In 2018, U.S. legal cannabis market was valued U$11.9 billion. Yet, it’s really frustrating for companies to deal with so many unclear regulations when it comes to Cannabis marketing. Although it’s an ascending industry, Cannabis (this is, CBD and THC) and Hemp are not legal at the Federal level, so there’s a lot to progress when it comes to the plant’s politics, including in social media platforms.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, and Snapchat don’t allow Cannabis Marketing products ads. So we’re basically talking about social media giants not accepting these products to be advertised in the Digital Era, where social media is a crucial way for brands to build a relationship with the public.
The algorithms of these platforms determine when content is banned and sometimes even shut down the company’s page. But even though Cannabis Marketing is very limited by all those platforms, there are several ways to make it happen organically.
Cannabis Marketing Restrictions
Due to their targeting options, Facebook and Instagram would be the perfect platforms to advertise Cannabis-related products. Unfortunately, these social media platforms ban all Cannabis Marketing. CBD, THC and even Hemp is out of the question because they’re not legal at the Federal level. And only complaining about it, isn't much of a strategy, right?
The social media platforms are vague when it comes to their content regulation policies. Facebook says “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs”. Even though Hemp and CBD are not on the recreational side of this rule we can’t know exactly when they will accept a Cannabis ad.
Many Cannabis companies had their pages shut down because of ads focusing on products, or for encouraging the selling of ‘illegal’ substances. Some of the tricks brands use to try to get around the bans are making the Instagram profile private, not posting prices, and investing in Influencer Marketing, but these strategies are not enough.
When it comes to Google Adwords, it has a very restrict regulation, and is not even an option for Cannabis marketing. Moreover, e-commerce websites have rules that might prohibit Cannabis-related products, but the regulation is not that strict for CBD products. About e-commerce on social media platforms like Instagram, posting prices is never a good idea due to the platform policies.
The Challenges of Cannabis Marketing In the Digital Era
Some industries like pharma, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and online dating face similar limitations when it comes to social media. The difference is the legal status of Cannabis is not the same as these industries mentioned. Because of that, some big digital platforms are not willing to take the risk of working with Cannabis.
As seen above, a good percentage of CBD, THC, and Hemp companies' target audience use social media platforms daily. With all these restrictions, companies found in Influencer Marketing the possibility of growth. The main challenge of this strategy is getting the right Influencers to tie-up with Cannabis Marketing efforts and brands. And we can all agree they have an acceptable reason to be cautious. They don’t want their accounts to be shut down.
The terms for individuals Marketing Cannabis products are not very specific. So we can’t say Influencers are above the regulations of social platforms. But we also can’t state they are not allowed to post content that could encourage Cannabis or Hemp consumption.
As said before, the main social media platforms don’t allow Cannabis ads. And even though Snapchat considers ads for CBD products, there are no specific terms on Influencers promoting it. Also, there are reports of Snapchat accounts deleted due to marijuana content.
Twitter is by far the most Cannabis friendly of the big social media platforms, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best alternative for you to invest in. Unless you are very patient, It requires a lot of time to reach a good engagement rate there, especially because it’s a place of constant interactions. So be aware it doesn’t deliver the productive engagement you may achieve on Instagram, for example. In general, when it comes to Cannabis marketing, the only option is being strategic.
Best Strategies to Cannabis Marketing in Social Media
The social media regulation concerning the Cannabusiness generally prohibits the encouragement of Cannabis consumption and purchase. But it doesn’t mean that all ads and posts from Cannabis companies will be shut down. So it’s possible to use some strategies to advertise on such delicate platforms. Also, there are other ways to build a strong presence in the digital environment, like through SEO or email marketing.
As seen before, Influencer Marketing is complicated due to a lack of regulation about what individuals can and can not post when it comes to Cannabis marketing. Yet, it’s huge among Cannabusiness.
According to this article from Digiday, two big CBD edible brands increased their use of influencers by 32 percent in one year. Also, medical and wellness CBD products consist of 68% of the share of conversation volume by CBD use case. So when it comes to this kind of product, wellness Influencers can be a good alternative because of their credibility.
One of the safer strategies is to work with influencers on branded content. It is, not to directly encourage the consumption of the substance, but to create brand awareness by sharing editorial content. Like that, both the brand and the Influencer will be cautious, and probably no account will be shut down.
Nowadays, social media platforms are crucial for a company to build a strong online presence. So even with the strict regulations, it’s possible to deliver value to your audience. That’s why content marketing is so important when it comes to Cannabis marketing. A company might be penalized for sharing cannabis-related products, but never for sharing educational and entertainment content.
Always remember that informative content is always better than the appealing ones. You can talk to Cannabis consumers without talking about Cannabis. They have some interests in common, and you should talk about these interests instead. You can even promote posts like these without the risk of Facebook or Instagram banning it.
So the best way is choosing editorial and educational content to promote. However, one way to succeed in getting away with posts promoting Cannabis products is to use your creativity and avoid verbal and visual explicit languages. Like that, you may find a way to trick the algorithms.
Due to all the restrictions of social media, many companies prefer to invest their time in SEO and email marketing. Google is not that restricting on what comes up organically in the search results. That’s why prioritizing a company blog and focusing on SEO is one of the best strategies for your marketing efforts. So make sure to set up Google Analytics and check your website in the Google Search Console.
Of course, the quality and relevance of the content you’re sharing is the cornerstone of good SEO. So you must know your audience and what they’re looking for. And that’s not easy and definitely is not fast. But once you figure out the SEO strategies that fit your business, you’ll get many leads.
Good SEO Tools
Ahrefs – for identifying backlinks and ranking websites;
SEMrush – for analyzing your blog;
Buzzsumo – for determining the best content for your blog;
Email Marketing is literally every communication via email between a company and its potential or existing customers. But for that to be an effective strategy, you must have a mailing list that people sign up to on your website page. Also, you must follow some guidelines, so people don’t completely ignore it.
Everyone has an email, it’s the most fundamental prerequisite to being a part of the online environment. And everyone uses it (even if it’s just to confirm their social media sign up). So it’s a great strategy to build a relationship with leads and clients without the possibility of being penalized.
CONSIDER OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Creating good content is completely irrelevant if it won’t reach your target. With no impressions, there’s no engagement, and consequently, no leads. That’s why you must study which online places your audience spends their time on and what their behavior is online.
Also, different platforms require different communication. So look around, find out what your audience is talking about, where they’re sharing conversation, and get involved.
A good way to start doing it is by looking for Facebook groups and subreddits. Of course, it takes a lot for you to succeed in this strategy, but it’s not impossible. The main point here is you must engage with your target. If you don’t provide them with value, they won’t notice you. Also, learn the rules of the community and don’t get banned.
Beyond that, some social media platforms were made entirely for Cannabis and Cannabis Marketing. Of course, the audience of platforms like MassRoots and Weedmaps is much smaller than big social media's audience. So these are not the places you’ll concentrate all your efforts on, but at least you can advertise there with no risks.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Subredditstats, 2019)
Summing It All Up
Getting a return on social media investment is always a challenge, and targeting the right audiences with the right message is a constant struggle. All these unclear restrictions and the possibility of being banned because of one post make social media for Cannabusiness way more complicated to manage.
Organic strategies are the key to not suffering negative consequences. So creative lifestyle posts will definitely help Cannabis companies to stand out on social media. With all that said, the best attitudes to take concerning Cannabis-related products advertising on social media are: be everywhere you can be and grow organically.
At Sentient Pixel, we are specialized in Marketing for Cannabis-related companies. From Branding to SEO and Content Marketing, we offer these, and many other services you need to build a strong presence in the Digital environment. For any inquiries, please email email@example.com!
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