Facebook’s Frustrating 20% Text Rule

As you may have seen in my last blog post, Facebook has a very frustrating 20% text rule for images (and videos!) when it comes to promoted posts. I thought that a topic I felt so strongly about deserved its own dedicated blog post – so here it is!

What is the 20% Text Rule?
If you want to promote an image on Facebook it needs to have less than 20% text in order to get accepted (most of the time!), by Facebook. It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds and there are many restrictions and allowances in place.

For example, you may be able to get away with more if you use a ‘product shot’. Product shots are when your product is in a real photo, in a real situation. Text or logos which are a part of this photo don’t count towards the 20% text rule. However, if the photo is zoomed in in order to focus on the logo or brand, then this is not the case. You can see how it’s starting to get quite complicated!

In the same way, if you have product shots created in a studio or added to another background, then you can also get away with any logos/text not counting towards the 20% rule.

When it comes to adding text and logos separately, Facebook uses a 5×5 grid-based detection tool and if you use more than the 5 boxes then it is likely that your image will be rejected. If you have a small part of the text going over into another box then these boxes probably won’t be counted – but if Facebook can tell that you are obviously exploiting this then your image may still be declined!

Of course you can experiment and sometimes get away with it (as you will see in some examples below). This, however, is not best practice and when you are acting on behalf of a client it is better to be safe than sorry.

A blog post by Jeff Rajeck explains how he thought the 20% rule may have been dropped and what he was able to get away with. He was able to get away with

When and why was the rule introduced?

The rule came about as a way of Facebook trying to get people’s newsfeeds to be more relevant rather than just being filled with aggressive advertising and marketing messages. The rule was announced in December 2012 and was put into place in January 2013. It has therefore been in place for 3 years and still going strong! You would have thought that with 3 years worth of people’s irritation and complaints, Facebook would have at least adapted the way that their grid tool works. Surely there’s got to be a way that they can actually check the percentage of text being used and the message portrayed rather than how many boxes your text may happen to go into? I feel that, for example, motivational quotes aren’t exactly ‘salesy’ and of course would take up a lot more than 5 boxes – why can’t these be promoted without having to follow the 20% text rule?

What are the best ways around it?

The best way to get around the rule is simply to not have much text required on the image. You can then have a large couple of words taking up 4 boxes and perhaps a small logo taking up the 5th box.

Another way is to use really good product shots. This way you can convey your message as much as you can through bespoke photography and even get your brand/logo in there without using any of the treasured 5 boxes!

Does Facebook plan on frustrating us with this rule for the rest of eternity?
I don’t see this rule being lifted any time soon as, ultimately, it is really in place for the benefit of Facebook’s users. I do, however, really think that Facebook should recreate their grid-based tool to allow for more flexibility.

As I mentioned above, I don’t believe that motivational and inspirational quotes are invasive to people scrolling through their newsfeeds and as long as the logo only takes up a small amount of space then I feel that these should be an exception to the rule.

When it comes to advertisement-based posts then I definitely agree that there should be rules in place. However, it would be great if Facebook were able to find another way to detect the percentage of text used without having to use a grid (as this is so restrictive from a designer’s point of view)!


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