CBD products have boomed in popularity amongst individuals who want natural supplements to aid them in everything from sleep disorders to anxiety, digestive issues, and even chronic pain. Even though so many people swear by CBD’s benefits, the legality regarding it has been a bumpy road.
As a business that sells CBD products, you already know that for a long time, hemp was completely illegal in the United States for the simple reason that all types of cannabis plants were considered controlled substances. Safe to say the government didn’t do a lot of research before passing this bill.
Once scientists became more interested in hemp and CBD, we learned that CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC, which means it didn’t really make sense that it was considered a controlled substance.
So, Congress eased up a bit on the CBD laws and allowed states to determine its legality. At first, it was federally illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. (save for a few research farms), but CBD products could be sold. They just had to be manufactured somewhere else (think lots of money in import fees and taxes).
Finally, in December of 2018, the Hemp Farming Act was passed–which allows for the growth, distribution, and manufacturing of hemp plants (with an agricultural license, of course).
This is big news for CBD brands since the industry is projected to be a $22 billion market.
What Does This Mean for CBD Advertising Online?
Well, the major ad-buying platforms online are still a little slow on the come up. These major platforms–Google and Facebook–have made it hard to advertise CBD online since ads for it are completely banned from their sites.
CBD advertising laws are hazy because FDA regulations regarding CBD are complicated and strict. Basically, hemp may be legalized, but CBD has not been recognized as a true medication by the FDA. This is largely due to lack of medical research, but as of now, that remains the case.
Because CBD is not legally classified as a medication approved to treat any condition or illness, CBD advertising laws are highly restrictive. That means the FDA will dish out severe penalties for making false or unproven claims about CBD’s health benefits.
And since Google and Facebook are the top dogs in advertising space, they aren’t about to risk their status (and money) so quickly for the sake of a few small-business CBD brands.
As most of us know, Facebook owns Instagram. This means CBD advertising is completely prohibited from the two most-used social media sites in the country. This is not-so-good news for CBD companies, as it means marketing is even trickier.
So, Can You Even Advertise CBD Products?
Before we dive into where, we want to sound advice about marketing your CBD products.
Make sure you’re careful in how you word your marketing materials. Do not make any medical claims, and when you’re recommending your product, you should suggest that your customers speak to a medical professional (i.e. their doctor) about their symptoms and treatments.
Whether it be product descriptions, testimonials, blog articles, or landing pages, make your marketing language clear and honest.
When it comes to making claims, be sure potential customers know that the effects of CBD have been mainly reported by users, not by scientific data. For example, say, “Users have reported side effects like…”
Or, if there is some scientific research for your claim, make sure you’re citing proper sources (e.g. “Did you know CBD has been found to reduce symptoms of epilepsy?…Check it out at projectcbd.org”). Referencing .org or .gov sites usually produces more accurate information, but if you speak directly to researchers, then that’s even better.
Now, on to the good stuff…
How & Where to Advertise CBD Products
Just because you can’t directly advertise CBD products online through Google and Facebook doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
Of course, since social media works to advertise brands, engage organically with customers, and build connections with patrons, you definitely want to start there. We’ll talk about using social media for your brand and then discuss other ways of marketing your CBD business.
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CBD Advertising with IG Influencers
Although your CBD brand can’t buy ad space on Instagram because of Facebook’s CBD advertising policy, the social media sites don’t prohibit people from posting about CBD.
This is where influencers come in. They can post about your product and reach just as many likely customers as traditional advertising would have done. Even better news is that Instagram users are more likely to trust influencers–simply because they’re real-life people. In fact, micro-influencers experience about a 10% engagement rate, and customers are 90% more likely to trust recommendations from real-life people (like influencers) over brand advertising.
So, if you do it right, influencer marketing can be a highly effective way of getting your product out there.
How do you do it right?
Well, first you need to have an active Instagram account. Hopefully, you’ve already set one up, but if you haven’t, an Instagram account is a great way of attracting customers and keeping them updated about your products.
After that, start searching for influencers who have worked with CBD brands in the past.
These will typically be micro-influencers (influencers who have 10,000 to 50,000 followers) or nano influencers (who have 1,000 to 10,000 followers).
You can find influencers by using paid sites like Social Baker, which allow you to search within your niche/industry. Sites like this provide you with lists of top influencers in your niche, those who get the most engagement. You can also take a look at HypeAuditor.
If you don’t have much of a marketing budget, you can also find influencers for free, but with some added legwork. All you have to do is search hashtags on Instagram and let them lead the way.
When you search hashtags on Instagram, try using #cbd first and see where it leads you. If you don’t have much luck, look at posts with #cbd and see what other hashtags are being used. Click through those hashtags and see if you can find influencers who are posting about CBD products.
Tip: You don’t have to look for influencers who solely post about CBD (to be honest, you probably won’t find influencers whose sole niche is CBD). You can look for lifestyle influencers or cannabis influencers whose audience may be interested in your product. Take, for example, lifestyle influencer @sarah_jade_huntsville who posted about Sprig Soda, a brand that makes CBD-infused sodas:
Finding influencers this way will be very time consuming, but at the very least, you might be able to build your audience by following some of the accounts you come across.
You can also turn your current customers into brand ambassadors.
Using Brand Ambassadors to Advertise CBD Products
Brand ambassadors are people you hire to promote your product. When starting out as a small business, the best way to find brand ambassadors is to turn to your customers.
Do you have followers on your Instagram account who are constantly hyping you up by engaging with your posts? Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in posting about your product, or at the very least sharing your own content on their pages.
Even if you don’t compensate them monetarily, you can always opt to give them free or discounted product, which they’ll surely appreciate.
This method for getting your product out there on social media can sometimes be just as effective as using influencers because your brand ambassadors also have their own following, full of different kinds of people who might be interested in your product.
You can have as many brand ambassadors as you can get, the more the better. You’ll gain a wider reach, which means more opportunity for potential customers.
Creating Better Organic Content for More Engagement
Okay, so while better content in itself doesn’t directly help you score more potential customers, it does help you boost engagement with your followers. And if a new customer happens upon your page because they found an awesome post through your hashtags, all the better (make sure your account isn’t private).
Engaging your followers is as simple as posting stuff they want to see and making sure to chat back with them if they have anything to say. The Instagram algorithm will then boost your reach, so more of your followers see your posts.
Research has found that videos are the most engaging type of content, so try to include some–even if they’re just short clips every once in a while.
Other Methods of Marketing CBD Brands
While still make sure your brand is active on social media, you can utilize some other strategies for getting your name out online.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- For content outside of social media (like blogs and website pages), utilize SEO practices to get a higher ranking on Google and other search engines. That means when people search for CBD-related information, such as “best CBD oil,” your site is more likely to pop up in one of the first few pages of results.
- Affiliate Advertising
- Unlike Google or Facebook, using affiliate ad marketplaces pays via commission instead of per visit. Affiliate networks work by running your ad on other companies’ websites, typically companies that have a clientele who would be interested in your product. If that ad turns into a sale, then the company who ran your ad receives a portion of the profit.
Now Spread the Word About Your CBD Business
Even though you can’t formally advertise your CBD products on social media or through Google, you can still build a brand presence and identity. Doing this with the help of influencers, brand ambassadors, and engaging content will keep your followers interested in your brand and all the good things it has to offer.