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The State of Cannabis Social Media Marketing In 2023

In the bustling digital landscape of 2023, the cannabis industry is continuously adapting, trying to find its place amidst the ever-changing dynamics of social media marketing. This world, shaped by triumphs and challenges, involves brands navigating a maze of federal regulations, shifting public opinions, and platform policies that seem to evolve overnight.

The allure of platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit is undeniable. They offer outreach and engagement that previous generations could only dream of. However, the cannabis sector's delicate dance with these platforms brings unique challenges. Today's viral success can quickly turn into tomorrow's account suspension if brands aren't keenly aware of each platform's rules and guidelines. The importance of staying updated with these platform policies cannot be overstated. Misunderstandings or oversights can lead to wasted resources and potential damage to a brand's reputation.

In such an intricate and volatile environment, it's essential to have guidance. Specializing in social media for the cannabis industry, The Hood Collective offers insights and expertise, ensuring brands navigate this digital realm with precision and finesse. As we delve deeper into the state of cannabis social media marketing in 2023, we'll explore the highs, the lows, and the potential horizons that await.

Instagram: Navigating Shadowbans in the Cannabis Landscape

Shadowbanning is a term familiar to many Instagram users, yet its implications and intricacies remain clouded in mystery for some. At its core, shadowbanning is a tactic employed by Instagram where the platform doesn't outright ban a user or a piece of content. Instead, it subtly restricts the visibility of the content or account, making it harder to discover by other users. Your posts might not appear in your followers' feeds or in search results, despite still being visible on your own profile.

The Ripple Effect of Shadowbanning on Cannabis Businesses

For the budding cannabis industry, shadowbanning isn't just a trivial annoyance. It's a significant obstacle. With Instagram being a premier platform for marketing, especially for visually appealing products like cannabis, being shadowbanned can seriously inhibit growth, engagement, and brand visibility. This is particularly challenging given the complex legal landscape of cannabis. Despite its legality in various states, its federal prohibition means many cannabis-related accounts are more susceptible to these stealthy bans.

Cannabis influencers and businesses rely heavily on Instagram to connect with their communities, showcase products, and educate their audience. Being shadowbanned means potentially losing out on reaching vast segments of this audience, hampering growth, engagement, and sales.

Strategizing in Light of the New Policy

Thanks to Instagram's recent update, the era of operating in the dark about shadowbans is coming to an end. Here's how you can harness this change to your advantage:

  1. Be Proactive: Regularly check your account status as outlined in the recent update. Familiarize yourself with where the status information is located, and make it a routine to ensure you're in the clear.

  2. Understand Violations: With the ability to now see which posts have violated Instagram’s guidelines, businesses can gain clarity on what content is deemed unacceptable. Analyze these flagged posts to discern patterns or specific elements leading to violations.

  3. Content Strategy Pivot: Armed with insights from any violations, recalibrate your content strategy. Determine if it's worth risking shadowbanning for certain posts or if it's better to toe the line while still conveying your brand's message.

  4. Educate and Engage: The Hood Collective emphasizes the importance of understanding and leveraging this new feature. Engage with resources, such as tutorials from experts in the field, to ensure you're maximizing your Instagram presence without falling afoul of its policies.

The Silver Lining

While the threat of shadowbanning has been a looming cloud over cannabis businesses on Instagram, this new transparency offers a distinct advantage. With clarity on what triggers these bans and tools to navigate them, businesses now have an opportunity to strategize more effectively. They can make informed decisions about content risks, balance them with potential rewards, and optimize their presence on this critical platform. In essence, knowledge is power, and Instagram's updated policy has handed the cannabis industry the reins to harness this power like never before.

LinkedIn: A Green Oasis in the Cannabis Marketing Desert

In the intricate maze of social media marketing for cannabis, LinkedIn stands out as a beacon. Unlike the stringent policies of platforms like Facebook and TikTok, which often result in the removal of cannabis-related posts, LinkedIn adopts a more liberal approach. Their rationale is straightforward: if it's a legitimate business operating legally, then it deserves its rightful place on the platform. This has been a breath of fresh air for cannabis dispensaries seeking visibility in the digital realm.

Why LinkedIn is Ideal for Cannabis Dispensaries

  • A Safe Haven for Cannabis Content: Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn refrains from eradicating cannabis content or imposing bans on cannabis businesses. This presents a conducive environment for cannabis brands to flourish.

  • Tailored Audience: LinkedIn's user base consists primarily of business professionals and industry forerunners. This means your content is being presented to individuals with a potentially higher spending capability and those who may be interested in forming partnerships within the cannabis sector.

  • An Underexplored Frontier: Surprisingly, numerous cannabis dispensaries have yet to explore the vast potential of LinkedIn for marketing. This gives emerging cannabis brands a competitive edge, as their content has a higher likelihood of standing out.

  • Impressive Audience Engagement: On average, a post on LinkedIn can amass up to 1,000 views, a number that easily surpasses the typical reach on Instagram. Moreover, the interactive nature of LinkedIn ensures that if a follower engages with your content, it becomes visible to their network as well.

  • Advertising Opportunities: LinkedIn's advertising policies are more lenient compared to other platforms. For cannabis dispensaries, this translates to a higher probability of having their ads approved and running successfully.

Crafting a Strong LinkedIn Presence for Cannabis Dispensaries

Setting Up Shop: Establishing your cannabis dispensary on LinkedIn is straightforward. Start by registering your business, and under the business type, choose "retail" since a dedicated cannabis category is absent. Flesh out your profile by adding pertinent details such as your website URL and company description.

Strategies for Growth:

  1. Organic Marketing: Given that LinkedIn is cannabis-friendly, brands can confidently post content without fearing abrupt removals. Maintaining a consistent posting calendar, engaging with industry leaders, and spotlighting your team are some of the tactics to organically grow your audience. Remember, selling cannabis products directly on LinkedIn isn't permissible, so focus on creating enriching and informative content.

  2. Paid Advertising: Paid ads on LinkedIn can indeed be a bit intricate and pricey. Adherence to specific guidelines is essential to ensure your ads get approved. Some best practices include:

    • Refrain from showcasing cannabis or its products in your ads.

    • Opt for images indirectly related to cannabis, like a customer receiving a dispensary bag.

    • Exercise caution with terminology; for instance, sidestep words like marijuana or pot.

    • Target a mature audience, preferably those aged 25 and above.

    • Persistence pays. If your ad gets rejected initially, consider tweaking it and trying again, given that real humans review LinkedIn ads and perceptions may vary.

LinkedIn has emerged as a frontrunner for cannabis marketing, providing a platform that not only tolerates but also recognizes the legitimacy of the cannabis business. As the digital landscape evolves, leveraging LinkedIn's unique offerings can propel cannabis businesses to greater heights, fostering organic growth and facilitating impactful advertising strategies.

The Fall of Twitter

Twitter, once a dominant force in the social media landscape, now seems to be in an irreversible tailspin. Just a few months ago, the platform announced that advertising cannabis was permissible, sparking a surge of initial excitement. But this decision, while controversial, failed to turn around Twitter's declining relevance. The platform's recent troubles stem from various factors that have eroded users' trust and the brand's image.

Cannabis Advertising's Brief Resurgence

When Elon Musk took over the platform, one of the first moves was the legalization of cannabis advertising. The tech and cannabis communities were buzzing with anticipation. It felt like a bold pivot towards a more progressive and inclusive advertising policy. But what should have been a lifeline for Twitter turned out to be just a momentary blip in its continued descent.

Unraveling the Causes

  1. Elon Musk's Takeover: Ever since Musk took the reins of Twitter, many saw it as the beginning of the end. Musk's unconventional style and unpredictable management decisions created unrest among both users and internal teams. The essence of Twitter, a democratic platform for all voices, began to shift under his guidance.

  2. Rescinding Safety Protocols: One of the more lamentable decisions under Musk's leadership was the rollback of safety protocols. The once vibrant platform turned into a haven for misinformation, hate speech, and rampant harassment. This drove away many of its core users, especially influential figures and journalists, further accelerating its decline.

  3. Flight of Major Advertisers: With the platform's growing reputation for toxicity, major brands and advertisers began distancing themselves. The risks associated with advertising on a platform fraught with controversy became too great. The introduction of cannabis ads, while initially seen as a forward-thinking move, couldn't compensate for the exodus of other advertisers.

Risks in 2023

Today, Twitter stands as a stark reminder of the dangers of unchecked power in tech. The platform that was once the epicenter of global political activism, a place that fueled revolutions and brought communities together, is now riddled with issues:

  • Echo Chambers: The platform has become heavily polarized, with users predominantly hearing opinions similar to their own. This stifles discourse and creates a tunnel-vision effect, further dividing communities.

  • Dominance of Few Voices: As some journalists have noted, voices like Elon Musk's have become overwhelmingly dominant. The diversity of thought, once Twitter's hallmark, is now overshadowed by a few influential figures.

  • Misinformation: The rollback of safety measures has made Twitter a fertile ground for the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories. With no stringent checks in place, deciphering truth from fiction has become increasingly challenging.

Twitter's fall from grace offers essential lessons for emerging markets and industries like the cannabis sector. For cannabis brands looking to make their mark, it's imperative to select platforms and partnerships that align with both their brand image and core values. As Twitter demonstrates, rapid changes and a lack of oversight can lead to a platform's decline, potentially impacting associated brands. Cannabis brands should prioritize safety, credibility, and a consistent message across platforms that have proven their stability and trustworthiness. The story of Twitter serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the importance of adaptability, but also the inherent risks of associating with volatile platforms.

Facebook's Diminishing Role

In the evolving landscape of digital cannabis marketing, Facebook's significance has been noticeably waning. As the social media sphere diversifies and brands have more platforms to choose from, Facebook, once a dominant player, has found itself struggling to retain its central role. This is particularly evident in the cannabis industry, where changing regulations, marketing needs, and user preferences are in constant flux.

Reasons for the reduced effectiveness

There are multiple reasons for Facebook's decreased prominence in the cannabis marketing arena:

  1. Strict Ad Policies: Even with the recent announcements by Meta, Facebook's parent company, the rules surrounding cannabis advertising remain stringent. While non-ingestible CBD products with THC content up to 0.3 percent can now be advertised under certain conditions, the restrictions are still far tighter than on other platforms.

  2. Changing Demographics: The demographic profile of Facebook users has evolved. Younger audiences, who form a considerable portion of the cannabis market, have been migrating to platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and others. Facebook, meanwhile, has become more popular with older generations, which may not be the primary target demographic for many cannabis brands.

  3. Shadow Banning & Profile Issues: State-legal cannabis businesses and associated entities have reported "shadow banning," a scenario where their profiles become unsearchable. Moreover, Instagram, another Meta-owned platform, has been known to delete accounts over marijuana-related content. These practices have driven many businesses to consider alternative platforms for their marketing needs.

How Meta's recent announcement changes things for CBD brands moving forward.

Meta's recent announcement certainly represents a small step forward for CBD brands. The revised policy, which permits the promotion of non-ingestible CBD products under certain conditions, offers brands a sliver of hope. With this change, CBD brands that gain the required certifications and approvals can now access Facebook's vast user base.

However, the continued prohibition on THC product ads and the need for businesses to go through third-party payment compliance companies like Legitscript indicates a still-cautious approach. These constraints may discourage some businesses from fully investing in Facebook as a marketing platform.

In addition, while Meta's changes bring it somewhat in line with competitors, its cautionary approach to cannabis compared to its approach to alcohol and tobacco has been a point of contention. The recent launch of the Threads app, which flagged searches related to marijuana while exempting alcohol and tobacco, is a stark reminder of the company's inconsistent stance.

In light of the continuous changes and challenges, CBD brands must be vigilant and adaptive. While Meta's new policies offer additional avenues for promotion, the platform's diminishing role, especially among younger users, may require brands to diversify their marketing strategies further. The recent policy changes are a positive sign, but Facebook's role in cannabis marketing, for now, remains diminished compared to its earlier prominence.

TikTok's Cannabis Ban and its Challenges

TikTok, the rapidly growing short-form video platform that has captivated audiences globally, has stringent policies against cannabis content. The platform's Community Guidelines specifically prohibit the promotion of drugs, including marijuana. This prohibition encompasses both the sale and use of cannabis, irrespective of the drug's legal status in the user's jurisdiction.

This strict stance is somewhat surprising given the platform's reputation for housing a plethora of content from dance challenges to DIY tutorials. Still, when it comes to cannabis, TikTok remains steadfast in its determination to curb its promotion, making it a challenging space for businesses and influencers in the cannabis sector.

Real-world examples or anecdotes of businesses/influencers affected.

Several businesses and influencers have felt the sting of TikTok's anti-cannabis policies:

  1. State's Appeal: In a notable instance, New York marijuana regulators appealed to TikTok to lift its ban on advertising related to the word “cannabis.” The state aimed to use the platform for public education campaigns following its move to legalize the drug, highlighting the challenges even governmental entities face on the platform.

  2. Influencer Woes: Several cannabis influencers have faced bans or video removals. One such influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers had multiple videos deleted for showcasing harmless cannabis-related content, like unboxing a new bong or discussing the benefits of CBD. Their account was later reinstated after an appeal, but the experience underscores the risks associated with discussing cannabis on TikTok.

  3. Business Challenges: Numerous legal cannabis dispensaries have reported issues on TikTok, with some even facing account bans for merely showcasing their products or discussing their business operations.This has been a setback for businesses that aim to reach the platform's vast young audience.

Suggestions on how cannabis businesses can adapt and/or find alternative platforms.

While TikTok's vast reach and youthful demographic are undeniably appealing, cannabis businesses must be wary of the platform's policies. Here are some ways they can adapt:

  1. Content Alteration: Instead of direct promotion, businesses can focus on educational content around cannabis, its uses, and benefits, without explicitly showcasing the drug. This could involve discussing the history of cannabis, medical research, or general industry trends.

  2. Diversify Platforms: Instead of putting all their eggs in the TikTok basket, cannabis businesses can spread their content across multiple platforms. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, although they have their own restrictions, might offer a more lenient environment compared to TikTok.

  3. Engage with Communities: Rather than relying solely on mainstream platforms, businesses can engage with niche communities like Reddit's r/trees or cannabis-focused forums and websites.

  4. Collaborate with Non-Cannabis Brands: Partnering with non-cannabis influencers or brands for joint campaigns can allow businesses to tap into TikTok's user base without directly violating its policies.

  5. Appeal and Stay Updated: If content is removed or accounts are banned, businesses should appeal the decision while ensuring they stayupdated on any changes to TikTok's policies. The platform's rapid growth could lead to shifts in its stance on cannabis in the future.

TikTok's strict policies on cannabis content present a significant challenge for businesses and influencers in the sector. While the platform offers unparalleled access to younger demographics, the risks associated with violating its rules are real and often swift. Cannabis businesses must tread cautiously, continually innovate, and consider diversifying their online presence to ensure they remain visible and relevant in the digital space.

The Rise of Threads and its Potential for Cannabis Marketing

Threads, a newly launched social media platform by Meta, is positioned as a strong competitor to Twitter. Tied to the already popular Instagram app, Threads has been attracting tens of millions of users at a meteoric pace. Part of its appeal lies in its fresh approach, integration with the expansive Meta ecosystem, and its promise to address the issues users have experienced with Twitter, such as glitches and changing policies.

However, the way Threads handles certain content searches, particularly those related to drugs like marijuana and psychedelics, has sparked controversy and discussion.

Threads has adopted a unique approach to how it manages searches related to certain substances. When users search for terms like “marijuana” or specific psychedelics such as “psilocybin” or “ibogaine,” they are presented with a cautionary message suggesting that their search may be associated with the sale of illicit drugs. The platform then provides users with the option to access resources for drug treatment from a federal agency or to proceed to view the search results.

Interestingly, searches related to substances like alcohol and tobacco are devoid of such warnings, and certain other terms, like “cannabis” or the psychedelic “ayahuasca,” do not trigger the same cautionary response. This differential treatment of substance-related searches has sparked discussions about the platform's consistency and the potential stigmatization of certain substances over others.

Opportunities presented by Threads for cannabis businesses and influencers.

Despite the initial challenges posed by Threads' search filters, the platform does present several opportunities for cannabis businesses and influencers:

  1. Massive User Base: The platform's rapid user adoption offers cannabis businesses the chance to tap into a vast audience, much like the early days of platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

  2. Potential for Policy Evolution: Just as Twitter revised its policies on cannabis advertising after its acquisition by Elon Musk, there's potential for Threads to adjust its stance, especially as societal views on cannabis continue to evolve. The platform is still in its infancy, and feedback from its user base could influence future updates.

  3. Broadening the Message: With current restrictions on direct searches for marijuana, there's an opportunity for businesses to get creative and broaden their content. For instance, focusing on broader wellness, the history of cannabis, or engaging storytelling could draw in audiences without triggering restrictive filters.

Strategies and best practices for cannabis marketing on Threads.

For cannabis businesses and influencers keen on establishing a presence on Threads, here are some strategies and best practices to consider:

  1. Circumvent Direct Terms: Instead of using direct terms like “marijuana,” “cannabis,” and “420” that are flagged by Threads, consider alternative terms or indirect references.

  2. Educational Content: Focus on creating educational and informative content around the benefits, history, and science of cannabis. This can position the business or influencer as an authoritative source without directly promoting the substance.

  3. Engage Directly with the Audience: Use polls, questions, or other interactive posts to engage the audience. This not only boosts engagement but can also provide insights into the type of content your audience is interested in.

  4. Collaborate with Other Influencers: Partnering with influencers outside the cannabis space can help reach a broader audience. Through collaborations, you can introduce your brand or message to their followers in a way that doesn't directly promote cannabis.

  5. Monitor & Adapt: Given the platform's evolving nature, businesses should keep a close eye on any policy changes or updates. Being agile and ready to adapt to these changes is crucial.

Threads' rise presents both challenges and opportunities for cannabis businesses and influencers. While the platform's current policies might seem restrictive, the ever-changing landscape of social media means there's always potential for growth and evolution. By being creative, adaptable, and focused on engaging content, the cannabis industry can find its voice on Threads and connect with a global audience. The best part is that you have a chance to get in early and be one of the early cannabis pioneers in the space.

Untapped Potential: Exploring Reddit and Discord for Cannabis Brands

As cannabis brands navigate the maze of restrictive policies on mainstream social media platforms, other platforms like Reddit and Discord have emerged as unique and potentially lucrative avenues for marketing and community engagement.

Reddit: The Front Page of the Internet

Community-Driven Engagement: Reddit, often hailed as "the front page of the internet," offers a multitude of 'subreddits' dedicated to specific interests, including a vast array of cannabis-focused communities. These subreddits range from discussions on cultivation techniques to reviews of cannabis products.

Organic Reach and Authenticity: Given its discussion-driven nature, Reddit can provide brands with organic reach and engagement. However, it's crucial for brands to prioritize authentic engagement over overt advertising, as the Reddit community tends to frown upon transparent marketing tactics. Engaging in genuine discussions, AMAs (Ask Me Anything sessions), and providing educational content can foster trust and brand loyalty.

Challenges and Cautions: Reddit's audience is diverse and vocal. While this means vast potential reach, it also means brands must be prepared for direct feedback, both positive and negative. Additionally, each subreddit has its own set of rules, and brands need to familiarize themselves with these before posting to ensure they don't run afoul of community guidelines.

Discord: Real-Time Community Building

Interactive Platforms for Brands: Originally a platform for gamers, Discord has evolved into a hub for various communities, including those interested in cannabis. Brands can create their own servers, offering real-time chat rooms, voice channels, and more.

Direct Engagement with Fans: Discord provides a unique opportunity for cannabis brands to have real-time conversations with their most loyal fans, offering sneak peeks of upcoming products, Q&A sessions with brand representatives, or even hosting virtual events.

Customizable Moderation Tools: One of Discord's significant advantages is its robust moderation tools, allowing brands to maintain community guidelines and ensure that the conversation remains respectful and within legal parameters.

Potential Pitfalls: As with any real-time platform, brands must be vigilant about monitoring content and discussions to avoid misinformation or unsanctioned claims about their products. Additionally, ensuring that Discord servers adhere to age restrictions is vital, given the platform's younger demographic.

In conclusion, while platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok might dominate the social media landscape, Reddit and Discord offer untapped opportunities for cannabis brands. With their niche communities and direct engagement tools, these platforms can be gold mines for brands willing to invest time and effort into authentic community-building and engagement. However, as always, understanding and respecting each platform's unique culture and guidelines is crucial for long-term success.

Partner With The Hood Collective For Your Cannabis Social Media Marketing In 2023 And Beyond

The world of social media is in perpetual motion, continuously evolving in response to societal trends, legal shifts, and user demands. For the cannabis industry, this ever-changing landscape presents both challenges and opportunities. From the stringent policies of Facebook and Instagram to the burgeoning potential of platforms like Reddit and Discord, it's evident that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis marketing. Navigating this intricate web requires keen awareness, adaptability, and an in-depth understanding of each platform's nuances.

As we've journeyed through the varied terrains of these platforms, one thing remains clear: the importance of staying informed. With the legal and social perspectives on cannabis undergoing significant transformation, it's paramount for businesses in this sector to remain agile. Adapting to platform-specific rules, leveraging untapped opportunities, and constantly recalibrating strategies based on the latest trends will be the hallmark of successful cannabis marketing in this digital age.

Yet, navigating these waters alone can be daunting. This is where expertise and specialized guidance come into play. At The Hood Collective, we're more than just observers of this dynamic landscape; we're active participants with the experience and insights to craft bespoke cannabis marketing strategies that resonate. Whether you're a startup looking to make your mark or an established brand aiming to elevate your digital presence, we're here to guide you every step of the way.

Take the leap into the future of cannabis marketing with confidence. Reach out to The Hood Collective today, and let's co-create a strategy tailored for your brand's unique voice and vision.


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