Most people associated with the cannabis industry, whether you are a grower, dispenser, medical patient or recreational user, have an active presence on Instagram. Among all the social media platforms, Instagram has become the place to share photos, information, and enthusiasm for cannabis.
Over time, a number of active communities have been created around different hashtags, causes, and activities. Instagram has proven a great gathering place for social causes, such as the movement to end prohibition, legalize the factory, and find justice for people affected by the war on drugs.
For the cannabis business, the reliance on social media is particularly evident. Since many traditional methods of marketing and advertising are outlawed, farmers and dispensaries have come to rely on Instagram to connect with consumers and Develop their brand.
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most cannabis business owners and regular users live in fear of having their accounts removed at any moment. Even if it hasn’t happened to you personally, if you’ve ever spent any time in or around the cannabis industry, you’ve almost certainly heard of accounts with thousands or even tens of thousands of followers that were closed without any warning or explanation. Although this may seem unfair, the truth is that Instagram has the right to do whatever they want on their platform.
So what is a person or company supposed to do to avoid losing their Instagram account? lets take alook.
What is Instagram’s cannabis policy?
The first thing you need to know about Instagram’s cannabis policy is that there is no policy. Or rather, whatever politics they may have is a mystery to the public. This is a large part of the reason why there is no coherent standard regarding what content is allowed and what is not on their platform. For example, there are many accounts that show photos and videos of cannabis consumption on a daily basis and that have a large number of views and likes. But another account may get banned the first time someone appears smoking a cigarette.
If you look at Instagram’s Terms of Service, it states that they do not “allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s country or country. [Their] The policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses and street addresses or by using the “Contact Us” tab of business accounts on Instagram. However, [they] Allow people to include a website link in their bio information.
This is literally the only reference to cannabis anywhere on their site. It should be noted that a serious attempt to secure cannabis sales on Instagram is a surefire way to immediately ban your account, with little chance of getting it back. But this simple sentence certainly does not include all the bans and closures that occur on the Instagram platform.
This is largely by design. Instagram (and other social media platforms) keep their policies vague. This allows them to make decisions on a case-by-case basis without having to provide clear explanations. Of course, this makes the situation very frustrating for users and business owners, who find themselves relying on a system without any clear guidelines.
What can you do to make sure you have the best possible chance of keeping your account active?
Avoid displaying cannabis consumption in your Instagram feed
As mentioned earlier, directly selling or advertising your products for sale on Instagram is a foolproof way to get your account banned. But it is also highly recommended that you avoid displaying consumption photos or videos on your account. It is important to realize that Instagram uses a mixture of bots and humans. If your content is flagged, and a moderator takes a look at it, there is a greater chance that they will remove your account if you have content related to consumption.
This is clearly not a hard and fast rule. As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of notable accounts that feature depreciation. If you are a personal consumer of cannabis and not associated with any business, you are more likely to get away with depicting consumption. On the other hand, trading accounts will have much less space.
Another consideration is the intent of the content. If you are a cannabis activist and promote the destigmatization of cannabis consumption or advocate for the rights of patients (just two examples), not only do you have an interest in describing your cannabis consumption, but you may want to draw attention to your account when doing so. In such cases, ban is a risk you may be willing to take. Moreover, in these cases, Instagram will most likely quickly restore your account upon appeal.
For businesses, as we have already noted, it is better to avoid consumption on your channel. You’ll probably be fine showing pictures of your product, whether it’s plants, flowers, pre-packaged rolls, or food items, but if you really want to play it safe, just show the packaging. Explain that there is nothing to sell, and avoid talk that directly encourages a transaction, such as mentioning a discount.
Should you keep your cannabis Instagram account private?
One option that seems to help prevent removals is to set your Instagram account to private. This means that only followers you have approved can see your content. This makes a lot of sense for licensed cannabis companies, as most states have very strict laws on advertising in a way that can be interpreted as targeting minors.
Many people assume that if their account is private it will not be removed for sharing cannabis content. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this is actually the case. Surely if you violate Instagram’s terms of service, having a private account will not protect you. As for the gray area behavior that sometimes results in removals, it’s hard to say definitively that the private account actually helps.
Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems likely that private accounts are somewhat isolated. But this could most likely be due to the fact that your growth will be more limited and your smaller audience makes you less of a target for removal. So you may actually trade in with smaller followers to reduce your risk of getting banned. Depending on your business and your marketing goals, this may be a decision worth making.
One popular option, especially for businesses, is to keep multiple accounts (this is in addition to having a backup account at all times so you’re ready to bounce back immediately should the worst ever happen). Make one of your accounts public, and set one to private. For companies with multiple product lines, such an approach makes more sense. For example, a farm may have a public account and a private account for the advance advertising production line.
Stop using banned hashtags
Now is the time to discuss shadowbanning. Many of you probably already know what I’m talking about. Shadowbanning occurs when your account is active, but Instagram stops or drastically reduces your suggestion as an account to follow and avoids placing your posts in your followers’ feeds, making it difficult for them to discover your content. While Instagram denies the existence of shadowbanning, there is no doubt that certain content is less likely to be widely shared than others.
This is especially true if you use hashtags that have been blocked. How do you know that the hashtag is no longer allowed? When you start typing it into your post, it won’t auto-complete for you. For example, popular cannabis hashtags like #cannabiscommunity and #weedporn have to be manually typed from start to finish. If you choose to use these banned nicknames anyway, your content will be less likely to appear to your followers.
Some people get around this by changing the spelling of common terms, such as the spelling of cannabis like w33d, or finding other solutions. But you need to be careful, because as soon as a new hashtag is associated with cannabis, Instagram will add it to the blocked list. Even non-cannabis related terms like #legalizeit or #oregongrown have ended up getting dumped.
The lesson is, as with everything else related to cannabis, you have to adapt to it. Stop relying on hashtags for your discoverability, focus more on engagement tactics and use the newer Instagram features, like reels and spinners, which are one of the best ways to grow your presence.
Other Reasons Your Instagram Account May Be Banned
The truth is that losing your Instagram account is not limited to cannabis companies and consumers alone. There are plenty of other reasons you might lose access that have nothing to do with your cannabis connection.
One of the most common reasons for a lost account is using a third-party app to handle your posting. Instagram is known to be volatile when it comes to playing nice with others, and there are very few posting apps out there that won’t cause you a problem in the end. This is especially true if you use the app to follow and unfollow accounts. Do too much of this, and you’re really asking for trouble.
Another thing to avoid is sending a lot of direct messages, especially if you are cutting and pasting the same message over and over. Nobody likes spam, and accounts that are seen trying to spam other users or play a game on the system won’t last long. If you are using a third party app, try to make sure you handle it in a way that makes you look like a normal user, not some kind of bot.
What can you do to recover a banned Instagram account?
So the day of your reckoning has come. You are logged into your Instagram, only to receive a message that your account has been deactivated. Assuming this wasn’t the result of being hacked, you’ll need to work through the company’s often obscure appeal process and hope for the best.
The first step is to fill out the “My Instagram account has been deactivated” form. This will guide you through the steps. At some point you will likely be asked something along the lines of whether you thought the disruption was a mistake. Always say it was a mistake. Don’t admit that you were wrong and that you won’t do it again. Instead, insist that you didn’t violate their terms of service, which is very handy because the terms of service are very vague.
In any case, provide all the information they ask for and submit your form. It is usual that you may need to wait several days for a response. Sometimes you will not get any response, but next time you log in you will find your account has been restored without any explanation of what happened. our end.
If your appeal is denied, don’t give up. Keep trying. Often it is just finding the right mediator to see your side of things. It may take three or four times. In these matters, we have certainly found that polite perseverance pays off.
Another option is to go through the administrator Contact page. The process will be a bit like going through your login page, but again, it’s all about finding the right broker.
In the meantime, get active on your backup account and use this as an opportunity to build your followers there. The appeal process can take several weeks, depending on the type of account you have and the reason for your deletion.
The bottom line is that if you’re posting about cannabis or working in the cannabis business, you’ll be held to very different standards than other users on Instagram. The best way to avoid removal is to be careful about what and how you post, and never give them a reason to block you in the first place.
I hope this information helps you, and good luck with Instagramming!
Author biography: Decatur Collins is the founder and CEO of Hood set, a cannabis marketing agency based in Portland, Oregon.