How to Work Around Facebook's 20% Text Rule

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Joseph Clark
on 11/5/15


The majority of Facebook users spend an average of 21 minutes a day on the site, while scrolling through a rough average of 200 friends. Your Facebook Advertising has to be quick to grab their attention, and swift delivering the details of why they should interact with you.

Facebook may be a great tool to help a large, medium or small business grow, but you need to follow the rules. There are obvious rules, such as Facebook’s Guidelines or it’s Ad Guidelines, but there is one rule I have to play by every time when I am tasked to design graphics for a Facebook campaign.

Facebook’s 20% text rule was introduced in January 2013, and uses both a manual and automated system to detect text in an image. The automated system scans the image through a system, which looks to see if there is more than 20% of text in the image.

Whilst these rules exists to stem the flow of information in a Facebook user’s timeline, there are ways of getting the most out of the 20% rule.

The rules below outline what you can do to make sure you and your Facebook audience is getting the most out of your adverts.


Rule 1: Less is more


The 20% rule is a good way of limiting your text to what is most required for attracting a customer. The use of an image with an advert could be to show off a product or offer to your followers, and then the Facebook post with that image delivers details of said product or offer.

For text to be used on the ad, I either choose to use a Call To Action, whether this is “Shop Now”, “Click Here” or “Apply Today”. Or, alternatively, use the bare minimum of information of what the ad is trying to do, such as new product information, date and time of an event or details of an offer code.

When it comes to text on a Facebook ad, use the post to deliver the core details and links of what the purpose of the ad is. Use the image and some text to “wave them over”.


Rule 2: The Right Image for the Right Job


This rule speaks for itself. You want the best for your product on whatever digital platform it’s on, so use the best images for your advertising. Have a new product to sell? Use an image of your product in action. Want to show off the range of items you have? Have an image of a big spread of your products for sale.

Don’t waste the space with an unrelated or unflattering image of your product. It’s also important to keep the image that reflects the advert relative, as a divide in image and the post text will put the user off.


Rule 3: It doesn't apply everywhere…


There are some areas of your Facebook page and your advertising images that don’t apply to the 20% rule. The one section that is free of the 20% rule is your page’s cover photo. It may be tempting to have tons of text in the cover photo, as it’s the first thing a user sees when visiting your page, but remember the first rule above.

Use the space to deliver the bare essentials of why they should be interested in your product, and use Rule 2 to have the best image of your product to rope the user into scrolling down the page.

The 20% rule isn't heartless when it comes to all types of text in an advert image. You won’t have to scratch off the name of your product on its label when photographing it! The 20% rule doesn't apply to the following:

  • Pictures of products that include text on the actual product.
  • Photos of products in real situations or photos of products with a background.

This is where the manual reviewing of text on images I talked about earlier occurs. The automated system may detect text in an image, but it may be text on a product, so it needs a human eye to review the image before rejecting it.


Rule 4. …but it does apply here!


But where the 20% rule does apply, it’s applied in full force. The rule applies to the following:

  •  Link Posts
  •  Page Posts
  •  Video Thumbnails
  •  Page Likes Post
  •  App Install Posts
  •  App Engagement Posts
  •  Local Awareness Posts
  •  Offer Claim Posts


Rule 5. Treat Text like Tetris


Everyone knows the falling block game, and the rules to succeed at Tetris can apply to text in Facebook image ads. The best strategy in Tetris is to make the blocks fit perfectly; the same can be applied to your advertising.

When Facebook scans your images for text, it applies a grid over the image, and examines each block to see where there is text. The grid is made up of 5 x 5 blocks, 25 in total, and if text spills over 5 of those blocks, it rejects the ad.

My way of getting the best ads out there is to beat Facebook at its own game, and apply the grid to my images myself and move, grow or shrink my text so it fits within those 5 blocks. This method of getting ahead of Facebook has saved time in making sure that the images being uploaded to go through Facebook’s 20% rule system are already playing by their own rules.

With these rules in play, you can be sure the images that reflect both the advert and your product are at their best on Facebook.

How can I help you?

To make sure everyone can get the best out of their Facebook advertising, I have prepared a free download of the materials I use when creating advertising images in Facebook’s recommended image sizes.