Advertising Tips for Cannabis Business Owners

By BCB Staff Writer

When cultivating a business, traditional marketing strategy suggests that the initial steps to success begin with creating a website, then running advertisements for products. Whether those advertisements are on media outlets, in publications, through word of mouth, or even posted on billboards, advertising for the conventional business is relatively simple. Anything goes.

Canna-business entrepreneurs view advertising as a constant struggle.

Conversely, canna-business entrepreneurs view advertising as a constant struggle. Although websites and social media somewhat allow advertising, any paid advertising walks a fine line of legality. In May 2019, Facebook’s CTO, Mike Schroepfer, put up two pictures on a screen in front of a conference for web developers. One was a photo of marijuana buds. The other was a magnified picture of tempura broccoli. These photos appeared eerily similar, but the point of this out-of-context comparison was to showcase Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence. “Shadowbanning” is a process in which social media platforms, such as Facebook, hide search results because the Facebook algorithm isn’t able to differentiate between allowed and banned content. This AI software can choose marijuana products from among similar photos, which will enable Facebook to streamline policy enforcement while cutting down on incorrect shadowbanning techniques.

This affects not only those who are trying to bring traffic to online marketplaces and websites but also news networks informing the public on marijuana-related topics. Google AdWords prohibits “Ads for substances that alter mental state for recreation or otherwise induce ‘highs’ including cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, and other illegal opioids, marijuana, cocaine substitutes, mephedrone, ‘legal highs.’” Additionally, Google AdWords blocks ads for products and services which facilitate the use, production, or purchasing of illegal substances. Facebook and Google AdWords align with U.S. Federal Law, so a restriction is unlikely to be lifted.

Facebook is looking into loosening restrictions for “medical marijuana, legal marijuana, and brick and mortar stores” in the future.

There is good news, though. Stemming from increased legalization of medical marijuana, Facebook is looking into loosening restrictions for “medical marijuana, legal marijuana, and brick and mortar stores” in the future. Nothing has been set in stone yet, and unconventional businesses are still out of luck, and risk having their social accounts taken down and/or permanently banned unless they work the system.

This “working of the system” involves careful manipulation of the guidelines, in the same way, that some canna-businesses can bank: by loosely defining the line of work. In the social media sector, this translates into subtleties and careful wording. Something as direct as avoiding keywords like “marijuana” and “cannabis” altogether works just as well as little instances where, for example, a hyphen goes between “medical” and “cannabis.” An ad with text reading “medical-cannabis” will get approved while “medical cannabis” or “medical marijuana” will get flagged for ad review.

This is where advertising becomes costly, because finding the correct mixture of text and subtle photographs that appeal to consumers, yet fly under the Facebook AI radar, is tricky. It’s not a perfect science, but choosing emblems that consumers recognize and attribute as related to the cannabis industry will create a higher click-through rate. They’ll also lower the chance of your account being banned or your ad being flagged for manual review by a social media ad review board.

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