Anyone who handles the marketing or social media side for a cannabis business can tell you that social media is a huge pain in the @$$.
With ever-changing regulations and “Community Guidelines”, hemp and cannabis companies struggle with marketing. Advertising online is like walking on eggshells, you just never know when you’re going to get a shadow ban, which is when TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook suddenly hides your posts or restricts them from followers which you worked so hard to get organically.
Once your brand has been shadow banned, this leads to a significantly reduced interaction and reach. Worst of all, companies aren’t warned or given any formal notifications when they are shadow banned. In some cases, posts can even be deleted if the social media giants suddenly decide that they go against community guidelines.
And even worst of all, you can have your account deleted permanently if all these happen multiple times. Months, years even, of hard work online can all be wiped out without you knowing it.
But all of these risks haven’t stopped hemp and cannabis businesses from using these platforms to find their new customers, so even if Facebook and other social media giants don’t allow ads for cannabis products, they do hacks to work around the bans.
Here’s what you need to know about the big 3 platforms to work around the bans:
Facebook: There is a differentiation between prohibited and restricted content, but for cannabis businesses, Facebook strictly prohibits the promotion of any drug or related products even if it’s a legal or recreational drug. For this reason, text and images can’t be included in ads. Federal restrictions also mean that cannabis companies can’t run ads including in states where the drug is legal. When you fail to comply with the advertising guidelines on Facebook, your ads will not only get shut down but you can face the risk of your account getting deleted.
Twitter: Twitter states that “illegal drugs, recreational and herbal drugs, accessories associated with drug use, drug dispensaries, and depictions of hard drug use” are prohibited in its advertising policies under the Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia section.
Instagram: Since Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, they apply the same kind of restrictive advertising policies which say, in many words, that there is no kind of advertising allowed for cannabis companies on the platform.
So what can be done to work around these?
Since cannabis businesses can’t advertise on social media, they have to resort to reaching their audiences organically the hard way – by creating amazing content. However, that has its own caveat: social media platforms limit the organic reach of cannabis posts BUT that doesn’t mean that you can’t reach a large audience; you just have to be clever in your strategy and always stay up to date with the changing restrictions.
Here’s what you can do:
Post educational content on cannabis: This type of content is almost guaranteed to be a sure hit because it gives value to your followers by educating them on topics that they care about. For example, cannabis brands can educate their customers by sharing informative and helpful articles about medicinal uses of the plant or how to use their product.
If your brand is just starting out online, it might take a few posts to see which topics strike a chord with your followers. After a while you can then identify which topics will get a good response from your audience. Just remember not to post sales promotions with educational content because this can cause your post to be removed or get red flagged; use other channels for sales promotions.
Diversify your channels: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket applies to cannabis marketing too. You’ll see greater success if you work with more platforms as long as you are strategic about your platforms to ensure that all posts align well with your brand mission. Additionally, study the psychographic and demographic profile of your target audience to determine which platforms you should be using. For example, industry news and corporate information on your brand are best shared on LinkedIn while educational posts can be shared on Facebook.
If you aren’t sure about which platforms will provide you the best engagement and results, then do some testing.
Videos: Video is one of the most engaging types of content on social media, just be sure that you are using some subtitles for people who watch videos with the sound off.
Brand ambassadors/Influencers: Partnering up with brand ambassadors or influencers is a popular and efficient way to reach new audiences. It’s a great way to organically grow your reach to the larger audiences of influential people.
Last but not least, if you have spare money to burn and don’t want to be bothered with the nitty gritty, you can always outsource your work to marketing agencies that are well-versed in the cannabis space.
While it may seem tempting to blast sales promotions and your new products online, stop. You can get red flagged or even have your account deactivated. Remember that your followers want to patronize accounts that give them valuable content because truly valuable content stands out in a sea of many other cannabis brands that are already trying to do the same thing as you are.
People don’t want to be pitched to all the time. Don’t post images of the cannabis plant heavily since this won’t appeal to everyone (such as seniors who are looking for information) and this can also get your page red flagged.
Follow the best practices and eventually you’ll get the hang of what you should and shouldn’t do on social media to grow your business. Social media rules may never change, so it requires adaptability in part of businesses who want to succeed on their platform.