Remember what a splash Facebook made when it introduced Timeline’s cover photos? Many brands quickly realized the potential of using a commanding image as the centerpiece for their Facebook Pages. Now, Twitter has jumped on the bandwagon with the introduction of a header image.

This change gives Twitter more potential for giving your brand visual personality. You now have three images to convey your branding: profile photo, header image, and background photo. It will be important for your company to present a strong look to all three visual components of your Twitter profile. Here are some tips on how to prepare and upload an eye-catching visual for the header. We’ve also got a few examples of brands that got it right, as well as a few that could use some help.

Specs and Details

First off, make sure that you find a photo to use that is both attractive and legal. Any appropriate image that’s less than 5 MB will work for the purpose. Twitter recommends dimensions of 1200 pixels by 600 pixels, but anything close to that size with a 2:1 ratio will do. You’ll want to make sure you have your image sized properly before you upload it, because although Twitter does have a cropping screen, it is a blunt tool that’s difficult to use. You’re better off preparing the correct size ahead of time with a basic photo editor.

Keep in mind that both your profile photo and bio will appear above the header image. Avoid anything that’s text-heavy so that your information is easy to read. And unlike Facebook, there’s no announcement to all of your fans when you update your header photo. If you try an image that doesn’t look quite right, take the time to make adjustments or swap photos until you achieve the look you want. You can also decide whether your bio appears in white or black font, which opens up more options for photos.

Another risk of using photos with extensive details is that Twitter compresses the images, even when they are uploaded at the appropriate size. A photo with lots of intricacies may appear slightly fuzzy, even on high-resolution screens. Pick something simple and graphic if you don’t think you’ll have a high enough resolution for the detailed image to appear clearly.

How To Upload Your Image

First, click on the Settings wheel at the top right corner of the Twitter homepage. Select “Settings” from the drop down menu, then click on “Design” in the list on the left. Scroll down to the section titled “Customize your own” and click on the first button, which is “Change header.”

After you select the file to upload, you’ll see a screen that lets you zoom and crop your photo. However, as discussed above, the tool is confusing. Unless your image appears much differently than how you expected in that preview, we’d suggest you simply click “Save.” Once you’re returned to the main screen, be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom to click “Save changes” and lock in your image of choice.

Suggestions and Examples

Since it serves such a similar purpose, we’d suggest you treat you Twitter header image as you do your Facebook cover photo. A few brands have already employed this strategy and it gives them continuity across their profiles.

Coca-Cola has used a photo collage similar to the one it features on Facebook. Starbucks regularly uses its Instagram photos with atmospheric filters across social media, so it’s no surprise that the retailer’s Twitter header is an artistic, colorful shot of coffee beans. Another great photo choice is Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t have the exact same images as on Facebook, but uses a similar strategy. With a graphic design of the plane in the profile photo and a close-up photo of the aircraft in the header, this offers a nice visual complement without simply copying images.

Not every brand has nailed the Twitter header image. Pop singer Britney Spears only uses two photos across her page: she has a tiled promotional photo as her background and simply used the same image for the header. This makes the page look repetitive and overwhelming. The Onion has a photo of its newspaper, which has lots of text that distracts from the bio text layered on top of it. The page also has an unusual amount of white space, which makes the header seem even busier. On the other end of that spectrum, the profile page for Laura Kaeppele, the current Miss America, uses just a plain purple color block.

These three photos aren’t as effective as they could be, especially since all the brands have a well-established reputation to showcase online. Whether or not you opt to use the same visual as your Facebook cover photo, we suggest you get creative in finding an image that’s simple but evocative to represent your Twitter account.

Do you like the new Twitter header images? Know of any great examples? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Andreas Eldh, West McGowan]