Cannabis companies have never had a stable relationship with social media. The strained status has made cannabis a little more scrap when it comes to social marketing, code language, and geolocation.
All too often, however, brands still face phantom bans, account suspensions and deletions. Social media platforms and pot-based advertising options have been brought online, but have yet to gain popularity as powerful platforms to date.
A recent wave of suspensions, deletions and warnings have occurred on Instagram, with brands, marketers and journalists reporting similar issues. Depending on the source, the reason for the actions varies.
With the issue ongoing, cannabis social media experts have offered advice on how to avoid the issue and recover an account.
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At the end of June, Cannaclusive saw its account suspended by Instagram, a common stock company of Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB).
National Projects and Social Media Director Kassia Graham said it was the first time the company had had an issue since launching in 2017.
Graham believes the ban may have been the result of a popular message. She said the content, a 4/20-themed guide to finding brands through the company’s Inclusivebase tool, did not include selling links. She added that the ban may also have been due to the company tagging accounts that had previously had run-ins with Instagram.
“I just don’t get it,” Graham said of the rationale.
After several days of appeals and campaigning, Cannaclusive saw his account restored. Since then, the company has published a guide for other brands that are in the same location. The tips include:
- Back up subscribers using a third-party tool
- Download and save data
- Have a record of all company documents including business license, invoices, utility bills and other documents
- Submit a daily report on the offending account
- Launch a “Bring us back” campaign similar to #FreeThePlant
Since the ban, Cannaclusive has continued to use Instagram. They’re also exploring other ways to leverage their reach through existing newsletter and website efforts. Others have taken similar steps to restore their accounts.
Alice Moon is a cannabis marketer. In 2016, Instagram closed its account of more than 14,000 followers. She suspended her checking account again this summer. This time, a colleague advised him to wait 48 hours and then to appeal. Instagram restored her account two hours after submitting the request.
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No clear solution exists beyond staying as compliant as possible.
Moon believes his latest hookup was caused by verbiage, particularly “cannabis social media” in his headline. She has since withdrawn the title and has refrained from posting any cannabis content.
She and others agreed that cannabis companies remain compliant on social media by branding themselves as a lifestyle brand. Burns said that accounts looking to use social media as a conversion tool should instead consider bonding emotionally with their followers.
Brett Fink, Managing Partner at GRTR has worked with various cannabis brands in the space. Prior to entering the market, he worked on special projects for Snap Inc (NYSE: SNAP).
He advised brands to look at social media differently. “If you look at other brands that haven’t been removed, this is basically just a landing page for them,” he noted.
He also touched on the importance of stories and reels. “The ephemeral is the key to this because stories are the things that don’t get reported as much because they’re basically a private page.”
Moon suggests that cannabis companies keep links off of their bios, remove all location information, and never use prominent cannabis hashtags.
“This is what their algorithm detects,” she warned.
Rather than sales and marketing material, Grasslands CMO Burns suggested focusing on behind-the-scenes looks and company values. He recommends focusing on Linktree, blogging, web content, and experiential activations as more tangible ways to attract and convert businesses.
“Social media is a very valuable tool, but it’s not the end, everything,” he said, adding that he found a cure through the verification of the Facebook business. Once verified, his business linked his Instagram account to the account. The company also created a Facebook advertiser account but never launched an ad, a practice that often results in the closure of cannabis bans.