2023 has been a wild year for social media—with non-stop changes to Twitter, including a new name and advertising policies. As advertisers and users alike have fled Elon Musk’s Twitter, numerous new competitors have dropped. It’s felt a little like Game of Thrones as Mastodon, Blue Sky and Meta’s new offering Threads have entered the space, each hoping to take Twitter’s crown as the digital public square.
Social media professionals and the “extremely online” alike wondered if Threads would gain a critical mass of followers that other newcomers have not. After all, Threads was created by the company behind two other very successful social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. Cannabis marketing professionals in particular have wondered if Threads will compete with LinkedIn and Twitter (now X) as the social network friendliest to weed brands.
Threads hit 150 million app downloads in the first week after launching. Already, however, some of the initial fanfare has chilled. It’s true that Threads brings some interesting opportunities to the table of cannabis B2B marketing and journalism. But with Meta’s famous reticence toward the promotion of cannabis brands, products and even hashtags, there are challenges and risks that can’t be ignored. For example, Threads follows the lead of other Meta platforms by directing users to drug treatment when searching for keywords such as “marijuana” or “psilocybin”.
So will Threads live up to its potential as a “Twitter killer?” And what are the potential rewards for cannabis brands that join the fray of early adopters? Let’s dig in.
What Is Threads?
Threads is a text-based social platform that provides space for users to have active, public conversations with fellow account holders. An Instagram account is required to sign up for Threads, which both boosts Meta’s subscriber numbers and streamlines the profile’s creation and growth.
A user’s Threads account name is the same as their Instagram handle, and verifications—as well as their following list—transfer to the new account. Account holders can post messages containing up to 500 characters with the ability to upload images and videos as long as five minutes. Posting and scrolling are currently only available through the app on an Apple or Android mobile device—similar to Instagram’s limited desktop features.
The new app succeeded in creating a user-friendly format for account setup and posting. But Threads lacks basic features we've come to take for granted on similar social media platforms. One major con is that there’s no way to search for keywords. And in a remarkable departure from most other social media platform, Threads features no hashtags at all.
Both omissions limit users’ ability to discover accounts that cover topics of interest and exposure opportunities for any account trying to expand its brand recognition or follower count. The feed on Threads—like other Meta platforms—is organized by an algorithm that serves up posts according to a user's identified personal interests. That departure from a purely chronological feed is an approach that’s annoyed users on other platforms, too.
Is Threads Useful for Journalists?
In part, the lack of hashtags points to everything Threads doesn’t want to be. Threads has revealed that it will not do anything to promote politics and hard news shared on the platform. The app has taken this stance with the hope that it will “create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations.”
For years, Twitter was often viewed as the go-to platform for keeping up with current news and events. That hasn’t entirely changed, even as Musk has intentionally made his social network a more hostile place for journalists and vetted experts. And it doesn’t seem like Threads has any desire to go toe-to-toe with Twitter for the contingent of social media users who want, say, to doomscroll through natural disasters and political elections.
Overall, the intention seems to be that Threads provide a harbor for lighter, more positive content—a sort of anti-Parler, if you will. That could be an opportunity for lifestyle and culture journalists to share their content, but not so much for reporters on a hard news or political beat. Add in the fact that Meta is notoriously unfriendly to cannabis social media and the opportunities for cannabis-centric media and journalists start to look extremely limited.
Is Threads Worth Joining for Cannabis B2B?
Despite the lack of paid promotions and advertisements on the site, many brands and businesses have still been migrating to the new app. Currently, B2C brands seem to be having the most success on Threads, but that doesn’t mean B2B brands are out in the cold, either.
Several well-known weed brands and trade publications have already set up accounts, for example, including Marijuana Moment, Puffco, Cookies, Weedmaps and Leafly. That’s not surprising. Out of necessity, cannabis brands have gotten used to navigating hostile platforms, even as many networks’ policies thaw out. For many companies, the benefits of early adoption may outweigh the potential limitations of operating an earned media strategy on another Meta property.
After all, Musk made waves in February, 2023 when it was announced that Twitter will allow cannabis brands to buy paid ads in legal states. It seems like Meta took note, as it has since softened its own policies on cannabis-adjacent advertising. Although advertising THC products is still prohibited on Facebook and Instagram, Meta now allows for products containing CBD and hemp to be advertised as long as the following requirements are met:
- You must comply with all applicable local laws and industry codes or guidelines.
- Your ads can’t contain any claims to treat, cure, prevent, mitigate or diagnose a disease or medical condition in humans or animals.
- Your ads must comply with Meta’s advertising standards.
- Legally permissible CBD products can be promoted in the U.S. with LegitScript certification and written permission from Meta. At this time, LegitScript only certifies non-ingestible CBD products.
- Non-ingestible and ingestible hemp products can be promoted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. LegitScript/Meta certification is not required
Is Threads Useful for Social Media Marketing?
There are some challenges for brands setting up shop on Meta’s new property, however.
Threads also does not have an open API (application programming interface), which means there is no way to track or gather data from the platform or to post using third-party customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
That’s not entirely unusual these days—in 2023, API integrations became a bugaboo for many digital platforms, including Reddit. But the closed circuit nature of the Threads platform is bad news for social media managers who rely on performance analytics and scheduling capabilities.
Is Threads the Next Big Thing for Cannabis Social Media?
So what does all this mean for cannabis marketing professionals eying their limited budgets and bandwidth? Some might see Threads’ opposition to hard news and politics as yet another reason to hold off for now—and they’re not wrong.
Things change fast in cannabis. At present, however, Threads does not seem poised to become the next “it” platform for cannabis-centric brands and organizations. The platform provides a space for active engagement rather than mindless scrolling. But it doesn’t seem likely to extend that opportunity to conversations about chronic.
There might, however, still be hope for the new platform within the cannabis industry. The plant is becoming more and more relevant due to expanding legalization and changing narratives. If Meta wants to keep up with other social media and our evolving societal perspectives, it will have to further adjust its policies and censorship filters to include cannabis in the conversation.