Alternative Ways to Advertise Online

Forget Facebook! We've created a guide on the alternative ways that cannabis companies can advertise online.
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When it comes to cannabis branding, it can be hard to get the word out. Social media sites like Facebook seem to have an aversion to the cannabis industry, and ad platforms like Google Ads often reject or outright ban cannabis-related accounts; what gives?

A lot of people out there want to know why the cannabis companies seemingly can’t run online ads and what’s the best way to get around this obstacle, so here’s a quick guide on the alternative ways that cannabis companies can advertise online.

Forget Google and Facebook

The first thing you need to do as a cannabis advertiser is to forget about Facebook and Google completely. Although these two sites are the largest, and potentially most lucrative ads platforms on the internet, it is best just to pretend they don’t even exist for now.

Neither site will *knowingly* accept or run a cannabis-related ad. Period. The primary reason for this aversion to cannabis is due to the fact that cannabis is still considered a Schedule I Substance in the United States; which means that the U.S. government considers cannabis extremely dangerous, highly addictive, and with no accepted medical use.

As laughable as this designation may sound, the law is still the law. It doesn’t matter that ten U.S. states have legalized adult-use cannabis, nor does it matter that Canada has fully legalized the substance. Neither Facebook nor Google want to risk the wrath of the U.S. government.

However, many people believe that once the U.S. fully legalizes recreational cannabis, the floodgates will open, and both Facebook and Google will become an advertising option. Sadly, this will most likely not happen.

Although cannabis’ Schedule I status is the biggest reason for its absence from Google Ads and Facebook Ads, it is not the only reason. In general, both ad platforms take a negative position on “adult” consumer products; such as alcohol, tobacco, or pornography.

The reason why Facebook and Google are so picky is that online advertising is already saturated a market. Facebook and Google currently have their pick of online advertisers; they don’t need the revenue that would potentially come from the alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis industries.

Furthermore, placing a blanket ban on these products solves many of the logistical issues that would come with allowing adult advertising. There’s no risk of a minor getting an ad for alcohol or cannabis if your platform doesn’t let those ads in the first place.

As an ancillary company, you may have some success with advertising on these platforms; provided that you avoid specific keywords like cannabis and don’t have any cannabis leaves on your ad. However, you are playing with fire when you try and circumvent the rules; and you run the risk of receiving a permanent ban if caught.

Simply put, it’s not worth the risk advertising on Facebook or Google; you’re better off seeking out alternative forms of cannabis advertising.

Secondary Ad Networks

One alternative for cannabis advertisers is to seek out secondary ad networks. Although Facebook and Google are undoubtedly the two biggest ads platforms on the internet, they are most certainly not the only ones.

You can find generic ad platforms like Clicksor or Bidvertiser and then there are platforms explicitly dedicated to the cannabis industry, such as Kush Clicks and Mantis Ad Network. The most significant advantage of using secondary ad networks is the simple fact that you can actually run ads.

Another advantage of using secondary ad networks is that they are usually cheaper. In 2017, the average cost-per-click on Facebook ads was around $0.27, and the average cost per 1000 impressions was about $7.19. With some secondary ad networks, you can get your ads for approximately $0.10 per click and $0.20 per 1000 impressions.

There is a downside to this, however. For platforms like Clicksor or Bidvertiser, your ads will work off of a bid system.

With bid systems, your ad will compete with other ads for advertising space; and the way they determine whose ad wins will often be based on who is paying more. So you may be able to run an ad with a cost of $0.01 per click, but you’ll only get one or two clicks. In the world of advertising, you get what you pay for.

There is also the issue of targeting. While Facebook and Google are excellent at delivering relevant ads to its users, many secondary ad networks are not. It won’t matter how much money you spent on your ad campaign if your ad isn’t going to the right people.

If you are using a dedicated cannabis ad platform, this targeting issue can be mitigated; but regardless, you’ll still have a hard time targeting audiences as well as Facebook or Google.

Overall, using a secondary ad network may not be 100% perfect, but it is still worth a try. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, that’s not a big loss either. There are still plenty of alternative means of cannabis advertising.

Savvy Media Use

When traditional forms of advertising fail, the best way for cannabis companies to get the word out is through the strategic use of media and public relations. Unlike simple digital advertising, using media and public relations will require a bit more of a hands-on approach.

When using the media to advertise your cannabis, there are generally two approaches you can take: Sponsored Content and Editorial Articles.

Sponsored Content – If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes on a news site, then odds are you’ve run into sponsored content. As the name implies, sponsored content is content that has been paid for by an advertiser; usually taking the form of a blog post.

Well-crafted sponsored content is a great way to increase brand recognition, so long as you get your target audiences right. When considering the use of sponsored content, look for

websites and companies that align with your overall brand messaging and reach out to them.

If you do decide to put out sponsored content, there are two things to bear in mind. The first thing is to make sure your content actually provides value to the reader. No one wants to read a 1,200-word advertisement unless they get something out of it. The second thing to consider is how easy it is for someone to tell that your post is sponsored content.

Make sure your sponsored content is easily discernible because people hate being deceived. If someone gets to the end of your post only to discover that it is sponsored content, they will be less likely to use your brand.

Another downside to sponsored content is that it can be quite expensive at times. Not only do you have to pay for every piece of sponsored content, but you also have to worry about people actually reading it.

There are a lot of internet users out there that avoid sponsored content like the plague, so, depending on your audience, you might be undermining your marketing efforts through the use of sponsored content.

Editorial Articles – If you don’t like the idea of sponsored content, or just don’t have the money to spend, then you might want to consider writing editorial articles. From cannabis publications like Green Market Report to regular news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, editorial articles are an excellent way to increase brand recognition.

When crafting an editorial article, lean into your specialty. If your company handles cannabis packaging, write an article about the challenges in your field. If you work in edibles, write a guide on how to safely take edible cannabis products. Use your expertise to your advantage.

Starting out, you may not be able to get your article published on the front pages of The New York Times, but that’s ok. Writing editorial articles should be part of your long-term advertising strategy. Unless you write a particularly valuable article, it is unlikely that your company will become famous overnight.

When it comes to pitching an editorial article, be sure that you contact the managing editor of the site you want it published on. Give them the basic outline of your article, explain the value that readers will get from your article, and (if possible) include a small sample.

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with having the entire article already written, it is recommended that you wait until the editor approves your pitch. Sometimes, editors will give you feedback about your pitch and, based on what they say; you may end up completely changing your article. Don’t let your hard work go to waste, let the editor get back to you before you write your article.

Advertising in the cannabis industry can difficult and frustrating at times, but it is not impossible. Through the use of secondary ad networks, you can bypass a lot of the difficulties that come with trying to work with Facebook and Google.

Those efforts can be amplified through the savvy use of media resources, such as sponsored content and editorials. Regardless of how you advertise, as long as you possess a deep knowledge of your target audience and keep your efforts within the confines of your brand, there’s no reason why you can’t find success advertising your cannabis business online.

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