August 7, 2018

Navigating Social Media Censorshop for Cannabis Entrepreneurs

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Over the last few months, I’ve been testing out Instagram and Facebook ads to promote this blog, which is as I like to say “cannadjacent”. If you’ve been following me all this time, you’re well aware that I frequently post about cannabis products and the therapeutic benefits I’ve experienced.

I’ve learned a lot about what is and is not acceptable to pay to place in those feeds when it comes to cannabis and cannabis-related products. And it’s kind of… ridiculous. I cannot tell you how many times one of my ads was denied, but if I simply removed the word “cannabis” from the post text it’d be approved almost immediately.

I’ve broken down some tips for using social media as a cannabis entrepreneur, in hopes to provide some guidance to all cannabis and cannadjacent businesses trying to make social media work for them.

Advertising/Paid Placements

While a lot of experts out there might say it’s nearly impossible to run a cannabis-related ad on social media, I’m here to tell you it is possible… with a lot of stipulations.

The most important thing you can do is familiarize yourself with each platform’s advertising guidelines. You can pay to place cannabis related posts into the feeds of potential Facebook and Instagram customers, as long as it’s an awareness based ad, rather than selling or promoting the use of products. It’s a pretty fine line, but if you stay away from directly using the words “cannabis” or “weed” anywhere in your post (including in your URL, or anywhere on the linked page, if the ad directs users to your website) and the sale of specific products, you will probably be in the clear.

You might be thinking, how tf do I advertise my products without advertising my products?

Well, you don’t. You can advertise the lifestyle aspects of your brand. You can advertise educational information. You can advertise inspiration stories about people who use your products, and even why they use your products.

I’ve successfully boosted posts, on Instagram, that are cannabis-focused, by following a couple of rules:

  • Never use the word cannabis, or weed, in the post caption.
  • Never promote purchasing the product itself. The product is an afterthought. A very subtle afterthought.
  • Focus on awareness and education.
  • Use influencers (which we’ll talk about a little later).

Instagram and Facebook give a lot of leeway when it comes to the actual photos. For example, I was able to boost this post below with no issue. Surprising, considering the caption.

I wasn’t expecting it to be approved, given the content, but it’s a fun little story and again, I’m not directly advertising any products. I’m just raising brand awareness for this blog (hi)!

Regular Posting

When it comes to just posting on your business page on any social networking site, you can be freer. You can show off your products, and talk about use. You can even use more obvious, open terms, like cannabis.

However, you should still keep this to a minimum. I know it’s not what you wanted to hear. And I know that it sets the bar kind of high. You’re going to need to be creative when it comes to promoting your company on social media. Realistically, your social marketing plan should include a hefty dose of getting potential customers off your social media accounts and enrolled in a mailing list that you own.

Countless marijuana influencers and businesses have faced account shutdowns and deletions over their content. That is something you should keep in mind and plan for because the ban hammer swings fast and harshly when they decide your account has to go.

There have been instances in which established accounts were DELETED, not just suspended, deleted because the content was deemed against the ToS. You do not want to be a victim, but if you are, wouldn’t it be great if most of your audience was also on a list that you own?

Leveraging Influencers

Yes, influencers are a real freaking thing. And they’re probably here to stay. I know it’s a whole new world out there when it comes to marketing, but is it really that different than having any other celebrity or notable person hawk your wares? The only difference is the playing field and the number of players.

Getting influencers to post about your products or company or even events is not as hard as it seems. And you can use that budget you were going to use for paid ads for this instead. Depending on local laws, you can gift some of your fantastic product in exchange for a review; you could give some local influencers a tour of your facilities for a behind the scenes look; you could provide discounts to influential customers and clients. The larger and more influential they are (generally they can prove this in some manner, so don’t just take someone’s word for it because they have 100k followers), the more you’ll have to pony up, but the pay off can be huge.

Additionally, influencers allow you to get around the paid placement restrictions and introduce your brand to a TON of very targeted new customers.

Finally, it can take trial and error to figure out the right formula for talking about your company and products on social media. Go slow and err on the side of censorship. Focus on creative education and awareness-based posts that talk more about the benefits of using cannabis, than the actual using of cannabis. And most importantly, work on building your community off social media.

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