Traditional retail businesses have found success with social media marketing. Meanwhile, cannabis businesses regularly deal with accounts being blocked, banned, or “shadow-banned" by the same mainstream social channels.
Luckily, plenty of dispensaries have “hacked” cannabis social media marketing to work around restrictions and stick to the most cannabis-friendly channels.
Here's how to hack cannabis social for yourself.
Why do some social media platforms restrict cannabis content?
Social media companies use community guidelines to govern the content on their site. The guidelines on many mainstream sites include preventing the promotion or sale of illegal drugs.
Because cannabis is currently a Schedule I substance, it's technically on the same level as hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Many of the most popular social companies still treat cannabis content like it’s promoting a federally illegal substance, even though it’s legal in most states.
For now, cannabis-related content is heavily restricted on many social media sites, but times are changing and cannabis social marketers are getting savvier.
Dispensary marketing by social platform
Every social media website has a different audience and very different restrictions on what cannabis retailers can and cannot post.
Here, we’ll focus on the most popular social platforms based on total users and score each based on cannabis-friendliness.
Social media platform cannabis-friendliness rating ⭐
The star ratings next to each social media platform are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 stars being the most cannabis friendly and 1 star being the least cannabis friendly.
We based these ratings on the below factors:
How restrictive the platform is toward cannabis
Whether the social channel has explicit guidelines for cannabis businesses
The number of cannabis brands and businesses being restricted, blocked, banned, or shadow banned on the platform
If there is there a cannabis audience on the social platform
Each following section covers a different social media platform that many cannabis businesses use. Continue reading or skip ahead:
Twitter (now X Corp.) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
These changes make Twitter the most cannabis-friendly popular social platform.
Advertisers must be licensed by the appropriate authorities, and pre-authorized by Twitter.
Only target jurisdictions where you are licensed to promote cannabis products or services. At the time of this writing, Twitter's policy allows cannabis ads in the following U.S. states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington
Never offer the sale of cannabis or CBD online unless the products are below 0.3% THC.
You must take responsibility for compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and other advertising guidelines.
Ensure no one under the age of 21 is targeted by your ads.
Once you understand the advertising restrictions, there are additional requirements to make sure your ads are approved on Twitter.
Requirements for approved cannabis ads on Twitter:
All cannabis sales pages must be age-gated and all sales must have an age verification process.
Advertisements may not use characters, athletes, celebrities, icons, or images that appeal to minors.
Minors and pregnant models are prohibited from being used in advertising.
No ads should make false or misleading claims promising health benefits or the efficacy of cannabis.
Ads must not depict people using cannabis products or acting under the influence in any way.
Twitter ads will not get approved if they encourage the transport of cannabis products across state lines.
Update: Cannabis advertisers are now allowed to include discounts, promotional marketing and CTAs (e.g. shop now) in ad creatives!
Twitter’s embrace of cannabis means you can do more than run ads. Dispensaries are creating accounts so they can be vocal on the platform about their products, events, discounts, culture and more without the risk of having their account blocked.
Flowhub was one of the first cannabis businesses to run ads on Twitter!
Here’s what we learned:
You can reach millions of people with Twitter ads.
Before launching any ad campaign, make sure to implement the Twitter Pixel base code and test that it is firing properly on your website so that you are able to track results.
Ensure your campaign has a sufficient audience size. You might not be seeing many impressions if your audience size is too small.
If using keyword targeting, include 25-50 keywords to expand your audience and see better performance. The use of keyword exclusions (negative keywords) has also been proven to generate stronger click through rates and lower cost per click.
Enable "Optimized Targeting" if you need wider scale. This allows Twitter to reach people beyond your targeted audience and can help decrease ad fatigue.
Try testing multiple ad variations. Start with 3-5 creatives using different visuals with tweet text. Typically static images drive higher click through rates compared to videos. It is strongly advised to test carousels as well. Keep in mind your cannabis ad may not be approved.
Run your ad campaign for at least 6 weeks to allow sufficient time for performance to stabilize and gather enough data to make informed decisions about the campaign results.
Here’s how to make your dispensary’s Twitter account stand out:
Use Twitter threads: Posting a link with a thread of Tweets provides context that generates 508% more engagement compared to posting the same link with a single Tweet alone.
Reply to trending topics: Twitter was designed to discuss trending topics. You’ll see these topics (which often include cannabis-related hashtags like #420 and #cannabisculture) under “What’s happening?” on the right side of Twitter’s homepage.
Follow Twitter’s marketing calendar: Twitter offers a calendar of key moments for 2023 to help marketers post relevant content in a timely manner.
Include images or videos in your posts: Tweets with images and videos perform better than text alone.
Engage with your audience: Reply to your comments to boost viewership on your posts.
Get inspired with these outstanding dispensary Twitter accounts:
The LinkedIn audience includes a large number of working professionals with higher spending power — which makes them ideal customers for retail dispensaries.
LinkedIn is also one of the most cannabis-friendly social platforms. Unlike other networks, LinkedIn does not censor cannabis content.
Dispensaries that post on LinkedIn are able to create posts that include photos of cannabis products and copy that directly references sales and promotions.
Your cannabis company can also safely advertise on LinkedIn — if you do it correctly.
How to get dispensary ads approved on LinkedIn:
Limit/avoid words like cannabis, marijuana, and pot.
Use images that are still obviously cannabis-related (i.e. someone smelling a jar).
Do not advertise the sale of cannabis or cannabis products.
In the event an ad is denied, make edits and resubmit again for approval. LinkedIn ads are approved by actual people so you may get a different result with each submission.
Get inspired with these outstanding dispensary LinkedIn accounts:
Read next 👉 How to create a dispensary LinkedIn page, grow your audience, and run an advertising campaign.
Instagram is a visual social media platform with 2 billion monthly active users, 60% being in the ideal cannabis consumer age demographic of 18 to 34-year-olds.
Last year, Instagram generated $43.2 billion in total ad revenue.
Currently, Instagram is known for its anti-cannabis policies and frequent shutdowns of cannabis accounts without warning and no way to appeal. This has even happened in Canada where cannabis has been federally legalized.
Instagram says they allow for cannabis advocacy and educational pages as long as they are not directly promoting the sale of any products. But even if you follow Instagram’s guidelines completely, there is still a chance you’ll be shut down.
Here are some tips to avoid a restriction or shutdown of your Instagram account:
Never promote the sale of cannabis on Instagram.
Only link to educational articles or pages.
Avoid cannabis-related hashtags or excessive cannabis messaging.
Limit/avoid images of cannabis flower or products.
Age-gate your Instagram page so minors cannot access it.
Include a disclaimer in your bio that nothing is for sale and your site is for 18+ or 21+.
Create a backup account just in case.
While Instagram has its risks, it’s still a massive social channel and is used by many dispensaries.
Here’s how to maximize your dispensary’s Instagram account success:
Safe discussion topics include posting about your cannabis brand’s mission and highlighting what sets you apart from the competition to move cannabis culture forward.
Take advantage of user generated content (UGC). Share posts your customers are posting.
Geotag your location in posts to reach a local audience.
Emphasize high-quality images.
Share Instagram reels. 2.35 billion people interact with reels every month, you can reach an untapped audience easily by posting unique (allowable) content.
Post to Instagram Stories regularly. 500 million people use the feature daily.
Get inspired with these outstanding dispensary Instagram accounts:
With over 1 billion active users and 210 million downloads in the United States, there is a massive opportunity to build a large TikTok audience right now.
For cannabis retailers, TikTok’s strict rules — specifically those against promoting substances like alcohol, tobacco, and drugs — stand in the way. While cannabis is not explicitly named in TikTok’s community guidelines, it’s clear the social giant is restricting weed-related content.
But the vague rules against cannabis on TikTok haven’t stopped cannabis content. Everyone from weed enthusiasts to retailers to brands are posting about it, they just have to be creative.
Tips for posting on TikTok:
Age-gate your content by adding “21+” to your bio.
Use creative alternatives to cannabis-related words. Instead of words like cannabis, weed, marijuana, or joint, swap in crafty alternatives like 🍃, 💨, “oueed” or #w33d.
Never show any cannabis products or accessories, only allude to them.
Build your brand. TikTok is a great opportunity to showcase everything about your brand, aside from the physical cannabis products you sell. What kind of music, artwork, dances, educational practices and other concepts should your audience associate with your brand?
Monitor language use, even in your comment section. The TikTok algorithm is programmed to identify solicitors saying things like “DM me”.
Keep in mind, TikTok is constantly working to censor content they deem inappropriate. Right now, you are always at risk of being shut down on TikTok and should consider this channel as an experiment.
Get inspired with these outstanding dispensary TikTok accounts:
Facebook, like Instagram, is owned by Meta which shares the same policies that restrict cannabis content.
Arielle Aryah, a prior Facebook spokesperson told Westword back in 2016 that “Facebook does not allow content that promotes the sale of marijuana regardless of state or country… We do allow marijuana-advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug.”
But over the course of multiple crackdowns in the past 5 years, many cannabis-related businesses have lost their Facebook pages for seemingly no reason.
The vague wording of Facebook’s rules combined with its tendency to shut down pages at random has made it a difficult environment for dispensaries to navigate.
While it may feel necessary to give Facebook a shot, there is a high likelihood the platform will either lead to losing your account or going unnoticed. That’s because Facebook omits cannabis businesses from search results.
Focus your social media efforts on more cannabis-friendly and accessible social networks until Facebook gets on board with cannabis.
Unless you’re already seeing a solid return on investment with Facebook, your time is better spent elsewhere.
General social media tips for all platforms
Every social channel requires unique tactics, but there are some standard tips that dispensaries can use across all platforms.
Encourage comments. By asking open-ended questions or taking polls, you will increase viewership on posts.
Engage with followers in the comments. Always respond to comments in an upbeat and “on-brand” manner.
Partner with influencers. These individuals don’t just command a large audience, they’re professionals when it comes to cannabis social. They’ll understand how to work around social media guidelines and post cannabis content.
Stick to a reasonable posting cadence. Do not over post or people tune them out — use a post scheduler or calendar to space them out.
Use social media for customer service. Answer DMs and comments from customers asking questions or raising concerns.
How to create a cannabis social media marketing strategy
If you're just opening a dispensary or haven't set up your social strategy yet, here are the steps to get started.
Step 1: Define your goals
No marketing mission is complete without clearly defined goals. From the start, outline what you hope to achieve with social media.
Goals should be specific and measurable, like “grow LinkedIn followers by 10% every quarter.”
Step 2: Determine your ideal audience
Understanding who you want to attract and engage with on social will lay the foundation for the steps to follow.
Some basic research on your target social channels will tell you what kind of potential customers are on social, what groups they’re a part of, and what kind of posts they enjoy.
Demographics that you must nail down early in the process include:
You can then add more details to build out your audience types by:
Creating buyer personas
Searching cannabis-specific groups
Step 3: Choose your social channels
When determining which social media channels to focus your effort on, consider only starting with one or two.
Because each channel requires a different strategy and at least somewhat different content, posting on every channel will take quite a bit of work. Plus, it can be harder to analyze the results of your effort when you’re posting to 4-5 channels regularly.
Your first social platforms should clearly align with your audience, goals, and business needs. If you feel your current platform(s) aren’t doing this, it’s probably time to try something new.
Step 4: Set up your account
When you choose your platform and create your account make sure to fill out all profile fields completely so it reflects a professional business that can be trusted.
Focus on including different SEO keywords that people would use to find your business online, but avoid buzzwords like “selling cannabis” on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.
Your accounts should each use consistent branding, images, and logos so your profile page is recognizable and on-brand. All pictures or images used should be high quality and must follow the different image requirements for each social network.
Here are the step-by-step guides for setting up accounts on each platform:
Step 5: Create a social calendar
Social media calendars help you organize content so posts are always relevant and timely. They’re also effective in helping visualize posts by channel, date, time, and type.
You can either use a paid calendar and social management tool to manage your social posts, such as:
Or create your dispensary’s social calendar using a free template from:
Your calendar will be the source of truth for whoever manages your dispensary’s social media. Make sure it’s consistently refreshed and evaluated.
Step 6: Determine post cadence
Strategically posting during high-traffic days and times will increase engagement on your posts. Your goal should be to find out which days/times work best for your cannabis business. They’re different for every business and every channel so the key is to test and iterate.
Additionally, it’s important to avoid overposting on social. Set a limit for the number of posts per channel per week and stick to it. Some channels, like Twitter, encourage a greater number of posts per week compared to Instagram.
Step 7: Start posting
Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your posts inform, educate or entertain and the other 20% should promote your business. Just be aware of the varying restrictions on promoting cannabis on each platform.
Sharing user-generated content can reduce the burden of producing original content and is also a way to share content that has already successfully passed community guidelines.
Step 8: Analyze and act
Tracking your social post performance, follower growth, and website referrals from social help determine where you’re finding success—and where to invest more time.
However, analytics are only helpful when dispensaries are able to act and make timely adjustments.