Butting Heads: Cannabis Advertising in Facebook
Facebook with its over two billion users could be a potential goldmine for businesses in the Marijuana industry. Any good marketer will tell you the potential to advertise on Facebook at a cost-effective price spells opportunity unless of course, you have a product or service that has the name marijuana or cannabis in it. Because Marijuana is approved in specific states, some only for medical and others for both medical and recreation Facebook has strict guidelines in using their platform for a business in the cannabis industry.
Facebook has a track record of censoring many different types of content on their platform. Many pages dedicated to legitimate businesses for legal recreational or medical marijuana on Facebook have been shut down, or had content deleted, seemingly at the whim of whoever is judging content for the day.
While Facebook is clear, to an extent, about their restrictions on the ads that they allow to run, what isn’t clear is the restrictions on content added to a page. For ads, the the prohibited content rules, specifically number 5, bans any advertising for drugs and drug related products. Under that rule they explicitly state “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription or recreational drugs.”
The advertising rule has some examples that seem to target the marijuana industry in particular, as those examples explicitly single out marijuana and marijuana accessories. So if a business attempts to design or publish ads via Facebook then they will be denied on those grounds.
Facebook has also updated their community standards regarding marijuana as well. If you glance at the regulated goods section under their community standards page, Facebook makes it clear that any attempt to sell marijuana on the platform is prohibited. There is an exception that allows for discussion about the product, so long as it is compliant with the law, to promote commercial activity.
The rules are fairly clear when it comes to advertisements and selling of legal recreational or medical marijuana on Facebook, but the rules are not clear on allowed content. Content that describes sales, discounts, hours of operation or product descriptions continue to be reason enough for Facebook to terminate business accounts. Many times images, news articles, product reviews or just information about marijuana is taken down even though it does not violate any portion of the community standards or terms of service.
While there are other industries that face similar difficulties with Facebook’s policies, such as the firearm, alcohol and tobacco industries, it seems that business content containing marijuana is removed for much broader reasons. If a business has a profile, and works in legal recreational or medical marijuana, on Facebook then it needs to keep the page simple. Make sure the profile image is your logo and stay away from cannabis only images.
Post only content that is informational, without including prices, but refrain from posting tutorials, and avoid images of people using the products. Your goal of your strategy should be to educate and inform, get the conversation going from your community. The more actively engaged your audeience is the more orgnaic reac you will get from your page.
As for advertising, our experience is that for some cannabis businesses they have been able to fly under the radar really do need to keep it very strategic and simple. Will the guidelines change? Unless the federal government makes it federally legal, the changes will be very slow in allowing you to use the large audience of Facebook to people your business on the advertising side.
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