It’s estimated that sometime in 2021, Instagram users will hit the 1 billion mark. Yes, you read that correctly- one billion users. If you’re setting up your dispensary marketing plan and are wondering what Instagram has to offer, you’re not alone- Instagram is now the most popular social media platform for brands, and 90% of IG users follow brands. Needless to say, brands are flocking to it.
Unfortunately, Instagram has strict guidelines (especially when it comes to things that aren’t federally legal, like cannabis) and has been known to shut down accounts belonging to cannabis brands. If you’d like to venture into the world of Instagram but don’t want your dispensary to be removed from the platform, here are some important things to keep in mind.
Become Familiar with Instagram’s Guidelines
In 2017, the first medical cannabis dispensaries opened their doors in Maryland. Although cannabis is legal for medicinal use in Maryland, it’s important to remember that Instagram is an international platform, so its guidelines are pretty strict. Instagram’s Community Guidelines state, “Buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is not allowed.” This means that buying or selling cannabis products is completely prohibited on the platform.
But...what about marketing it? The lines are hazy, so it’s important to take Instagram’s Community Guidelines to heart and understand that Instagram is inconsistent with deleting accounts. You could follow all the best practices listed in this blog and STILL be removed from the platform, so do your best to be a good sport and always play by the rules.
Be Careful with the “Sales” Lingo
One key (and easy) mistake to avoid on Instagram comes down to language. Since cannabis brands can’t market or promote the sale of cannabis, it’s important to avoid “sales” language in your post (save that for your landing pages!) As you plan out your social calendar, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t talk about prices, sales, or discounts.
- Don’t publish your product menu or talk about inventory.
- Don’t publish links to your products, your store, your store locator, or any other page on your site that directs visitors to purchase cannabis products.
- If a user asks questions about pricing or inventory in the comments section, encourage them to call your dispensary directly for more information.
It’s important to note that many cannabis brands break these rules and that the rules are always changing. Check Instagram’s official guidelines often to stay in the know.
Take Advantage of User Generated Content
Whether your dispensary has a single location or is part of a franchise, marketing budgets are tight and hiring professional photographers and videographers often isn’t in the cards. Chances are your own patients are posting about your brand on social media, so take advantage of that “free” content by reposting it onto your social account. As long as their account is public, it’s as easy as pressing a few buttons. Just make sure to ask permission first, so your patients know you care about their privacy. To explore the pros and cons of UGC, check out this article.
Keep it Local (& Educational)
As nice as it is to watch your follower count go from 100 to 10,000, that growth means very little to your bottom line if all your followers are from California or Berlin. To bring in more Maryland-based followers, use local hashtags (#dmv, for one), team up with local businesses, or take part in community events that’ll help expose your brand to fellow Marylanders. Another tip: make sure to prioritize educating your followers with informational content. This will help your followers see you as an authority on all things cannabis, which promotes trust in your brand.
Note: We promote our informational blog posts on our Instagram, so our followers can learn more about the industry. Take a look at CULTA’s social media accounts to get a feel for how often we post informational, UGC, and other types of content.
Engage with Your Followers
Last but not least, always engage with your followers. Engagement includes, but isn’t limited to, following other accounts in the cannabis space, commenting on posts, and responding to people when they comment on your posts. Even something as simple as “hearting” a comment can go a long way! It’s also a good business move to recognize your business partners and important vendors on Instagram -- who knows, maybe they’ll return the favor! If you need some help responding to negative comments or reviews, check out our blog for some tips.
At the end of the day, Instagram can be a valuable tool for cannabis dispensaries, as long as they follow the rules and go into it with a plan. For general social media tips, check out our Social Media Tips for Cannabis Companies.