As algorithms continue to shift, growing your brand’s audience increasingly requires a mix of both organic outreach and strategic paid investment. Unfortunately for those working in the CBD space, the latter may come as a bit of a challenge.
As any hemp-seller worth her weight in sativa knows, earlier this year the much-awaited new Farm Bill passed broadening the legal definition of hemp to include hemp-based CBD. Previously classified as marijuana, this new classification of CBD has been a boom for small businesses and means only good things for future consumers. However—and this is the tricky part—though CBD has been legalized, the rules and regulations surrounding how CBD-related products are advertised haven’t yet changed to reflect that. Advertising restrictions can even prevent ads from running on search and social channels.
Basically, when it comes to paid ads on Facebook and Instagram, CBD still exists in somewhat of a grey area. Depending on the kind of product being marketed (e.g., oral drops vs. topical creams) there are a variety of advertising restrictions that have yet to be updated. To make it worse, no resource seems to agree on exactly what those restrictions are—so working to ensure your ads don’t get blocked can make for a massive headache.
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled three of the best insider tips on how to successfully navigate any CBD ad restrictions, as well as how to make sure the right audience can discover your non-psychoactive cannabis brand.
With all of the different ways consumers can introduce CBD into their lives, you might think showcasing that product diversity is a must-do for paid. And it is—to some extent. But Facebook draws the line at highlighting or alluding to ingestion of CBD in paid advertisements—even legal hemp-derived products.
For brands that have topicals such as CBD oils or creams, now is your chance to shine on paid. Save the drops, gummies, and gel capsules for organic posts. In your Facebook and Instagram advertising push topicals in ways that pique user interest. Whether it’s a product-use video that details how and where you can use a CBD lotion, or a thumb-stopping product shot of a CBD face oil, the choice is yours. Just keep your paid content focused on external use and you’ll be in the clear.
For most e-commerce brands, driving traffic to your online shop is the bowl and grinder of your paid strategy. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to do what you do. But given the confusion around CBD and the differing state-by-state regulations when it comes to hemp-derived vs. marijuana-derived cannabidiol, it might be safer to avoid promoting products in your paid advertisements all together. Despite hemp-based CBD being legal on a national scale, many marketers have reported that Facebook has mistakenly flagged their ads. Rather than spend time on making strategy adjustments, they’re dealing with lengthy review processes.
If going back and forth with the Facebook ads team isn’t your cup of tea, consider utilizing paid to tell a broader story about your brand’s stance on CBD advocacy in order to avoid the conundrum of product promotion altogether.
For example, promoting news around the Farm Bill, how hemp is harvested, or even the benefits of CBD is a great way to attract potential customers and get your brand top of mind. This also hits an important component of healthy social strategy: storytelling. Your brand should have an identifiable story and identity that is recognizable to consumers. Lifestyle brands might be a good sister industry to look to for inspiration. Think of these paid posts as a way to generate the interest of consumers at the top of the marketing funnel. When someone taps into your profile to learn more, they are greeted by all the creative organic content you’ve developed, including details about your brand’s product lineup that you couldn’t promote through paid.
While this isn’t a promotion you control through Ads Manager, a strong influencer strategy may be the easiest way around platform restrictions!
Obviously there are plenty of influencers who are open about their marijuana and CBD use that you could tap into. But you should also consider audiences who, though they might be unlikely to seek you out on their own, are a natural fit with your company’s marketing goals and product lineup.
Think mommy bloggers who need CBD lotions for their aches and pains, beauty and skincare gurus who might love CBD face oils, or lifestyle influencers who use CBD to help quiet their anxieties. Whomever you choose to collaborate with, find the angle that works best for both your brand and their own.
Whichever strategy you choose to deploy for paid content, always remember to test, test, test! In the same way that you wouldn’t want to purchase your legal cannabis flowers without first giving them a sniff, you have to test your ads first before sending them out.
As we mentioned, promoting CBD on Facebook and Instagram is extremely tricky. The last thing you want is for your ad account to be flagged after too many rejections. So when you first begin, think strategically about your audience profile, keep test flight budgets low, and run one or two pieces of creative at a time. Note what works and what doesn’t and adjust your strategy accordingly.