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Can you advertise hemp and CBD on Facebook?

by Zach

How To Advertise Your Dispensary, CBD Brand, or Hemp Products in 2021

Investigating the maze-like Cannabis policies of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google is part of our job here at CannaPlanners. We’ve taken a look at the latest opportunities and restrictions of CBD and hemp advertising via social media, and we’ve also broken down a few other marketing methods that really work.

Facebook made it hard for CBD and hemp companies to advertise on their platform in 2019, and that trend continued throughout 2020. However, it’s not impossible to advertise CBD on Facebook, and there are many other ways to get in front of customers online!

Below, we share 6 ways that you can advertise you CBD company online in 2021:

1. CBD Advertising on Facebook

This is not the most important aspect of marketing or advertising your CBD brand, but it’s definitely the most popular. That’s why we made Facebook advertising #1 on our list. So, can you run CBD ads on Facebook? How?

Can you advertise hemp and CBD on Facebook?

The answer is yes, but it’s not easy. You might want to take some notes…

If you set up your advertisement incorrectly, it likely won’t last long and/or won’t be circulated how you want it to be. Facebook currently classifies CBD and hemp products as “unsafe supplements”. If you attempt to run a Facebook ad that uses keywords such as “CBD”, “hemp”, or “cannabis”, it won’t be long before Facebook takes it down for violating their terms of service. Even if you leave these keywords out of your advertisement, having them written on the website your ad is linking to will also get you disapproved. But, there is a way to have your ads approved…

It’s all about keywords

You can advertise CBD/hemp products on Facebook if you are willing to take a couple of extra detail-oriented steps. Just like Google, Facebook has bots that crawl the website/app, reading and indexing every single piece of text that gets posted, especially for advertisements. The keywords used in your ad and on your website will put you out of play, or keep you in it.

TL;DR: Yes. y our business can run advertisements that lead Facebook users to a landing page where your topical CBD or edible hemp product is sold, or to a separate website that discusses your CBD oil. This landing page or website can not mention CBD. Also, you cannot specifically list the products on your landing page, new website, OR ad copy if the content features actual mentions of “CBD”, “cannabis” or other prohibited keywords. Watch the video below to learn more.

While CBD and hemp are everywhere on the street, in convenience stores, at your local hipster lifestyle brand shop, at your local co-op grocery store ; CBD brands still struggle to live out loud on the internet. Websites like Leafly make digital marketing for dispensaries & cannabis businesses more simple, but the online landscape can still feel confusing and loaded with trapdoors.

So, how do I run a Facebook ad for my CBD company or hemp business?

According to an authoritative agency source in the cannabis industry, you can run CBD and hemp product ads on Facebook if you remove all explicit mentions of CBD, hemp, or cannabis from your content. Unfortunately, this does mean using a landing page or an alternate website if your domain contains any explicit CBD/cannabis language. But this is only the case if you will be linking to your site from your Facebook ad. Does all of this careful editing sound like a lot of work? It certainly does. However, it is likely worth the effort since social media platforms are where your customers spend most of their internet-time.

If you want to run CBD or hemp ads on Facebook but don’t have the time or eagle-eyes to deal with all the workarounds, we are here to help you out. But we highly recommend developing a long-term SEO strategy first and foremost. Fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you to discuss the ways in which we can assist your social media advertising efforts.

2. A Surefire Website

A solid web presence is the most important piece of your online marketing strategy. Your website lays the foundation for all of your other efforts to-come. With that said, you need more that a hastily developed website thrown up on Wix and dripping with spammy ads. You need a website that is fast, easy to use, and easy to find. Easy to find? Yes, that’s right, easily searchable by all internet users from millennial whizzes to their slower-typing boomer parents. A strong SEO strategy will make your website surface closer to the top of Google search results when people are searching for your brand or products. In 2020, SEO strategy also branches out from traditional google results to results on sites like Leafly, Yelp, and Google Maps. All of these auxiliary sites are like the ventricles that feed back into the heart of your online presence — your website.

3. Strong Organic Social Media Presence

Paid ads on social media aside, building an organic social media presence & following is a crucial piece of advertising your CBD brand online. Think we sound like a high school theater coach when we talk about “presence”? Let us break it down.

When we say “social media presence,” we mostly mean interaction and engagement. Being “present” on socials means being active: frequent posts, regular updates, daily comments, likes, shares, etc. are all necessary to keeping current on your profile and keeping your brand and your products in front of customers eyes.

4. Leafly & Weedmaps

The yelp of weed is an exceptional way to advertise your CBD company online in 2020. Leafly, and the similar Weedmaps are sites dedicated to cataloging and archiving companies, products, and strains. Make sure your store or strain is listed on both for maximum success.

5. Email Marketing

Likely already a piece of your web strategy, email marketing can provide what you may be missing (no) thanks to Facebook and Instagram restrictions: regular and data-directed messages directly to your customers. Many email marketing platforms assist you in tailoring messages to certain kinds of customers. You can pick and choose your recipients age, location, interaction pattern, and more. Email newsletters are an especially useful way to run promotions or introduce new products, and they are a fabulous way to build brand voice.

6. Video Marketing

What’s a beautiful website without stunning video? Well, it’s like a holiday dining table set in fine china but missing the food. Video is the most compelling way to market today. It’s a storytelling medium that grabs eyes, hearts, and ears, and lures them all in closer to the core of your message. Often, once companies invest in video, they start to see the payoff in views and engagement right away. Check out the article we did on Video marketing a while back

Those are our top 6 ways to advertise CBD online in 2020. We can’t wait to usher in a new year of greater reach and innovation alongside our clients.

Need to talk to someone about the digital marketing plan for your CBD/Cannabis company? Fill out the form below and someone will reach out to you!

Diving into specifics about Facebook advertising for CBD brands, dispensaries, and other hemp products. How can you do it properly? CannaPlanners is here to help.

‘Nascent and nebulous’: The state of CBD advertising

When Hath, a newly launched CBD brand, had an ad approved to run on Facebook and Instagram earlier this month, the video didn’t show any of the company’s products, and purposefully used “neutral language,” according to Kelley Ireland-Kelly, co-founder and CMO of Hath. The copy on the ad: “Discover the next generation of wellness and start feeling better today.”

“You really have to avoid language that would send red flags to the FDA,” said Kelly. “The challenge is that it doesn’t really provide a lot of information for the customer or solve a lot of their questions because our ads that are approved have to stay pretty vague.”

CBD may be a booming business — in recent years, brands have added CBD to everything from makeup to petcare ; by 2024, BDS Analytics estimates that CBD sales will be more than $20 billion in the U.S. — but advertising CBD products isn’t easy.

While many brands may sell their products direct-to-consumer, they can’t apply the strategy of a typical DTC brand — lots of digital ads, generally on Facebook and Instagram — to stand out. For one, typically CBD brands have to work with lawyers to make sure each piece of creative is compliant with state and federal regulations as well as platform policies. That’s why some brands are using influencer marketing, print, out-of-home, audio, television, even postcards, to reach consumers. Many are also doing most this themselves — they often have to keep an eye on changing policies and change up creative quickly — which means shoring up internal resources.

Federal and state laws, as well as advertising policies across platforms, are changing constantly, making it difficult for CBD brands to figure out how to market. Those regulations and policies impact not only where CBD brands can advertise but what the creative should look like, claims the brands can make and what the brands can pitch to consumers.

“It’s unique to each state,” said Michael Cammarata, CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions, parent company of CBD brand Forest Remedies. “You have to look at by platform, by state and by the local marketing laws in each state. You have to take into consideration the age limits as well as what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in the marketing creative by state.”

While those policies and regulations have made it more difficult for CBD brands to navigate the advertising landscape, especially digitally, that hasn’t turned them away. In the past month, CBD beverage brand Recess has started to do a small amount of paid advertising using programmatic display ads through Quantcast and Taboola, according to Benjamin Witte, Founder and CEO of Recess, who said that results have been “promising.” CBD brand Koi, which offers oil, juices and gummies, has advertised on Snapchat, which has approved ads promoting CBD products that contain no THC in some places. Those approved ads, which must be devoid of health or therapeutic claims, also have to be age-gated.

Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, Twitch, Google and Amazon do not allow CBD advertising on their platforms, according to representatives for the platforms. Facebook recently softened its policy to allow topical hemp CBD brands. That means CBD brands are using channels like radio, outdoor and podcasts.

“[It’s] nascent and nebulous, like much of the industry itself,” wrote Alex Capano, chief science officer for Ananda Hemp, which offers CBD oils, in an email. “It’s a crowded space and there’s a lot of misinformation and noise out there. I t’s difficult to get accurate information to the consumer who is trying to navigate the unregulated market and make an informed decision. It requires a much more grassroots approach.”

Ad creative and influencers
Educating consumers about CBD can be hard to do with digital creative, given the limitations. That’s why some brands are looking to influencers as well as audio advertising to get testimonials about the products out there. Hath is spending money podcasts while Koi has employed radio ads in Southern California.

“For us, it’s education and the ability to talk about the quality of our product,” said Tod Campbell, vp of sales for Koi, who noted radio ads allow the company the ability to talk about the third-party testing, which it spends roughly $30,000 a month to do to verify that its product has CBD. “It offers more flexibility than other platforms but still has to be careful about what you say.”

Koi has also started to work with influencers. That’s a strategy other CBD brands, like Zenpup, have employed to build their brands. By using influencers — Zenpup has focused on fashion and dog influencers — the brands have found another way to get on social platforms.

“Marketing is going back in general to word of mouth,” said Cammarata. “You want to amplify consumers and reviews to let the consumers drive the brand.”

Some CBD brands have spent more time on brick and mortar, television, experiential, out-of-home, print and radio advertising to get the word out.

Koi sends out 22,000 postcards per month and just bought a 40-foot RV trailer to outfit with company branding and drive across the country, according to Campbell, who added that the company puts at least 5% of its profits back into marketing and spends in the thousands upon thousands of dollars every month on marketing. Koi has also currently has over 100 billboards across Los Angeles.

Recess, meanwhile, has “focused almost exclusively on content marketing on Instagram, offline experiential marketing, and brand collaborations to drive brand engagement, buzz, and earned media,” wrote Witte in an email. “We have an omnichannel distribution strategy with a majority of our sales coming through traditional retail channels so our primary objective is creating brand awareness and engagement to drive sales velocity offline.”

In-housing and lawyers
Regardless of the way brands advertise, CBD marketing requires a constant eye to policies and regulation changes. Brands typically work with lawyers to vet if their creative work, making sure it is compliant with the various policies. They also typically use in-house creative teams — sometimes coupled with agencies — to make sure they can change creative quickly and easily to fit with the platform policies.

“There’s this giant laundry list of keywords that in any other brand you’d be like, ‘W e have to double down on it because this is going to lead the customer to understand what our value proposition is,’” said David Bozin, COO and co-founder of Zenpup , a CBD brand to help calm anxious dogs, on why the company uses in-house creative. “But we have to be really careful around the verbiage and also the imagery. It has to be a straight product ad and it’s very cut and dry.”

Hath has an in-house creative director who creates all of its marketing assets including social posts and emails. “I feel strongly that you need an in-house team to be flexible, switch your language and constantly pump out content,” said Kelly.

Cammarata uses a hybrid model for creative, working with an in-house team to modify creative internally in real-time but also employing an agency partner to navigate state and federal regulations.

A crowded market
As CBD has grown in popularity, a number of brands have entered the space making it more difficult to stand out. “The proliferation of CBD across a number of categories, along with a lack of understanding about the product by consumers, has led to the inevitable skepticism that CBD is just a gimmick like other self-help fads that have come and gone one after another,” wrote Chris Sojka, co-founder and chief creative officer at Madwell, in an email.

Strict advertising limitations can add to the confusion. “There is a lot of uncertainty in the CBD space,” Andrew Hemingway, President of Toasted Collective, a premium cannabis advertising marketplace. “The companies that are making CBD are being moved away from telling the customer what’s actually in their product. It’s like if you are an orange and Vitamin C is outlawed. You couldn’t can’t say I have Vitamin C, you would have to say you are just an orange.”

“ The smartest brands stand for something beyond just the product they make, and are using those values — whether it’s education, entertainment, self-care, social justice, etc — to share their brand story through owned content, branded partnerships, IRL experiences, and retail,” said Verena von Pfetten, co-founder of CBD publication and CBD brand Gossamer, in an email. The company recently advertised the box for its CBD oil in its print publication and directed consumers online to learn more about it.

CBD may be a booming business, but advertising CBD products isn’t easy.