7 Social Channels For Cannabis Companies (And How To Leverage Them For Marketing)

7 Social Channels For Cannabis Companies (And How To Leverage Them For Marketing)

Businesses need a social media presence to reach their target audience, collect reviews, connect with customers, and so much more. But in the case of cannabis, many platforms are wishy-washy on this (somehow still) controversial topic, making it quite difficult for businesses across the entire industry to get the word out where their audience hangs out.

There’s an argument to be made to stay away from social media altogether – after all, why play nice on a platform that doesn’t want you there? Why deal with the heartbreak of bans and deletions? But for many cannabis companies, these mainstream social media platforms are still essential to connecting with potential customers and new business partners. How do you balance these interests?

What is the most cannabis-friendly mainstream social media platform? 

Reddit has long been regarded as the most cannabis-friendly mainstream social media network. With untold numbers of active community members enthusiastically discussing everything and anything about the plant, cannabis brands, medical cannabis, and more, the platform has become a go-to for enthusiasts and industry professionals alike. Reddit’s open nature and passionate user base make it a valuable resource for engaging with the cannabis community. 

Based on recent changes to advertising policies, Twitter (now called X, for now) is regarded as a cannabis-friendly mainstream social media network as well. The updates allow companies with proper licenses to apply through the platform’s approval process to advertise cannabis, hemp, and CBD products on-site. 

LinkedIn also offers another less strict option for companies looking to leverage B2B networking in the wake of changing regulations and restrictions on other platforms. While shadowbanning and restrictions of cannabis-related accounts aren’t unheard of on LinkedIn, it’s much less difficult than channels owned by Meta (Instagram and Facebook) or TikTok. 

Is there a social network specifically for cannabis?

In addition to mainstream social media networks, there are dedicated social channels specifically for the cannabis industry. Platforms like MJLink, Leafwire, and Social Club offer space for cannabis-related businesses and content creators to connect and share their expertise, products, and services with a target audience. While these platforms may not have the same reach as larger social media networks, they can be valuable tools for cannabis companies looking to expand their audience and experiment with more lenient marketing rules.

These platforms also attract a community of individuals already interested in and actively discussing cannabis-related topics. This can put some companies at a disadvantage, especially if they’re trying to reach audiences that simply aren’t on these platforms.

By participating in these channels, businesses can directly engage with a highly targeted audience that is more likely to be receptive to their products and services. While the reach might be smaller, this focused approach allows for more meaningful connections and potentially greater impact. 

7 social channels used by cannabis companies — and the obstacles they face

Whether you are a small cannabis startup or an established industry leader, leveraging social media channels can help you to build a solid online presence and reach a wider audience. While some platforms may allow for cannabis-related content, it’s essential to carefully consider each platform’s terms of service to navigate and utilize them effectively. The following social media channels are among the best for cannabis businesses to reach their target audience.

1. Facebook

The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level creates legal complexities and uncertainties, leading to stricter policies from social media platforms like Facebook. Due to federal regulations surrounding cannabis, Facebook has implemented guidelines imposing limitations on cannabis-related content and advertisements. Current policy details state that: 

  • Ads may not promote or offer the sale of THC products or cannabis products containing related psychoactive components. This covers both paid advertising and organic content.
  • Ads may not promote or offer the sale of ingestible CBD products derived from hemp. However, topical CBD product advertisements are allowed.

The details add that “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illicit or recreational drugs, or other unsafe substances, products or supplements, as determined by Meta at its sole discretion.”

Although Facebook may not be the ideal platform for cannabis companies, it can still be a valuable tool for building your online presence. Users often search on Facebook to find companies and expect reputable businesses to have a Facebook page. To create a successful Facebook account as a cannabis company, providing valuable, informative content, engaging with your audience, and following Facebook’s advertising guidelines is essential. 

Successfully marketing your cannabis brand on Facebook means avoiding any direct promotion or sales of cannabis-related products. Working with a cannabis marketing agency to navigate Facebook’s rules around cannabis can help you work with this social channel most effectively.

2. Instagram

Instagram is a great social media channel for consumer-facing brands due to its visual nature and large user base. However, as a global platform, Instagram must adhere to laws in countries where cannabis is illegal. The platform intends to maintain a policy that aligns with the diverse legal framework in different regions and creates a safe environment for its diverse demographic of users. According to their guidelines, the site “doesn’t allow people or organizations to use the platform for advertising or selling marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country.” 

Instagram’s commitment to following regulations and avoiding potential legal consequences is reflected in its strict terms of service as well as the app’s ability to entirely remove accounts that do not adhere to them. The platform is also notorious for implementing “shadowbans,” or blocking a user by making their posts and comments no longer visible to other users. Shadowbanned accounts won’t receive any notice but can expect a dramatic decrease in their page’s interactions and ability to be discovered by new followers. 

Creating high-quality content that adheres to Instagram’s strict guidelines can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. It’s worth noting that Instagram’s policies regarding cannabis content and advertising can change rapidly. Additionally, utilizing influencer marketing and partnering with other cannabis-related accounts can be a successful strategy for gaining more visibility and engagement on Instagram.  

3. Twitter

Recent changes to Twitter’s policy on cannabis advertising make the social media giant the only site to explicitly allow paid cannabis advertising of any kind. The recent changes allow companies with proper licenses who have passed through Twitter’s approval process to advertise cannabis, hemp, and CBD products on-site, as long as they are not promoting or offering the sale of cannabis or CBD products. This means that while companies can’t make ads encouraging followers to buy certain products or link out to their menu, they are free to run campaigns that advertise the brand and its primary locations, so long as they aren’t making a sales pitch. 

Twitter’s more lenient policies reflect the changing legal landscape, evolving social attitudes, and advocacy efforts within the cannabis community and create an environment to allow for increased visibility. The platform can also be effective for establishing your brand as a thought leader, commenting on industry trends, or engaging with consumers or other businesses. 

Even with the potential improvements in Twitter’s policies regarding cannabis, it’s important to note that effective engagement on the platform requires a clear strategy and social media plan. Working with an experienced marketing agency can help your business develop a deliberate social plan tailored to Twitter’s unique environment. 

4. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that can be valuable for cannabis businesses to connect with industry professionals, potential partners, investors, and more. Like other social media platforms, LinkedIn does have policies regarding cannabis-related content, specifically prohibiting “ads that promote the sale of use of illicit or recreational drugs.” It’s essential for companies to examine and comply with these guidelines very closely to avoid losing their account. While there are instances where content or profiles have been restricted or removed, the site is not generally known to actively remove cannabis content or block cannabis businesses. 

While LinkedIn aims to maintain the integrity of the professional networking environment and ensure that its users are not exposed to potentially illegal or harmful substances, companies can still leverage the platform effectively. LinkedIn allows businesses to share industry news and insights and showcase their expertise and unique offerings. This can also help raise brand awareness, build credibility, and expand collaboration opportunities. By adhering closely to LinkedIn’s guidelines and avoiding ads promoting cannabis, you can ensure a positive and productive experience for your brand. 

5. TikTok

Owned by ByteDance, a company based in China, TikTok outright bans all cannabis content. It’s worth noting that cannabis laws are much more restrictive in China than those in the U.S. With the platform also appealing to a generally younger demographic, its community guidelines do not allow the following: 

  • Content that suggests, depicts, imitates, or promotes the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or drugs by a minor
  • Content that offers instruction targeting minors on how to buy, sell, or trade alcohol, tobacco, or controlled substances
  • Content that depicts or promotes activities that may jeopardize youth well-being, including physical challenges, dares, or stunts

While TikTok has some of the most rigid guidelines regarding cannabis content, there are many creative ways to build your brand while adhering to the terms of service. Focus on creating content that highlights culture and lifestyle rather than the plant itself. For example, this could include sharing recipes for cannabis-infused products or educational videos debunking “stoner stereotypes.” 

If you want to successfully run cannabis-related content on TikTok, working with a marketing agency that understands the platform is critical. Otherwise, you could easily find your account suspended and lose all the hard-earned followers you gained in an instant.

6. Reddit

While Reddit does not mention cannabis or recreational drugs in their Terms of Service, their content policy does have a rule stating to “Keep it legal, and avoid posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal or prohibition transactions,” with prohibited goods including
“Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, or any controlled substances (except advertisements placed in accordance with the platform’s advertising policy).” 

With these rules in place, Reddit essentially allows users to post what they wish. However, the platform will remove any and all information pertaining to buying or selling cannabis products. 

It’s also important to note that Reddit is composed of various communities or subreddits, each with its own rules and regulations. While discussions surrounding cannabis may be permitted within specific subreddits, others might not allow for such conversation. Assessing and adhering to each community’s guidelines is crucial to ensure responsible and compliant discussion. There are hundreds or even thousands of communities on Reddit dedicated to cannabis lifestyle and wellness.

7. YouTube

While Youtube’s stringent guidelines prohibit “content that encourages dangerous or illegal activities that risk serious physical harm or death,” the platform eased some restrictions in 2021. The update stated that the platform would be expanding monetization on educational, documentary, or news content that may include “recreational drugs and drug-related content, or sensitive events,” as well as broadening monetization for content where “non-graphic, objective discussions of controversial issues are in the video.” While it’s not perfect, educational and informational cannabis content on YouTube has the potential to go far.

As far as advertising goes, however, YouTube remains strict. While the platform allows ads for topical, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products that fall under the 0.3% threshold, YouTube’s advertising policy specifically prohibits: 

  • Ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce “highs” (e.g., cannabis, cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, and other illegal opioids)
  • Ads for products or services marketed as facilitating recreational drug use (e.g., pipes, bongs, cannabis coffee shops)
  • Ads for instructional content about producing, purchasing, or using recreational drugs (e.g., forums to exchange tips or recommendations on cannabis use)

Where social fits in broader digital marketing strategy 

Social media is just one part of a larger digital marketing strategy how social media can play a crucial role in several aspects of a broader digital marketing strategy, such as:   

  • Increasing brand awareness: Social media marketing can help cannabis companies build brand awareness among their target audience by sharing engaging content and promoting unique products or services. 
  • Engaging with customers: Maintaining an active presence on social media and engaging with customers will help build trust and a positive reputation for your brand. Utilizing Instagram polls and replying to comments can help increase customer loyalty and retention.
  • Driving traffic to your website: Social media channels provide an excellent opportunity to drive traffic to your company’s website as well. Repurposing blog posts for Instagram or Twitter is an easy way to create content and direct people from your social site to your website.   
  • Establishing connections and networking: Certain social media channels can be used to connect with other businesses, professionals, investors, and potential partners. Building a solid presence on sites like LinkedIn can lead to more opportunities for collaboration and growth.  
  • Monitoring the success of campaigns: Most social channels provide valuable information regarding analytics and insights. These metrics can include everything from engagement rates to demographics to help you identify patterns and trends and adjust your strategy accordingly.  

Make the most of your marketing 

While social media can be a powerful tool for reaching and engaging with your target audience, navigating the ever-changing landscape can be overwhelming for any business – especially cannabis. That’s where CannaContent comes in. Our tailored content and strategic social media management help companies build their online presence, connect with their audience and achieve their marketing goals. Contact us to learn more about how CannaContent can help your business succeed on and offline. 

What’s up with Facebook’s recent shadow ban on cannabis?

What’s up with Facebook’s recent shadow ban on cannabis?

Facebook users recently discovered their searches for “marijuana” and “cannabis” no longer display results.

Here’s what happened when CannaContent conducted a search of the term “cannabis” on Facebook on August 4, 2018:

Nothing. Plain ‘ol nothing. So, what the hell is going on?

Marijuana Moment reported on Aug. 1, 2018 that Facebook pages, groups, and events – including pages managed by government entities and regulatory bodies to disseminate key compliance information – no longer appear in search results. While those already engaged with a certain group, page, or event can see its content, those outside cannot find it easily. Yet again, a social media platform is causing difficulties around cannabis. And it sucks.

This phenomenon is called a “shadow ban” (sometimes written as “shadowban”). What exactly is a shadow ban? Why did Facebook enact a shadow ban? What can you do to promote your business or brand on Facebook while the shadow ban is in place?

What is a shadow ban?

A shadow ban is when a social media platform allows a page or profile to continue posting content, but that content will not appear in search results. The user often does not know that their content is subject to a shadow ban. They continue to post as normal without repercussions.

These types of bans are used to curtail the attention paid to a certain profile or subject. Facebook and other social media platforms use it to curb the spread of spam. It has also been used to quash the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Once a shadow ban is in place, there’s no warning or indication that it’s been set in motion. People simply figure it out when their content experiences a significant drop in engagements.

Why did Facebook enact a shadow ban for cannabis?

As of the writing of this blog post, Facebook has yet to officially clarify why the shadow ban was enacted. However, social media platforms discouraging or outright banning cannabis content is nothing new.

Federal policy, social media, and cannabis content are at constant odds. Facebook’s advertising guidelines outline that platform users cannot “constitute, facilitate or promote illegal products, services or activities,” with an additional clause that ads cannot “promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription or recreational drugs.” Twitter, Instagram and other platforms have similar policies. (It’s important to note that these restrictions can apply to hemp-derived CBD and hemp products as well.)

Despite these content and advertising bans, cannabis communities flourish on Facebook, sharing information, education, and yes, plant-touching and ancillary business information. These communities and pages are so active that it can be easy to forget that posting is technically against the rules. This just happened on YouTube earlier this year, when thousands of cannabis videos were removed when a review found that those videos violated the platform’s terms of service.

Considering the other actions Facebook could have taken – suspensions and deletions are not uncommon – it really could be worse. Your page, groups, and events are likely still up and running. It’s the discovery of new content that the shadow ban will likely affect the most.

So, how can you navigate the shadow ban’s murky waters?

How can cannabis businesses navigate Facebook’s shadow ban?

  • Use hashtags… for now. Normally, using a hashtag on Facebook won’t make much of a difference. As of the writing of this blog post, content appeared in search results when a hashtag was placed in front of the keywords #cannabis and #marijuana.
  • Share content within your networks. The shadow ban did not delete groups, pages, events, and the like from Facebook – it just makes them extremely difficult to find. You may need to work a little harder to deliver content to your intended audience for the time being, so take advantage of the tools already at your disposal. Share your next sale or testimonial with a cannabis-centric Facebook community you already joined.
  • Explore the “related” column. As of this writing, the “related” column attached to events, groups, and pages is still producing cannabis-related results without any special tricks. Exploring this channel can help you discover other cannabis-centric communities on Facebook. While you’re at it, share those groups, events, and pages themselves with other “cannapreneurs” to help them expand their networks.
  • Do a quick audit of your business profile. Make sure your page is not blatantly breaking one of Facebook’s rules against promoting “illegal” products. While the shadow ban and your images are not directly related, it only takes a scary and uncertain change to remind the cannabis community that these platforms are not as safe as we thought.
  • Use related keywords that aren’t shadow banned. As of this writing, slang like “420” and “weed” is still searchable, and related terms such as “bong” came up as well. These searches will likely reach different audiences than “cannabis” and “marijuana,” but these two groups do have some overlapping interested users.
  • Step it up on other platforms. If Facebook is Goliath, then Instagram is David gearing up a slingshot. The visuals-driven platformadded 200 million daily active users between September 2017 and June 2018, and its cannabis community is thriving. There are millions of posts associated with the #CannabisCommunity and #Weedstagram hashtags. If your business or brand is not as active on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or other platforms, this may be a good time to experiment.

Will Facebook’s shadow ban on cannabis last forever?

As of this writing, it is not yet clear if this is a temporary experiment or a permanent change. Facebook has yet to make any official statement.

To take down thousands of pages that share valuable education, opinions, and information isn’t exactly good press, especially now that Facebook is suffering from one controversy after another. Is a shadow ban Facebook’s way to satisfy legal obligations while still allowing the platform’s users to post information? We won’t know until there’s an official answer from someone at the company, but what we do know is that there’s a hell of a lot of precedent for Facebook to do so.

In the event that the shadow ban is lifted, simply continue with your regularly-scheduled programming. In the meantime, maybe you’ll find a new way to effectively promote your business.