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Facebook’s 20% Text Rule: How Much Does it Affect Reach?

Facebook’s 20% Text Rule: How Much Does it Affect Reach?

As Facebook advertising has grown over the past few years, they’ve constantly updated and changed their guidelines and rules for ads. Not too long ago they introduced the Brand Awareness Campaign, and the most recent change involves the 20% text rule. Before the change, Facebook required all ad images to have no more than 20% text, so advertisers couldn’t cram in additional copy outside of their headlines and link descriptions. Anytime an advertiser wanted to launch an ad or promote content, we had to use a text overlay tool to ensure our ads met the guidelines, or else they wouldn’t be allowed to run. It looked something like this.

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As you can see, the text takes up 28% of the image, and therefore wouldn’t be allowed to run as an ad. Finding the balance between an eye popping and appealing image and keeping the amount of text under 20%. It used to take me multiple tries to get the exact image that I thought appealed to both of those aspects.

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The text takes up only 20% of the image and would be allowed to run!

The 20% Change

Recently, Facebook updated their policy to allow images with more than 20% text, but offered up this warning for advertisers wanting to include a high amount of text in their ad images.

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While it’s nice that Facebook alerts you when your image contains too much text, this warning is pretty ambiguous. Does Facebook really lower the reach if your image has more than 20% text? That’s the question we wanted to answer, so we set out to discover the answer.

The Parameters of our Facebook Test

 

For this test, we promoted a blog article that we wrote which highlights a number of free social media marketing guides. We chose this article because it’s a listicle, which we know from previous experience performs well on Facebook. We began with a broad audience of 1.3 million people who had an interest in marketing and ALSO had an interest in Social Media Marketing.

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We wanted at least a million people in our target audience. Facebook can limit the reach of your ads if our audience is too specific. We’ve seen this happen in the past, so although Facebook gives you the ability to be super specific with your targeting, it doesn’t always benefit you. By being too specific, we have seen such a low amount of impressions that our CPM was close to $40. We ran three different ad sets with the same audience and same budget to ensure the only change was the amount of text in the ads. The three different ad images are below:

With this in mind, we ran three different ad sets with the same audience and same budget to ensure the only change was the amount of text in the ads. The three different ad images are below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.47.15 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.46.51 AMNo Text

We launched these ads simultaneously beginning on July 1st, and ran them for a week, ending them on July 8th. We created individual ad sets for each image so that the budget and reach would be spent evenly. If you launch different ad images in the same campaign, Facebook will automatically try and optimize that campaign, so the ads that have the most engagement at the beginning will be shown more, and take more of the budget than the ads that didn’t see as much engagement. We wanted everything to be completely identical, from target audience to ad copy, with the only changing variable being the amount of text in the featured image. We spent $33 per image, coming in at just under $5 per day.

We wanted everything to be completely identical, from target audience to ad copy, with the only changing variable being the amount of text in the featured image. We spent $33 per image, coming in at just under $5 per day.

The Results

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We saw some very interesting results from this test, and I’ve got to be honest, it was a little different than what I expected going into this experiment. One thing that held true that I was expecting was the large text image reaching the least amount of people. However, it wasn’t nearly as low as I thought it was going to be. With almost 44% of our ad image covered with text, it only reached 197

One thing that held true, which I expected, was that the large text image reached the least amount of people. However, it wasn’t nearly as low as I thought it was going to be. With almost 44% of our ad image covered with text, it only reached 197

With almost 44% of our ad image covered with text, it only reached 197 fewer people than the image with no text, and 663 fewer people than the medium text. One thing that was interesting was the amount of engagement we saw across the different images. The full results can be seen below:

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Even though the medium text image reached nearly 500 more people, it had 24 less engagements than the image with no text. Obviously, this means the cost per engagement was lower as well. However, we did notice that the medium text image led to more link clicks and page likes, which I think most every Facebook marketer would agree, are much more valuable than just post likes. The most decisive thing we learned in this test is that having more than 20%, or in our

However, we did notice that the medium text image led to more link clicks and page likes, which I think most every Facebook marketer would agree, are much more valuable than just post likes. The most decisive thing we learned in this test is that having more than 20%, or in our case nearly 50% of our image covered in text, definitely hurts not only the amount of people reached, but also the amount of engagement.

Our Conclusion

This was a very telling test, and provided a lot of good information not only on how the amount of text affects reach; but also, how it affects engagement. We can definitely see that the reach is affected when the ad image includes more than 20% text, and we can safely assume that if you upped the budget, the difference in reach would be much more drastic.

When it comes to engagement, this test definitely isn’t a tell all. Our images, while on brand and creatively designed, probably aren’t going to get as much engagement as a picture of a beautiful sunset or a 15-foot shark breaching the sea.

However, it’s safe to say that including SOME text on your ad images is a way to drive more engagement. Naturally, our eyes and attention are drawn to images more than words. Adding a small amount of text ensures that people’s attention is still driven towards the image, but there’s a better chance they’ll click on the link because the image now tells them what to expect from the article.

If you also look at our results, the image with a medium amount of text (still under 20%), brought more traffic to our site, more traffic to our Facebook page, and resulted in a share as well. Below you can see some examples of posts we’ve promoted for clients that have done extremely well on Facebook, and have a nice balance of captivating images and enticing text.

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Feel free to add your own thoughts regarding the study or insights from past experiences in the comments below!

  • Zach

    I wonder if the engagement for each text size would change depending on different target audiences? Here the ad is targeting people interested in learning about marketing and those people engaged the ad with no text the most. If you were targeting an audience interested in learning how to play guitar, for example, would they also engage the most with the ad with no text?

    • Drew Choco

      That’s a great question Zach! I would guess the target audience probably does have an affect on the engagement, regardless of the text in the ad. If you’re targeting an audience of bookclub members, they may be more engaged towards an ad with text. If you’re targeting an audience of artists or photographers, they may engage more towards an ad with no text.

      This would be an interesting thing to test!