As more and more people are spending more and more time on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s become a virtual necessity for brands to build their own social presences and followings.
That being said, with just about every social platform taking positions ranging from skeptical ambivalence to outright hostility toward even-legal cannabis, creating that presence is uniquely challenging for cannabis brands of all kinds. While there are signs that some platforms may be changing their tunes, the social media landscape is still a perilous place and requires creative strategies for your brand to succeed. In this article, we’ll walk through those perils and outline some of the strategies you can employ to steer clear of them.
Proceed with caution
Last year, Facebook ended its moratorium on cannabis-related searches. Up to this point, however, they haven’t ended their moratorium on cannabis-related ads; a policy that is largely consistent across all major social and digital ad platforms. This means that ads that mention or link to landing pages that reference cannabis can lead to denial, takedown, or in extreme cases, shutdown of your social pages and loss of the following you worked so hard to build.
If you do choose to run paid social ads, it’s incumbent on you to tread carefully and be your own regulator. Don’t give social platforms reasons to shut you down, because they will. Beyond following each platform’s guidelines, here’s a list of things to consider when you’re creating content.
- Do not advertise to kids.
- Do not make claims about medical efficacy.
- Do not include testimonials about your products.
- Do not reference or depict cannabis consumption or getting high.
- Do not reference or depict any specific product, price, or location.
- Do not use flagged words, including but not limited to: cannabis, marijuana, THC, CBD
- Link out only to age-restricted landing pages.
- Seriously, do not advertise to kids.
What do we do, then?
So that’s a long list of what you can’t do. It’s probably left you wondering what you actually can do. The short answer is you have to get creative. For the long answer, there are several ways you can use social media to promote your cannabis brand. Here are a few:
ABC: Always be creating (content)
Rather than paid ads and promoted posts, many brands instead choose to focus on creating quality content to share on social platforms organically. This includes blogs, videos, white papers, and more. The key to this content strategy is quality. If you want your followers to share it, then the content you create needs to be interesting and add value to their lives.
Don’t advertise; educate
When you’re looking to create content for your audience, education is a good place to start. Rather than trying to sell something, try teaching your audience about cannabis instead. This serves many purposes. First, while you still can find your content removed, social platforms do appear to be more amenable to educational material and straight cannabis ads. Second, a large segment of current and potential cannabis users is still unfamiliar with cannabis and are looking for information that will educate them. Last, and arguably most important, all cannabis education helps combat decades of stigma that still serve as the largest roadblock to the legal cannabis industry.
Harness the power of people
An attractive and commonly-used technique to market cannabis on social is with people. From a pragmatic standpoint, this can limit your brand’s exposure to regulations, because you aren’t the one posting the content. From a practical one, personal recommendations are among the most effective ways to get people to try a product. You can go about this using paid partnerships, where you recruit social influencers as spokespeople for your products. Alternatively, you can activate your current customers as brand ambassadors by encouraging them to spread the word with referral bonuses or by making your products and storefronts more “instagrammable.”
Diversity is your strength
Regardless of how you approach social, it’s imperative that you look at any specific platform as a piece of your marketing strategy, rather than the beginning and end of it. Not only should you have a presence on many social networks—both to spread content with more people and to lessen the blow of any potential account shutdown—you should be exploring other marketing options, like SMS, email, and paid ads in cannabis-friendly spaces.
Just like the cannabis industry as a whole, the rules that regulate it and how you can talk about it are evolving every day. While every cannabis brand is different and no media strategy will look like the next, with the right partner to help develop your comprehensive communication plan, you too can harness social media as a powerful tool to reach your customers.
If you have any other questions about digital marketing in general, let us know. Leave a comment below or get in touch. Let’s see what we can do together.