Instagram is one of the top social media platforms, with users ranging from Gen Z all the way to boomers. While lots of people use Instagram to share personal photos, stories and life experiences, the platform is also especially appealing to businesses who are able to engage directly with their audiences in a fun and authentic way. Research from Facebook (which owns Instagram) indicates that over 80% of users have discovered new products or services on Instagram, learned more about those products and services directly on the platform and then made decisions whether or not to buy. In 2021, there is no doubt that a strong Instagram presence is vital in helping a business thrive and grow.
Are all business types supported by Instagram? The answer for those in the cannabis industry varies greatly. Specifically, Instagram’s Community Guidelines state, “buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is not allowed.” No further explanation is provided, and Instagram is notorious for randomly removing posts and deleting accounts that they feel violate this guideline. The platform’s hardline stance is due in part to cannabis still being illegal at the U.S. Federal level, and also the fact that minors would be able to access the content easily.
Those in the cannabis industry find themselves in a tough position. Many have put heart and soul into their businesses, striving to build a great brand by promoting high quality products that they know will enrich the lives and experiences of their customers. Businesses want to be able to share their passion for cannabis and engage with audiences, but the lack of clarity and flexibility by Instagram make things difficult. Accounts that post content deemed to be inappropriate can be deleted without warning – an act which can be devastating to a small business that has worked hard to build its presence and following. As an example, @flightplug.co had their account suddenly deleted after posting a free drink special for Blue Monday. Flight Plug is a small, independent company in the KW area that works hard to bring cannabis education, connect with customers and serve other businesses in the community.
The arbitrary deletion of Flight Plug’s account by Instagram highlights the ways in which cannabis-related businesses continue to face challenges, and also signals the need for more advocacy and education. Cannabis is used widely by people from all social groups and age brackets, and it would be safe to say that a significant number of them are on Instagram. If businesses could be open and honest about product specifics on social platforms, the cannabis experience could be that much more improved for users as they try to learn what works best for them. The dialogue would allow more experienced users and advocates to create greater awareness around cannabis, which would mean more safe consumption and less room for doubt. Unfortunately, Instagram does not seem ready to revise its guidelines just yet, so these businesses will have to find different ways through which to engage with people that enjoy cannabis.