Federal prohibition of marijuana makes effective traditional advertising for cannabis businesses nearly impossible. The place that a marijuana related business can optimize its marketing the most effectively is online. According to Google, roughly 40% of online buyers come from social media. However, cannabis social media properties are a rocky boat that many marijuana businesses struggle to stabilize so as not to get their pages shutdown. Once a marijuana business learns to stabilize their pages, they are then left scratching their heads over how to use their cannabis social media properties effectively to market their products.
Many marijuana ancillary businesses have come along to help fill missing niches in the giant and still growing marijuana industry. A lot of professionals are seeing parallels between their mainstream careers and the marijuana industry.
Digital marketing is a huge business and fortune 500 companies certainly retain digital marketing professionals to help with their online advertising. Companies like Kush Clicks have now come along to do the same thing for the marijuana industry.
The time and effort, not to mention the knowledge base, necessary to optimize cannabis social media advertising is simply beyond the abilities of most business owners. It is a mistake to blindly hope that the demand for cannabis will be enough to sell products. There is plenty of competition out there and people will buy from the businesses that they see advertised most often.
Years after legal markets have come online, marijuana businesses are still at a loss when it comes to what’s considered acceptable advertising on social media.
They’re throwing spaghetti at the wall, and absent any feedback from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, it’s almost impossible to know what’s going to stick.
It’s still not uncommon for marijuana businesses – whether plant-touching or ancillary – to have their social media pages taken down.
For instance, two cannabis retail stores in Fort Collins, Colorado, were kicked off Facebook and Instagram earlier this year, and little to no reason was provided.
But that’s not the industry’s most immediate problem anymore.
As marijuana businesses become more savvy about social media policies, they’re learning how to navigate those murky waters.
What’s happening now is many companies are running afoul of social media moderators when posting advertisements through the sites, and there seems to be little agreement between sites on what’s acceptable.
Kyra Reed – founder of social media strategy service Markyr Digital and CEO of Los Angeles-based online business school Kadin Academy – no longer is hearing the horror stories about a company’s page being shut down and losing, say, 20,000 followers.
“I think most companies are now aware of what they can’t be doing,” she said.
Mainly what Reed’s hearing today is “I can’t get my ads approved.”
It’s one of the top questions people ask her.
As a general policy for posting, Facebook and Instagram don’t allow content that promotes the sale of marijuana:
Those rules are for run-of-the-mill posts.
For advertisements, the way Reed understands it, SEC regulations dictate that marijuana businesses can’t advertise promotions such as contests or giveaways. She also says Facebook doesn’t allow ads depicting people consuming cannabis, making health claims or targeting anyone younger than 21.
But it all can seem very arbitrary when, for example, Instagram adheres to different rules than its parent, Facebook.
As proof of the seeming inconsistency of Facebook’s policies, Markyr Digital had an ad approved and it was up on the site for three weeks before being pulled.
The ad featured a woman’s hand holding a cannabis flower and promoted a webinar on how to be a cannabis entrepreneur. The post had nothing to do with the sale of the plant.
“We’re not talking about consumption. We’re not talking about sales. We’re not talking about anything that’s directly violating the policies on Facebook,” Reed said.
Reed’s business partner, Jamie Cooper, handles the appeals process when Facebook and Instagram remove an ad. Cooper wins about 90% of the appeals she files, Reed said, “but it’s a fight.”
“(Social media companies) are so overly sensitive to the idea that anything could be misconstrued or misinterpreted as the promotion of drugs that they lean really heavy on the side of not letting anything through,” she added.