Social media quickly evolved from mere virtual socializing to worldwide marketing behemoth. LinkedIn doesn’t censor cannabis content and Twitter allows posted promotions and specials. But marketers seeking to take advantage of the large audiences on Instagram can be met with unforeseen complications.
Instagram’s terms of service are clear: No companies can post about selling cannabis, link to an e-commerce site that sells cannabis, nor do marketing of products. Instagram strictly enforces these rules. As cannabis is legalized across more and more states, that becomes a more difficult landscape to navigate clearly and fairly for burgeoning cannabis companies.
“First and foremost, the promotion of sale of cannabis products is not permitted on our platform. It is perfectly fine for a company to… raise awareness or to talk about the societal implications of legalization, things like that,” said Raki Wane, policy communications manager at Instagram. “That does not violate our rules.”
Instagram’s intention is to keep drug ads away from children and, because cannabis remains prohibited in much of the world, to be respectful of their global user base. Instagram accounts can be flagged for content violations, deactivated, and eventually deleted for infracting these rules. Given that Instagram has a billion monthly users, being deactivated can be devastating. Breaking those lines of communication can disrupt deadlines, sever connections with clients, and ruin events.
But many cannabis marketers – including many non-cannabis-selling entities – insist they are following the rules. Everyone from companies that sell accessories, ancillary firms, to advocacy and equity groups complain that their accounts are being deactivated more often.
“There is quite a bit of automatic enforcement here, whereby our systems may detect some words, and they don’t always get it right. If somebody believes that we made a mistake, they can kind of point us as to what they are thinking on their end,” said Wane. “Because … our systems may not be looking at things as closely as somebody who has been impacted by this. We are working on additional ways where people can let us know when they think the mistake has been made on our end, but for the time being, reports and appeals are the best course of action.”