facebook adverts is that they know what they want to say. They know everything that they want to tell their prospective customer about their business, how they can help you, why you should buy from them, how good their service is, the quality of their products, the special offer or discount they will give you and on and on and on like a Duracell Bunny. Basically they want to put their entire website content into a Facebook advert. They know what they want to say. And they know the result they want to get. The Sale.

They are making two mistakes.

The first is that they are using the advert as a conversion tool. They are so focussed on getting the sale, or the sign up or the page like that they forget that the FB ad is just that, advertising. And the thing with advertising is that it happens in the customer attraction phase.

And the second is that they are forgetting to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and think about what their audience wants to hear.

Remember how I likened organic reach on Facebook as being the same as getting found on Google, well there is one big difference. On Google people are actively looking or searching for something, whether its answers to a question, solutions to a problem, a funny video, or they may actually be searching for you by name or by the products and services you offer. And your advert will be targeted to appear for certain search terms.

However, on Facebook people are predominantly looking to connect with their friends and family, see what people are up, and also to watch funny videos and be entertained. But people are not on Facebook to be sold to and you want to put your business in their news feed. So your ad is a disruption, and just like fast forwarding the commercial break on TV people can just keep scrolling down their news feed. You need to get peoples’ attention, and what gets attention? Images! Images with a caption or a quote, images with a strong proposition like free trial, 20% off, new (Hmm an image with less than 20% text?!) Check out some good looking examples of ads with minimal text.

While we are in Facebook land we are constantly distracted and disrupted by the next shiny object in our news feed, by notifications and messages. So you want to get them on your hook and fish them out of the Facebook pond and get them over to your website where they can be distracted to their heart’s desire by your awesome content. And this is where your conversion happens. This is where you get the sale.

So remember you don’t need lots of words to hook people in, just be on point. It’s the hook that gets your audience interested in what you have to offer, that intrigues people to find out more. If you tell them everything they need to know in the ad then they don’t need to click.

So whilst you can (or will be able to when it rolls out) have more than 20% of your ad image covered in text, you need to ask yourself why you want to. And if those extra words that you want to shout about would be better placed within the actual text element of the advert instead of the image, or if they have no place at all in an advert but will help seal the deal on your conversion platform to get the sale.

Does it really matter that Facebook are changing the rules? Because what makes a good ad is still what will make a good ad. And in fact there are 5 elements to a Facebook ad. Of which the image is only one. And there are many more considerations when it comes to the image than just the text ratio. So in my opinion it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that Facebook are changing the rules (again), it doesn’t matter why they are doing itScreenshot_20160401-152131. What matters is that you can create cost effective adverts to meet you commercial objectives. Which you can do with or without 20% text.

The good news however is the elements that Facebook no longer count as text, as you can see in this ad from Clinique, there isn't a lot of text on the image, the headline "Run around naked" is succinct, but here they benefit from being able to show their products without being penalised or rejected for the text elements on the packaging like he logo and product name!

But if you really want to beat the 20% text rule, regardless of whether the changes have been rolled out to you yet then the answer is simple, what gets more attention than an image?
A video.
Yes you can create Facebook video ads.
But that's a conversation for another day.

Have you been affected by the Facebook ads changes yet? Do you have an example of a high text ad that performs well for your business?

20% Rule in the News


I’ve been speaking to Mari Smith, Facebook Marketing Expert and Amanda Bond, Facebook Ad Strategist and it is important to add that this change whilst it looks like it’s been rolled out in the UK it is actually still in beta testing. Facebook tests a lot before it implements a change and so you might want to keep on the right side of the 20% rule even if you can technically break it to keep your account ‘red flag free’ to quote Amanda.

And as Elise points out in the comments testing is critical to your Facebook strategy so just like Facebook test test test before they role out a change, you should to. So if you are thinking about breaking the 20% rule try testing the ad with more than 20% and see how it performs compared to the same ad but with lower text coverage on the image. Let us know how you get along.

Vale Radio

You can also hear me talk more abut this on Vale Radio tomorrow night (1st April) on the Women in Business Hour from 6pm or catch up with the podcast on demand.

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3 thoughts on “What’s Up with Facebook’s 20% Text Rule?

  1. The 20% FB ad rule was not a total win for every business either. What is a win for every business is the ability to have another option to test!

  2. Hi Louise, I recently had an add refused because of the text rule. I was glad though as I changed it and it looked better. Plus I was surveyed by FB and got a £10 Amazon voucher!

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