Author – Max Richardson-Davis
Edited by Noah Persin & Jon Russell
Why do cannabis companies keep getting their social media accounts closed down?
These days, using social media in marketing is one of your company’s most powerful tools. According to Market Force, 81% of U.S. online consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts and a whooping 78% are influenced by the posts of the brands they follow on social media. Not utilizing the benefits of social media is a shot in the foot to any contemporary company’s marketing efforts!
Nielsen reported in 2013 that 43% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends on social media. In similar fashion, Syncapse announced that 85% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend brands to others.
Not only does social media boost a high yield of ROI (return on investment), brand recognition and brand awareness, it also encourages customer engagement. SDL stated that 58% of international consumers active on social media share their positive experiences with a company through those mediums. In the same report, they state 55% of consumers share their purchases socially on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites.
The benefits to properly utilizing social media as a tool in marketing are nearly endless and can easily lead to an increase in company sales.
These days, everyone from Hillary Clinton to companies like Chevy have an active Twitter, Facebook and Instagram presence. It makes sense for each and every public company or figure to have a social media presence.
The cannabis industry, however, doesn’t share the same luxury. The industry has fallen under scrutiny from social media administrators given the plant’s federally illegal status. But, this issue of double-sovereignty (when states and federal rules conflict) shouldn’t stop cannabis companies from posting, especially in a highly competitive emerging industry. In a 2016 finding, Social Annex reported that an incredible 33% of Facebook users have purchased an item they saw on their news feed or a friend’s wall. It is simply too profitable for any company to avoid.
Regardless of the benefits, cannabis companies continue to have their accounts shut down daily on a multitude of different social media platforms. According to Marijuana Times, “Last fall […] Instagram removed several Oregon cannabis dispensaries […] A few of the Oregon businesses to be affected includes Daily Leaf, Lunchbox Alchemy and Green Goddess. A company called Green Front lost both business accounts as well as the owner’s personal accounts.”
They went on to say, “While this whole mess originally seemed to only be related to Instagram accounts, news that Facebook has taken down business pages for medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey surfaced recently.”
Colorado seems to be the latest target in the tirade against cannabis social media marketing. Within the past year, we’ve seen Instagram take down Incredibles and the nationally renown Denver-based Dixie Elixirs.
Even MassRoots, a social network that does not sell marijuana, had their Instagram account closed. This was a huge loss for the company as they had 369,000 followers! “Facebook doesn’t have any written rules,” said Isaac Dietrich of Mass Roots in an interview with Forbes. “So we’re flying in the dark with arbitrary rules that are enforced at the whim of people.”
The question is; why is maintaining an account for a cannabis company so difficult?
While briefly employed at Next Level Wellness (Eugene, OR), their Instagram account was deleted. As an employee of the legal cannabis retailer, we were asked to post on Instagram frequently. Throughout my employment, we experienced three instances of our Instagram account closing. Why? According to Instagram: “We remove any promotion or encouragement of drug use.”
Instagram and Facebook, however, do not remove any of the promotional efforts of alcohol companies even though 100,000 people die annually due to alcohol consumption.
Tobacco, on the other hand, cannot advertise on any social media outlets due to federal law.
In Fortune Magazine, Joe Hodas of Dixie Elixirs explains how he received the exact same message as Next Level Wellness received, but from Facebook. This was after Hodas had generated over 11,000+ fans on the company’s Facebook page.
More recently, our friends at DaKine Extracts had their Instagram account deleted too. Here’s the difference: their account was restored within 12 hours. Why? Because they were careful to include the warning, “Required Warning: Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of marijuana. Keep marijuana out of reach of children,” in every single post they created. When Instagram shut Da Kine’s account down, the company was able to make the case of restoration because they had included this warning so prominently on all of their posts. Sure enough, Instagram granted them restoration under the guidelines that they continue to do so.
Next Level Wellness and many Oregon-based cannabis companies now include the same message in their posts to avoid being closed down and it seems to be working.
It would appear the answer to maintaining a cannabis-related social media account is to be as careful as possible. Make your account only viewable to those 21 years or older and always include a warning. While there is certainly no guarantee your account will not get deleted, it would appear taking precautionary steps increases your odds of restoring your account.
Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of marijuana. Keep marijuana out of reach of children
As a marketing agent, it is important to brand your company online in other ways than directly marketing on social media. Creating a website focused on content marketing through the use of blogs will do wonders for customer involvement and brand recognition. It will also help your presence be known online even if your social media account is temporarily deleted.
Hopefully cannabis companies will be allowed the same access as any legal business in the near future. At this point, it would seem likely the social media companies will continue closing pages until the DEA adopts more sensible drug policies with concern to cannabis and hemp. In the interim, all you can do is write to the social media companies, attach a warning to your posts and make your pages as age-restrictive as you can.