With the legalization of cannabis across the United States, cannabis companies are sprouting out on a daily basis. A whole new industry is making itself known, which means one thing:
Much like the alcohol industry, the cannabis industry faces tons of rules that need to be worked around, which can prove to be increasingly difficult. The only difference: Budweiser has never had its Facebook page taken down with no notice whatsoever.
Influencers and bloggers find it hard to even talk about the plant without being shut down. While other conventional methods are available to dispensaries, the argument still stands — Facebook and Twitter are advertising giants.
A recent statistic claims that 75% of all small businesses use Facebook when they market their products, and 85% of all U.S. consumers use social media.
So, for any self-respecting company to give up leads generated from social media would essentially be marketing suicide.
What exactly are the restrictions we are dealing with?
When a cannabis company advertises on a Facebook page, they are risking being shut down if they post one wrong sentence. The United States and Canada have very strict regulations that need to be taken into account when you are advertising.
Facebook forces users to follow general rules, no matter which state they are based out of. Even though cannabis may be legal in your home state, Facebook follows the federal laws regarding cannabis. This means that advertising drug-related products of any kind is strictly prohibited. Best-case scenario, your advertisement won’t be accepted, and worst-case scenario, your entire account is shut down; you are banned from advertising for life — yup, that has happened.
Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook, each has the same rules. Other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have similar regulations that need to be followed.
For example, the Guardian reported how Green Flower Media, a well-established cannabis website, uploaded a couple of videos on Youtube that racked up millions of views before being taken down with no warning.
Kyle Porter, the president of CMW Media (a marketing company for cannabis), was permanently banned from advertising on Facebook; he supported a client that advertised hydroponic equipment, which is frequently used by people who grow cannabis.
This can be a devastating blow for any pot business or marketing company. They are forced to live in the age of billboards, while everybody else is on Instagram — not a nice place to be.
Facebook’s attempt at shadow banning
Facebook has recently started to “shadow ban” cannabis pages as well, which is causing businesses to question the dependability of their organic leads; the leads come from followers and posts.
Basically, shadow banning means that pages that include the words “cannabis” or “marijuana” do not show up in a user’s search results. So, if you have the direct link to the page, you will be able to view the content, but other than that, the average consumer is trying to find a needle in a haystack.
This means businesses have started to view Facebook’s search policy as less than dependable. There is no pattern to what gets taken down, and there is little to go by. For example, Amy Donohue, the owner of an Arizona-based cannabis company, Hybrid Social, said she followed the rules to a T, but still got her Instagram account taken down.
Here is one way you could make sure your page stays up:
Most pages that have been taken down (including government bodies like the Bureau of Cannabis Control) have the word cannabis or marijuana included in its name. Companies like the Wellness Connection, on the other hand, still show up in search results.
Essentially, you are trying to beat a robot’s algorithm when it comes to shadow banning. So, an easy way to stay on the safer side is by not including these words in your company name — at least not on Facebook.
Platforms for weed lovers
Facebook and Twitter may not be a cannabis company’s best friend, but there are other options out there. Some great apps have started to emerge to bring cannabis lovers together, and help businesses advertise.
- MassRoots: Probably the most famous one, MassRoots was one of the very first apps to make its way onto the app store. MassRoots’ goal is to “develop the leading technology for consumers and businesses in the emerging cannabis industry.” The website features a map of dispensaries, a list of products, and tons of informative blog posts. It is every weed lover’s dream, and companies can really use the platform to their advantage.
- GrassCity: GrassCity has tabs that advertise the sale of everything from new flavors to apparel; GrassCity is more famously known for their open discussions where they talk about new happenings in the world of cannabis.
While MassRoots and GrassCity are great alternatives, Facebook is practically a monopoly when it comes to advertising; making your presence known is a need.
Even though advertising is not an option, reaching potential clients, organically, can bring in customers. Using influencers to widen your audience, creating visually appealing content, and making videos, are proven methods to reach potential customers among others.
If nothing else, Uruguay made it legal to grow, sell and use cannabis way back in 2013. At least you know where your next dispensary needs to be!
Freya Kuka is a contributor to various cannabis publications, and specializes in B2B (business-to-business) writing for various industries. You can get in touch with her via Twitter @freyakuka, or by visiting her website: collectingcents.com