Social media is an incredibly valuable tool that every business should be taking advantage of, and cannabis companies are no exception. Although many of the top social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have specific rules which prohibit advertising cannabis and even cannabis-related products or services, there are still many effective ways of operating within their guidelines to reach target audiences.
Although it’s widely seen as an indispensable tool for marketers, social media is also a rapidly developing and rigorous environment in which thoughtfulness and caution are crucial to long-term success. This is doubly true for cannabis companies, which, unfortunately, can be and often are shut down by the social media platforms without much explanation or recourse.
If you own or work for a cannabis company that’s interested in social media marketing, there are a few tips that can help you to be successful.
Don’t Promote Your Products
This tip may initially seem a little counter-intuitive. Currently, promoting cannabis, cannabis accessories, and even cannabis-related services is often a direct violation of the terms of service agreements from Facebook, Snap, Google, and many others. If you want to be present on their platforms, you have to play by their rules. You might be asking yourself, “If I can’t promote my products, what can I do?”
Cultivate an Engaged Community
Instead of promoting cannabis products, focus instead on creating communities of engaged and well-informed social media users. Even though these platforms are strict about promoting products, some strongly encourage conversation and advocacy. Create and post informative content for adults to read and engage with. According to several polls within the last few years, a majority of Americans now turn to social media for news and information.
Be Authentic and Original
This tip may seem a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised to learn about how many companies online just recycle content, articles, images, etc. from others without contributing much of their own. If you want to be seen and trusted on social media platforms, create your own content. Use your own voice, your own imagery, and talk to your own audience.
It can also be beneficial to find ways to encourage user-generated content. Some businesses have seen success in creating a hashtag and asking their customers or patients to post with it. Other places have used their social media accounts to spotlight their customers’ stories. Often, these stories are powerful reminders about the medicinal and lifestyle benefits of cannabis use and can go a long way to continue the destigmatization of cannabis that’s long overdue.
Partner with Influencers
Influencer marketing is a fast-growing and highly profitable way for businesses to connect with their target audiences. In the cannabis community, there is no shortage of highly regarded and influential people with whom you can partner with, from artists to musicians and even retired athletes.
It’s important to know the rules of influencer marketing and to make sure the partners you’re working with obey those rules. It’s also important to remember that, even when influencer marketing, you still want to focus more on creating an engaged community than directly promoting your products. The same rules prohibiting brands and companies from advertising cannabis also prevent influencers from doing the same.
Have Measurable Goals
When it comes to social media marketing, there are a lot of different metrics you can look at: engagement, impressions, clicks, etc. Before you start any kind of campaign, you need to make sure that you know what you want to accomplish, and you have the budget to accomplish it.
Because of the inability of cannabis companies to directly promote their products and services on social media, the direct return-on-investment is likely to be low. With this in mind, find goals that are attainable, valuable, and measurable. Calculating how much an impression or engagement is ultimately worth is specific to every business, so keep an eye on your data to figure out what moves the needle and how much time or resources to invest.
Focus on Organic Social Media
Social media marketing can generally be divided into paid and organic. Paid social media marketing involves creating ads which are served to your target audiences or similar audiences across the platform. Organic social media, on the other hand, involves creating content and engaging with a community without directly paying for ads.
When it comes to the large social media platforms, you basically don’t have a choice. Facebook and Snap will not allow you to do paid social media marketing to pages or sites that offer prohibited products and services. For this reason, it’s best to focus on organic social media marketing there.
Cannabis-Friendly Social Media Sites
Although you’ll be limited to organic social media on the big platforms, there are several smaller social media sites specifically for cannabis users which are great opportunities to connect with your target audience. Some of them will even allow you to do paid advertisements. Although the communities are much smaller, they are also much more likely to engage with your brand.
Despite the strict restrictions on cannabis companies, social media is still a tool that every cannabis business should be taking advantage of. With a little creativity, cannabis brands can overcome the inherent disadvantages and connect responsibly with customers and patients in a way that’s mutually beneficial.