Challenges of Marketing Cannabis Online and How to Overcome Them
Let’s face it. Marketing cannabis online is not a walk in the park. As a cannabis entrepreneur, there are many marketing challenges that you have to overcome to raise awareness and boost sales for your cannabis brand.
The cannabis industry is highly regulated, and thus you need to have a clear understanding of both local and state laws to stay afloat.
Here we look at the challenges of marketing cannabis online and ways to overcome them.
Let’s get started!
The Cannabis Market is Continually Growing
2020 was an excellent year for legal cannabis in the United States. Many states, including Arizona and Mississippi, legalized recreational cannabis while others like Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
As cannabis laws (both state and federal) continue to change, the cannabis industry continues to grow. Statistics show that the cannabis industry in the U.S. will have a market value of $30 billion annually by 2025.
However, despite the change in marijuana laws in some states, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major ad sellers limit the hosting of cannabis paid ads on their platforms.
Challenges of Marketing Cannabis Online
Although the cannabis industry provides an excellent opportunity to boost state and national economies, it still faces many legal and political challenges, especially for the online marketing of CBD products.
Many strict standards and regulatory issues restrict how you can market your cannabis brand. For starters, it is illegal to advertise cannabis near schools. That means you cannot advertise your cannabis products on traditional advertising platforms like radio, vehicle, or television.
To that end, here are the main challenges of marketing cannabis on digital platforms:
The Cannabis Landscape is Always Changing
Although marijuana has been with us for a long time, the cannabis industry is still young. The cannabis landscape is continuously changing, and cannabis brands need to adhere to these changes when marketing their CBD products.
For instance, in the U.S., cannabis laws on growth, legality, distribution, and use vary from state to state.
Marketing cannabis products or CBD-related businesses is challenging for cannabis brands as regulatory changes are continually evolving.
As more states legalize cannabis for recreational and medical use, society slowly accepts cannabis use as a “normal” substance. However, since cannabis has been illegal for many years, no legislation can erase the stigma associated with the drug in an instance.
Cannabis brands need to overcome this stigma when marketing cannabis products online, which will take time.
Most Online Marketing Platforms Restrict Cannabis Ads
Unlike other industries, you will face many restrictions when marketing cannabis online. Failure to comply with your preferred digital marketing platform’s set policies can make you lose your account.
Let’s look at the cannabis marketing policy by major marketing platforms to help you have a clear understanding of what to expect from each platform and avoid losing your account.
Facebook ad policy prohibits the sale or use of illegal and recreational drugs. However, you can still run cannabis ads on Facebook and have them approved. That’s why you continue to see cannabis ads all over Facebook and Google.
The secret lies in creating cannabis ads that won’t get flagged. In our social media experience, these cannabis ads will get approved on Facebook:
- Ads with no reference to any schedule 1 drugs: This means no mentioning of medical cannabis in your ad copy or cannabis bud images.
- Informational or educational content: Instead of promoting your products, consider educating your audience about CBD products and services.
- Content without a CTA to purchase
As you can see, the media and the language you use in cannabis ads will determine whether Facebook’s Ad Manager will approve it or not.
Google has a restrictive policy against:
- Advertising or promoting recreational drug use
- Advertising products or services that could promote drug use
- Content that instructs how to acquire, produce, or use recreational drugs
The bad thing is that these restrictions also apply to areas that allow recreational cannabis use. However, all is not lost as you can edit any parts of your content that got your ad flagged by Google. Ideally, you can avoid Google restrictions by not mentioning any recreational use of the cannabis plant.
Since Google rely on automatic tools to track, approve, or flag ads, here are some tricks that you can use when submitting your ads for approval to avoid been flagged:
- Use the right keywords: Some phrases like “canna” can quickly get your ad flagged by Google. On the other hand, ads with some phrasing like “hemp” or “cannabis” have been shown to pass the Google censors.
- More Testing: Google offers various ways to advertise on its platform, including displayed ads, Google Shopping Ads, basic text ads, and Google Sponsored Promotions. Conduct more testing to increase the chances of your ads getting approved.
- Avoid using any trigger words on all your bases: Google bots look beyond your advertising content when checking your cannabis ads. Make sure that neither your website, business name, nor even metadata description contain any trigger words.
YouTube restricts content aimed at selling regulated or illegal products or services (whether in direct sales or to sites selling these products) under its policies on harmful or dangerous content.
The regulated or illegal items include prescription pharmaceuticals, drugs, alcohol, online gambling casinos, nicotine products, etc.
Although YouTube has seemed a friendly platform for cannabis entrepreneurs for a long time, things have changed as YouTube started flagging cannabis-related channels without warning or explanation.
For instance, Leafly and Lift & Co (which are household names in the cannabis industry) were temporarily suspended in 2018.
In all these cases, YouTube stated that the affected channels violated its guidelines. Ironically, those channels had no issues on the platform for many years and thrived under their watch.
Although YouTube later reinstated most of these channels, some now warn users that their content may not be appropriate for all audiences before watching the content. This way, users can decide to watch the video or pass it.
Instagram shares the same policy as Facebook when it comes to ad content for drug or drug-related products. That means Instagram’s ad policy prohibits the use or sale of prescription, illegal, or recreational drugs.
Failure to observe these regulations will mean that Instagram might take your page down.
However, just like Google AdWords and Facebook, you can still share cannabis content without suspension (of course, depending on the type of content you post)
Instagram has no major issues with informative and educational content and will always approve of it. However, it is advisable to avoid adding a call to action to your cannabis ad content on Instagram.
Another great tip is to use influencers as part of your marketing strategy when running cannabis ads on Instagram.
The Twitter policy restricts the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Some of the substances included in the Twitter policy include:
- Recreational and herbal drugs
- Drug dispensaries
- Illegal drugs
- Drug-related accessories
- Anything promoting hard drug use
However, Twitter allows CBD topical advertisers targeting the United States, provided they have these qualifications:
- Promoting only non-ingestible legal CBD topical products
- Carry appropriate licensing and pre-authorized by Twitter
- Targets only areas they are licensed to market these cannabis products online
- Follows all laws and regulations
- It does not target users under 21 years of age
If you follow all the above requirements, you will encounter fewer challenges when running cannabis ads on Twitter.
Overcoming the Challenges of Marketing Cannabis online – Expert Tips
Having seen the regulations relating to cannabis ads on the major online marketing platforms, you may be wondering about the best approach to follow when marketing cannabis online. The truth is, you can still use social platforms and Google for marketing your cannabis brand.
Below are expert tips to help overcome online cannabis marketing challenges:
Follow the Rules
If you plan to use Instagram or Facebook to market your cannabis, it is imperative you play by the rules:
- Never post a product for sale
- Add a disclaimer on the age limit allowed to follow your account
- Don’t make medical claims
- Avoid CTA for product sale
- Reviews product or strain when advocating for legalization and use
- Avoid adding a phone number or physical address on your cannabis advertisement content (instead, direct your users to your website for more information)
Since the terms of service of popular social platforms keep changing, we recommend staying up to date with the current restrictions.
Educate, Don’t Sell
While you may be tempted to be salesy when creating your cannabis ads, that’s not the right approach.
Instead, we recommend educating people about cannabis products by sharing high-quality cannabis-related content. Since cannabis has been illegal for many years, there is a lot of misinformation and stigma associated with the plant.
You can bridge this gap by sharing factual information about the cannabis plant with your target audience. By sharing high-quality content, people will see you as a credible force in the cannabis industry and come to you when they need cannabis-related services or products.
Some of the places you can share cannabis-related high-quality content include:
- Social media platforms
- Company blog
- Your own website
Be Honest About Your Products
Lying or exaggerating about your products or services will act against your marketing goals.
When marketing cannabis online, provide valuable and honest information about your products. Aim not just to highlight the benefits of your products or services but prove as well.
This way, you will gain trust with your audience, and ad content managers will approve your content. In return, you will increase your relevant traffic and boost conversions.
Maximize Your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an excellent way to grow awareness for your cannabis brand. A good cannabis SEO strategy is a must if you are serious about boosting the search ranking for your cannabis brand.
If you are tired of the continued social media restrictions on cannabis ads, it’s high time you think about cannabis SEO strategy. Our SEO experts can help create an effective marketing strategy for your cannabis brand to increase your online visibility. Here are some top SEO tactics to help improve the ranking for your cannabis brand:
- Define your ideal customers
- Research quality keywords
- AMP and mobile-responsiveness
- Improve user engagement
- Optimize metadata
- Image optimization
- Improve page load times
Invest in Local SEO
You may want to focus on local SEO, especially if you target local customers. Most people are searching for the best cannabis products in your area right now, and it’s only businesses with a strong local presence that can appear in their searches.
AlchemyLeads Can Help Get Your Cannabis Marketing Message out There
As you have seen, overcoming cannabis marketing challenges requires in-depth research and due diligence. That’s why you need to partner with a cannabis digital marketing company like AlchemyLeads to help market your cannabis brand the right way.
SEO experts at AlchemyLeads understand laws and regulations about cannabis advertising on various digital platforms. They will use their expertise to ensure that you legally market your CBD products or services.
We have learned about the advertisement policies for all major marketing platforms, and our SEO and advertising experts are always up to date with the ever-changing cannabis laws.
From social media marketing to SEO services to local marketing to content marketing services, we’ve got an elaborate plan to effectively market your cannabis brand without putting your account at risk.
If you are serious about growing and marketing your cannabis business online, please fill the form below to contact us.