Facebook marketing for cannabis companies and cannabis companies
More than 10 million companies advertised their products and services on Facebook in the third quarter of 2020. As of the end of the year, a total of $ 2.26 billion was spent on Facebook ads in 2020. Unfortunately, almost none of these ads were cannabis or cannabis-related companies.
Facebook has been an important part of most companies’ social media marketing strategies for years. For companies in the cannabis industry, however, Facebook can be a huge challenge.
Facebook could close a cannabis company’s Facebook page at any time without notice. The same goes for cannabis-related companies that sell ancillary products and services.
The question for cannabis licensees is quite simple. Is it worth posting content on Facebook when the rules are so murky and seem to vary from cannabis store to cannabis store or post to post?
The answer for most companies in the marijuana industry is yes, but with great caution.
The evolution of Facebook marketing and advertising for the cannabis industry
A few years ago, Facebook didn’t want any kind of cannabis content or company on its platform. At this point, the cannabis business pages were closed without notice. Some of these incidents involved multiple sites that were shut down in large numbers – like the Alaska pharmacy cleanup in 2017 or the 2016 pharmacy crackdown in Colorado, New Jersey, Arizona, Maine, Oregon, and Washington.
Eventually, Facebook relaxed its restrictions (a bit) and many cannabis and cannabis companies were able to develop their Facebook Pages without closing. Nobody could find these pages unless they knew about them because Facebook had omitted them from search results.
It wasn’t until October 2018 that Facebook revised its rules and allowed cannabis business pages to appear in users’ search results. However, there are still many rules cannabis and companies related to cannabis must follow, and most of these rules are vague and in line with Facebook’s interpretation.
The constantly changing Facebook rules
Promoting cannabis products and services on Facebook is very difficult. Cannabis companies’ Facebook ad accounts are quickly closed without notice using a completely useless complaint process (unless the media gets involved and Facebook gets bad press – then you may have the option to recover your account).
While Facebook’s guidelines don’t allow posts or ads promoting the sale of cannabis, the way the company implements these guidelines is confusing. The company states that it allows content and ads that promote advocacy and that do not promote the sale or distribution of cannabis. However, ad accounts that comply with these guidelines will be continuously closed.
From an education company promoting its seminars to people wanting to start licensed businesses or secure employment in the legal cannabis industry to nonprofits promoting community events, Facebook has disabled ad accounts with the same message:
“There is no further action you can take here. We do not support ads for your business model. Consider this decision final. “
Despite the dire rules and inconsistent application of those rules, 2019, Telegraph reported in March 2019 that Facebook was considering changing its rules to allow companies to promote cannabis products. A Facebook employee said during an internal presentation that the company was considering “whether we can relax this restriction, particularly on medical marijuana, legal marijuana, and brick and mortar stores.”
Two years have passed and the rules have not yet relaxed. If they loosen up in the future, they won’t apply to paid ads or the Facebook online marketplace. While cannabis would still be banned in these cases, it could be allowed in normal Facebook posts.
According to the Telegraph, Facebook set up an internal working group in 2019 to evaluate how its rules could change to allow for posts and discussions on buying and selling cannabis in areas where it is legal.
Given that cannabis is legal for recreational use in 16 states and Washington, DC, as well as 36 states and Washington, DC, Facebook is hoping to legalize marijuana for medical and adult use in the near future in its efforts To evaluate and change rules in constitutional states fall behind.
Should Facebook ever open up its platform and advertising to cannabis and cannabis-related companies, it would immediately become a more useful marketing channel for the industry and the consumers it serves.
These days, cannabis companies have to be extremely careful with the content they post on their Facebook pages. For example, they cannot provide their addresses, phone numbers, or prices, and cannot sell their products or services through their sites.
What Cannabis Licensees Can Do With Facebook Marketing Today
With caution, cannabis license holders can post content on their Facebook pages. On the other hand, advertising is much more sophisticated. So be very careful that your ad image and text, as well as the landing page where the ad leads people, is about advocacy.
Remember, even nonprofits and education companies have closed their Facebook ad accounts. Therefore, proceed extremely carefully.
When posting content on your Facebook Page, follow the pros and cons listed below based on what we currently know about Facebook rules for companies in or with the marijuana industry:
Facebook Marketing Bans For Cannabis Companies And Cannabis Companies
- Do not say that a product is for sale, trade, or delivery.
- Don’t ask people to buy a product.
- Do not list prices.
- Don’t encourage people to inquire about a product or contact your company.
- Do not display pictures depicting the sale of cannabis products.
- Do not post anything that contains instructions on how to grow, sell, or use cannabis.
- Don’t provide contact information so people can buy cannabis products.
- Don’t make medical claims.
Facebook Marketing Do’s for Cannabis Companies and Cannabis Companies
- Publish educational, informative content.
- Publish advocacy content like data, statistics, quotes, law updates, health reports, research results, etc.
- Post pictures of products – just don’t post anything that implies the products are for sale, trade, or delivery.
- Keep an eye on Facebook policy updates so you are always up to date with the latest rules.
- Closely monitor activity on your part, especially if you are outsourcing the creation, sharing, and communication of content on your company site to a marketing agency, freelancer, or other third party. It is equally important to monitor the activities of your employees on your page to make sure that they are following the rules of Facebook.
Your next steps
If Facebook changed its rules and allowed cannabis companies to use the platform like companies in other industries, it would be far more valuable to the cannabis industry as a whole. Until then, the above rules will continue to apply. So your first steps should be to post non-self-promotional educational posts on your company’s Facebook page.
Posting content to a Facebook Page is a great way to build a community for your cannabis business that can grow over time. If Facebook (hopefully) allows licensed cannabis companies to advertise, you already have a presence on the platform and an active page where people can learn more about your business.
For now (and in the future), an active Facebook Page offers social proof and a level of brand trust that drives prospects into buying customers.
Regarding the content you post on your page and whether or not you try out Facebook advertising, it is only you who can decide what risk to accept. Get to know the guidelines and understand that Facebook tends to leave them open to interpretation – Facebook’s interpretation. Act cautiously.
If you do decide to give Facebook ads a try, make sure your ad copy, image, and landing page (which people land on when they click your ad) don’t mention or show cannabis. Keep in mind that Facebook’s rules for the cannabis industry are not entirely clear. However, if you make sure that your ad images, copies, and landing pages are cannabis-free, you may have a slim chance of your ads getting approved.
Again, it is up to you to continually weigh the risks (including the closure of your Facebook ad account or Facebook Page) against the rewards and act accordingly based on your risk tolerance.
Do you want to connect with cannabis licensees in the US, Canada, and international markets without relying on Facebook marketing and ads? Schedule a demo and see how the Cannabiz Media License Database can help your business grow.
Originally published on 4/16/19. Updated on 03/26/21.