The cannabis industry is quite popular on Instagram- whether you are a grower, dispensary, medical patient, or recreational user. Out of all social media platforms, it has become the main place for sharing photos and information about cannabis.
With the rise of social media, more and more people are finding their niche communities online. Instagram has become a hub for many different issues – from ending prohibition to legalising plants, or even seeking justice for those harmed by the War on Drugs. No matter what your interests may be, chances are you can find like-minded individuals on this popular platform.
With cannabis businesses, their reliance on social media is more pronounced than other types of businesses. This is because many traditional avenues for marketing and advertising are off limits to them. So instead, growers and dispensaries have come to use Instagram as a way to connect with consumers and grow their brand.
Many of us who frequently use or run cannabis businesses live in fear of our accounts being removed at any time, which is heartbreaking and unfair. If you haven’t experienced this type of censorship yourself, you’ve probably heard about others whose popular accounts with several thousand followers have been shut down suddenly and without warning from Instagram. Though it doesn’t seem fair, the platform has every right to do as they please.
So how can you safeguard your Instagram account from being shut down? Let’s investigate.
What Is Instagram’s Cannabis Policy?
One of the biggest challenges with Instagram’s cannabis policy is that it is often unclear what is allowed and what isn’t. This can be frustrating for users, as there seems to be no coherent standard when it comes to content moderation. For example, many accounts feature photos and videos of cannabis consumption on a daily basis that have tons of views and likes. But another account might get banned the first time they show someone smoking a joint.
According to Instagram’s terms of service, they do not “allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana.” This includes dispensaries, which are not allowed to promote their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses. However, people are allowed to include a website link in their bio information.
The only mention of cannabis on their site is in relation to sales. It’s important to keep in mind that Cannabis products are still illegal under federal law, so trying to sell them through Instagram will result in an immediate ban from the platform with no chance of being reinstated. However, this easy-to- miss sentence does not detail all instances where accounts have been banned or shut down by Instagram.
This is largely done on purpose. For example, Instagram (and other social media platforms) intentionally keep their policies unclear. By doing this, they’re able to make decisions based on each situation individually without having to give a transparent explanation. Understandably, this creates an incredibly irritating circumstance for users and business owners who are then left relying on a system with no concrete rules.
How can you improve your chances of keeping your account active?
Avoid Showing Cannabis Consumption On Your Instagram Feed
If you want to avoid getting your Instagram account banned, then don’t advertise or sell products on it. Additionally, it’s best to not post videos or images of people consuming alcohol or drugs. This is because in addition to automated moderators, Instagram also has real humans who moderate the content. If they see content that goes against the company policy, there’s a greater chance they’ll take down your whole account.
While this is not a steadfast rule, as mentioned before, there are many successful accounts that feature consumption. If you don’t have any ties to cannabis businesses and only consume it for personal use, you’re more likely to be able to get away with depicting its consumption on your account. However, business accounts will have less room for error in this area.
Another thing to think about is why you’re sharing the content in the first place. For example, if you support destigmatizing cannabis or are fighting for patients’ rights, then showing people consuming cannabis might be something you want to do to raise awareness. In these cases, it’s more worth it to take the risk of getting banned on Instagram because they’re also more likely to quickly restore your account if there’s an appeal.
Businesses are better off not promoting their product too excessively on their channel. Sure, it’s fine to show an image of your product–whether that’s plants, flowers, pre-rolls, or edibles–but to play it safe, stick to just the packaging. Make sure viewers understand that nothing is for sale and avoid talking about discounts as this could be interpreted as encouragement for a transaction.
Should You Keep Your Cannabis Instagram Account Private?
A way that may help avoid takedowns is to set your Instagram account to private so only followers you approve can see your content. This makes sense for licensed cannabis businesses because most states have laws against advertising in a manner interpreted as targeting minors.
Some people think that just because they have a private account, sharing cannabis content won’t result in any penalties. However, there is no evidence to support this claim. If you violate Instagram’s Terms of Service, being private won’t save you from punishment. It’s difficult to say for sure if a private account lessens the chance of getting taken down for behaviour that falls into a grey area.
Private accounts are more difficult to get banned because they have less followers. However, this also means that your growth potential is much smaller. It really depends on your business goals as to whether having a private account is worth the risk or not.
Creating multiple accounts is a popular option, especially for businesses. This way, you can maintain one public account and one private account. If anything ever happens to your primary account, you’re ready to bounce back immediately with your backup account. Businesses with multiple product lines will find this approach even more beneficial. For example, a farm could have separate public and private accounts: one for their main products and another specifically for their line of pre-rolls.
Stop Using Banned Hashtags
Let’s talk about shadowbanning. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s when your account is still active but Instagram reduces the number of people who see your content. It makes it harder for followers to discover your posts, and can make it seem like you’re not getting any engagement even though people are still following you. While Instagram denies that shadowbanning exists, there’s no doubt that some content is less likely to be widely shared than other types of content.
If you use hashtags that have been banned, your content is unlikely to show up for your followers. For example, popular cannabis Hashtags like #cannabiscommunity and #weedporn will need to be typed in manually from start to finish if you want to use them.
People have devised ways to circumnavigate this, such as changing the spelling of well-known terms, i.e. weed becomes w33d, or finding other methods. Though you must be cautious because once a new hashtag is connected with cannabis, Instagram will add it to the proscribed list; even non-cannabis acronyms like #legalizeit or #oregongrown have been expunged in the past.
The take-away is, as with everything else related to cannabis, you have to be adaptive. Don’t keep relying on hashtags for people to find you– focus more on engagement tactics and using Instagram’s newer features, like reels and carousels. That’s one of the most effective ways to make your presence known.
Other Reasons Your Instagram Account Might Be Banned
While losing your Instagram account may be disheartening, it is not restricted to cannabis businesses and consumers. There are a whole host of other reasons you might have lost access that have nothing to do with your relationship to cannabis.
If you want to keep your Instagram account, don’t use a third party posting app. They almost always get you into trouble eventually because Instagram doesn’t play well with others. This is especially true if the app follow and unfollows other accounts frequently. Do this too much, and you’re practically begging for your account to be deleted.
Also, don’t send a lot of DMs at once if you’re just copying and pasting the same message. People dislike spam, and accounts trying to spam others or game the system will be banned soon. If you use a third-party app, try to seem like a regular user so it doesn’t look like you’re some kind of bot.
What Can You Do To Recover A Blocked Account on Instagram?
If you log into your Instagram and find that your account has been deactivated, depending on the cause, you may be able to go through an appeals process to get it back.
The first thing you should do is fill out the “My Instagram Account Was Deactivated” form. This will help guide you through the rest of the steps. You will likely be asked at some point whether or not you believe that disabling your account was a mistake – always say yes in this case. Instead of admitting you were in the wrong and vowing to never do it again, hold your ground and assert that you have never violated their terms of service. This is easy to do since their terms of service are often vague and open to interpretation.
If they request it, provide all of the information and submit the form. It’s not unusual to have to wait a few days for a response. Sometimes you won’t get any response, but next time you log in your account will be restored without an explanation of what occurred. Congratulations!
If your initial appeal is denied, don’t give up. It’s often simply a matter of finding the right moderator to see eye-to-eye with you. This process may take three or four attempts. With that being said, we’ve found through experience that polite persistence does pay off in the end.
Another option is to go through the official contact page. The process will be similar to going through your login page, but once again, it’s all a matter of finding the right person to help you out.
Meanwhile, use your backup account and take this chance to construct your following there. Depending on the kind of account you have and why it was taken down, the appeals process could drag out for a few weeks.
Consequently, if you’re running a cannabis account or business on Instagram, you must be more mindful of your posts than other users. The safest way to avoid a ban is by only posting content that adheres to the rules and guidelines set forth by Instagram.
I hope this was helpful! Best of luck with your Instagram account in the future.