The Short Answer: Sometimes, If You Persist
If you have a cannabis-related brand or business with any social media presence, you’re familiar with the restrictions that dictate how cannabis/marijuana/hemp can be talked about when boosting content and advertising a page.
For those who don’t run a cannabis page, consider this: Most Facebook pages you’ve liked which are cannabis-related have built their following entirely through organic traffic because their advertising has been blocked within Facebook. That is quite the handicap. With Facebook’s algorithm changes in recent months, any given post only reaches about 10% or fewer of your followers unless you put some ad dollars behind it.
A Ganjier’s Facebook Ad Experience
The Ganjier Facebook page was having this issue. Unexpectedly, there were no problems with the very first attempt. In early December, I boosted a post with a link to this Emerald Cup article, and the post went through with no problem. I had worried the #cannabis might tickle the censor’s trigger finger, but indeed it did not.
Well then, there’s no problem, right? Except with every attempted page ad and boosted post from then on. Perhaps the Facebook team is full of Emerald Cup fans?
This is the response I received when I requested a review of the first blocked boost in mid-December:
That was in relation to Medicann Founder Dr. Jean Talleyrand’s article on the discovery of the endocannabinoid system that I was attempting to boost. I replied back to Ashley asking for clarification and she replied with this:
What bothered me through all of this is that they never specified why this was their decision. I attempted to boost other posts talking about cannabis news and science, but to no avail.
Every time an ad was blocked, I refuted the decision. Each time I used the opportunity to ask the same question: What specifically about cannabis can and cannot be talked about in a boosted post? The blanket statement I received several times was this: marijuana cannot be “promoted” in a boosted post but they encouraged me to create policy compliant ads.
Aha! So that must mean there is a way to create policy compliant ads about cannabis. The standards had not been defined to me (or perhaps to anyone) but there was a way. I did not relent. I attempted more boosted posts and asked for specifics on how I could create a policy compliant ad with every rejection. After a few back-and-forth emails over a couple weeks, I received this further clarification from Jane:
Facebook Clarifies the Cannabis Advertising Standard
Direction! They had given me a few kernels of direction and it was in writing. Great success! I immediately went to boost a post. It was immediately blocked.
This time, however, I had something in writing from Facebook to include in my rebuttal. With some copy/pasta and a friendly demeanor, I sent it off. Later that week, Harrison from the Ads Team responded.
Lifting the Ad Ban
Well, thank you, Harrison! And true to his word, I have been able to boost posts that were previously blocked. New posts have also been boosted with no problems.
But Are These Facebook Cannabis Standards Universal?
I consider this a success for The Ganjier page, but this attitude doesn’t seem to be universal across Facebook. Canna Law Blog has publicly complained about Facebook’s policy, as they too are prevented from boosting posts. They were supposed to chat with a Facebook rep via phone this week, but the matter remains unresolved.
Though the situation is certainly not ideal, I find some humor in it. By not allowing cannabis-related pages and posts to be advertised within their site, Facebook is actually subsidizing their traffic. Facebook is making it harder for their company to make money off of this content, which is still published publicly using Facebook’s service. Even without boosting posts, the content spreads because Facebook users are eager to see and share content about cannabis. Even a non-advertised company page is a decent source of click-through traffic if managed well.
Other Social Media Hurdles
Facebook isn’t alone in restricting what can be discussed in promoted content. I ran a social media campaign for a district attorney candidate earlier this year and hit some of Twitter’s restrictions along the way. When I tried to boost tweets that talked about county cannabis policy, they were automatically blocked because of the words I used.
That left me with one of two options to get my boosted tweets approved:
- Use generic language to pass by the auto-censor.
- Refute the block on a tweet-by-tweet basis.
The problem with No. 1 is that generic language is the bane of advertising and social media. Generic means boring, and it means you aren’t as effectively reaching your audience. Fewer clicks. Fewer re-tweets. Less reach.
No. 2 was a better option but not great. After any given rebuttal to a boosted tweet being blocked, Twitter would usually respond and let it through … after two days. In both social media time and campaign time, two days was too long. I might as well have been posting about last year’s Black Friday specials.
Cannabis and Social Media Will Reconcile
Social media companies are run by corporations. They need corporate protection and tangling with the feds about a Schedule 1 drug is not a task to be taken on lightly. But as the federal dialogue changes and the common sense of cannabis seeps into more states, cannabis and social media will reconcile.
We don’t get everything we want all at once. That’s why we persist.