As a cannabis marketing agency, the number one question we get when talking to potential new clients is “how do I get my Facebook account out of jail?” Facebook and Instagram are the two most used platforms for dispensaries and processors. They are the most used because people starting a small to medium cannabis business are most familiar with those social sites and feel comfortable doing it themselves. Facebook also owns Instagram so many businesses are finding their entire social presence placed in prison with no hope for parole!
For most industries, Facebook and Insta should be a critical component of the businesses’ social media marketing plan, but for the cannabis industry, Facebook represents a big risk. At any moment, Facebook could shut down a cannabis business’ Facebook or Insta Page. For many, these two platforms are the only online presence they have. Is it worth the time and effort to publish content on Facebook when the rules are so murky and seem to vary from one cannabis business to another or one post to another? The answer is yes, but with a great deal of caution.
cannabis Marketing on Facebook is Changing Rapidly
Several years ago, Facebook did not allow any type of cannabis content or businesses on its platform. At the time, cannabis business pages were shut down without notice both individually and in large numbers – like the Alaskan dispensary purge of 2017 or the Colorado, New Jersey, Arizona, Maine, Oregon, and Washington dispensary crackdown of 2016.
Eventually, Facebook loosened its restrictions (a bit) and many cannabis and cannabis-related businesses were able to develop their Facebook Pages without getting shut down. However, no one could find those pages unless they knew about them. That’s because Facebook omitted them from search results. Facebook changed its rules in October 2018 and allowed cannabis business pages to appear in users’ search results. However, there are a lot of rules that cannabis-related businesses need to follow, and most of the rules are vague and very subjective. One dispensary may get shut down for posting a Munchie Monday special and other pages seem to post specials with prices daily and don’t get shut down. The life or death of a page is ultimately up to Facebook’s interpretation unless the media or lawyers get involved AND EVEN THEN, you may not get your page back.
If the rules do change, Facebook would instantly become a more useful marketing channel for cannabis and cannabis-related businesses. Today, cannabis businesses must be extremely careful about the content they publish on their Facebook Pages. They can’t include their addresses, phone numbers, or prices, and they can’t sell their products or services through their pages. If Facebook changed its rules and allowed cannabis businesses to use the platform as businesses in other industries do, it would be far more valuable to the cannabis industry overall.
What Can You Do with Facebook Marketing
With caution, cannabis license holders can publish content on their Facebook pages. Advertising is much more challenging, so be very careful that your ad image and text, as well as the landing page where the ad leads people, are about education and advocacy. IF YOUR POST or AD CLICKS THROUGH TO YOUR WEBSITE THAT HAS PRICES BEWARE!!!! Remember, even non-profits and educational companies have had their Facebook accounts shut down, so tread extremely carefully.
When posting content on your Facebook Page, follow these tips:
- Don’t say that a product is for sale, trade, or delivery.
- Don’t ask people to buy a product.
- Don’t list prices.
- Don’t encourage people to inquire or contact your business about a product.
- Don’t show images that depict the sale of cannabis products.
- Don’t post anything that gives instructions on how to grow, sell, or use cannabis.
- Don’t provide any contact information for people to buy cannabis products.
- Don’t make any medical claims.
- Do post educational, informative content.
- Do post advocacy content including data, statistics, quotes, legislative updates, health reports, research results, and so on.
- Do post images of products – just don’t post anything that implies the products are for sale, trade, or delivery.
Invest More Time on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Website Advertising
Publishing content to a Facebook Page is a great way to build a community for your cannabis business that can grow over time, but don’t let Facebook and Instagram be the only online marketing you are doing. Invest more time and advertising dollars on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn that do not have many restrictions. But even more importantly be sure to make the most out of your cannabis website.
Your website should be the most valuable aspect of your marketing. It is your virtual storefront where you should be tracking your ROI on every marketing tactic you are doing from social to radio marketing. Spend the time and money to have a real custom website built that you OWN (not a go-daddy, wix, google site) and keep it up to date with fresh content so people can find you on search engines. BTW, not everyone uses or likes to use Leafly and Weedmaps…search engines finding your website is a must. Spend money driving traffic to your website through online video, display, and geo-fencing advertisements. These are all much more valuable to you than just relying on Facebook to spread the word!
Stay Tuned for more info on Website Marketing tactics.