Like most other industries, having an active social media following is key to a successful and well-known cannabusiness marketing strategy. Unlike other industries, however, cannabis accounts seem to be getting shut down left and right. We've all heard the horror stories of dispensaries and other cannabis-centric companies suddenly seeing their Facebook pages removed, along with thousands of hard-earned followers. Reading the fine print and following platform guidelines are the first steps to decreasing the odds of your social media nightmare. Don't have time for sifting through all the rules and regulations? Don't worry, we've got you covered:
Instagram has yet to clarify what its cannabis policy actually is, leaving cannabis companies frustrated and confused. Just recently, The Lift Cannabis, a review site for medical cannabis strains woke up to find their Instagram account was deactivated, losing 11,000 followers with it. This came days before an event the company was sponsoring — the Lift Cannabis Expo in Vancouver. When pressed for comment on the issue, Instagram responded in regards to their Community Guidelines:
"Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region) is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods."
While we don't have fool-proof advice to keep your Instagram account safe, there are some images that would be best to avoid: smoking, advertising sales/specials, paraphernalia, etc. Posting images of products or strains your dispensary offers could go either way. It’s a toss-up if your account will get reported or deactivated, so until then, make sure the images you post fall in line with your brand. If you claim your product line is high-end, keep it classy and don't post images of "weed babes" or memes of "typical stoner" culture. Social media platforms are an extension of your brand and should be used intentionally.
Twitter is increasingly becoming the "go-to" source for instant news updates for any interest and category. For the cannabis industry in particular, the platform enables brands to share valuable data, information regarding the industry, new laws and regulations, etc. When it comes to cannabis-related content, Twitter is quite friendly, though a bit vague. According to their policy,
"We believe that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. In order to protect the experience and safety of people who use Twitter, there are some limitations on the type of content and behavior that we allow."
When it comes to paid advertising, Twitter will blocks ads for cannabis-smoking products, but allows ads that promote news and information about cannabis. That being said, tweeting about your dispensary products and upcoming events is perfectly fine, just don't pay to promote your tweets or business!
Facebook is perhaps the most strict when it comes to sharing cannabis-related content. While news articles and blogs are seemingly appropriate, images of paraphernalia, cannabis plants, flowers and products might get you in trouble. When you share articles on Facebook, changing the thumbnail image to a "less-controversial," yet story-related visual can save you the possibility of a deleted account.
Facebook's user policy also bans content that promotes marijuana sales, even in states where it's legal. The platform does allow marijuana advocacy and education pages, as long as they don't promote sales. So what does that mean for promoting your dispensary's products? Don't pay for ads on Facebook. According to their policy:
"Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription or recreational drugs."
If you're promoting a sale on a particular strain or discount for a group of patients, you're technically violating Facebook's policy. Therefore, it's best to announce and specials or promotions via an email newsletter instead of your Facebook business page.
With cannabis illegal at the federal level, it's inevitable that some accounts will get taken down. In the event that your cannabusiness social media account does get shut down, it's best to be prepared. Collect email addresses! Make sure to have a newsletter opt-in on your website and ask your followers to sign up. You should also have a way for patients to opt-in for newsletters when they visit the dispensary. In addition to sharing updates about your business, stories relevant to the industry, an email newsletter is the perfect place to advertise sales and specials you may be running.
As Facebook and Instagram often shut down dispensary accounts without notice, having an email mailing list is crucial to keeping your contacts and audience within reach and rebuilding your accounts when/if they get removed.