Few things are as ubiquitous and pervascent in the modern day as social media. The power of social media to reach people and shape culture in every sphere including entertainment, sports, and politics is undeniable. This also holds true for businesses and marketing.
The biggest companies on the planet have poured thousands if not millions of dollars as well as countless work-hours into maximizing social media use for their brands’ benefits. It is probably not too far off to guess that you do not have the sheer weight of resources these larger companies have to throw at social media campaigns. Not to mention the obstacles cannabis faces when it comes to advertising on social media platforms despite increasing successes for legalization and growing calls for more.
This does not mean social media is blocked off to you nor should you ignore it as an avenue to market your cannabis product or cannabis-related service. In this article we will discuss how- despite the issues of marketing cannabis on social media you can still use social media as part of an effective marketing campaign for your cannabis business.
Social Media Advertising Restrictions
In order to best use social media for marijuana marketing you need to know the limitations you will have to work around. Most if not all mainstream social media platforms have strict and at times unclear restrictions when it comes to advertising cannabis.
For example: Supposedly it is possible to have ads about cannabis if your ads do not promote cannabis or cannabis products in any interpretable way. Those same ads also have to be educational or meant to be for advocacy purposes. Any component of those ads including images, videos, messaging, even a linked landing page all have to fit the same criteria. By following those limitations and many others then and only then is there a possibility of your ad being permitted onto social media sites. Maybe.
A company offering professional training for cannabis entrepreneurs or those looking for jobs in the cannabis industry used Facebook to promote a seminar. That promotion’s target audience was solely people over 21-years old. People who lived in the local area within which the seminar would take place. A local area in a state that had legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Facebook shut down that company’s account without notice.
When pressed by the company’s appeals Facebook eventually answered that “a professional business and career training seminar promotes the use of cannabis and violates its ad policy.” Again, in a state where medical marijuana was legal and the ad was only targeting people over 21 who lived in the area.
This is not the first time this has happened nor will it be the last unless drastic, nationwide changes are made. Changes that might be beyond your focus and energy to pursue for the time-being.
While a scant few businesses revolving around cannabis have been successful in getting their ads onto major social media platforms with approval those few successes are a tiny fraction compared to the number of failed attempts.
Understand Your Audience
With an industry like cannabis- which has numerous sub-categories of products like CBD, hemp, or marijuana and thus a vast range of potential customers- you will need to narrow your focus. As you cultivate your product, service, and brand’s identity make sure that you do so with a specific audience in mind. Do research and obtain knowledge regarding your target audience, what they respond to, and what do they find interesting or attractive. Identify your potential customers’ ages, genders, income level, and other pertinent details. Find out how much your target audience tends to know about cannabis, what concerns or preconceptions do they likely have, and who tends to contribute to those concerns and preconceptions.
Incorporate this knowledge into all of your marketing but especially social media.
A vital approach to establishing your cannabis business and brand is by publishing content people will find both intriguing and informative.
By having content that is meaningful and educational but without a single word promoting cannabis use you can still make use of most social media sites up to a point. Doing so helps cultivate an identity as part of a larger community. People tend to respond better or think more highly of companies or brands that talk about things other than self-promotion.
Post articles, snippets (with links) of blogs (which also have to follow the social media rules if you’re posting links), and catchy memes. Craft images and videos that both educate and showcase your brand’s identity. Emphasize being eye-catching and engaging to better encourage people to click and share across social media.
Engage with Instagram
There is a lot of potential to be found in using Instagram from a marketing standpoint. Particularly by using Instagram Stories. Every day more than 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every day. More than 300 million use Facebook and Messenger stories at the same rate. Instagram Stories allow for cannabis businesses, dispensaries, and related industry companies to incorporate mobile-driven storytelling into social media marketing campaigns. Instagram Stories are especially popular with many of your likely target audiences.
It should be noted that crafting and publishing Instagram Stories is not a simple task. It requires knowledge of creating and editing videos in creative ways that hook people and keep them enthralled. Even with that knowledge Instagram storytelling can need a solid amount of effort and experimentation before you start seeing returns. Nonetheless the marketing potential of Instagram Stories cannot be overlooked.
Another thing to keep in mind when using Instagram are hashtags. Use of the right hashtags in posts can result in greater impressions, reach, and engagement compared to using simple or generic tags. Keep in mind that the purpose of hashtags is to help your content get seen by specific people, at the times, and on the platforms most advantageous to your brand. Much like keywords for SEO.
Make sure to use as many hashtags as possible. As Instagram permits 30 try to use 30. Optimize your content and captions by not cluttering it with promotional hashtags. Instead, after posting your content immediately go to the live post in the feed to then leave a post containing the promotional hashtags in the comments. You can also try including your hashtags in your posts’ captions. Absolutely do not source hashtags that have nothing to do with your business no matter how popular. As with all marketing be strategic and targeting in your hashtags.
Put a Face(s) to Your Brand
Though it is not possible to advertise cannabis or promote it’s use on social media you can still do so for yourself and your team. People respond better to people than they do faceless corporations. It is easier to connect, empathize, and trust a brand that has actual human faces and emotions.
Your cannabis business might include budtenders, store managers, security, delivery-persons, human resources, sales personnel, marketing specialists, social media managers and more depending on the kind of business you run. Then there’s yourself of course.
All real people with interests, stories, possibly pets, and families that customers can connect with and trust. Have content that gets followers and potential customers to learn about your brand by learning about your team. Work with your team so that they can connect with your intended audience. If possible create short, personable videos which are more engaging and alive than unmoving pictures.
By putting faces to your brand you are creating trust which in turn builds authenticity.
Authenticity is a difficult concept to define despite having been an integral part of marketing since the earliest days. It has only become increasingly more difficult to define as the world has become more fast-paced. Thus you need to find a core identity for your brand. A core you can stick with and also distinguishes you from your competition. Make sure your social media identity matches your company’s real world identity in words, rhetoric, and actions. Both identities will feed into each other in a feedback loop that magnifies the effectiveness of your marketing.
Customer Service Chat
While you are heavily restricted from advertising on Facebook you can still use it for your business. Facebook Messenger is a great way to have fast and responsive customer service. It is also a great channel by which curious people can ask questions, raise concerns, and simply interact with your brand.
Customers- both current and potential- respond very well to quick response times especially on social media. Having both real people and carefully prepared chatbots can go a long way to creating positive regard for your social media presence. Though perfection in responses can be difficult, it is better to be quick to respond and prepared to answer questions.
To give you some perspective Sprout Social carried out a study which discovered: Customers want responses from a brand’s social media arm in 4 hours or less. But the average response tends to arrive within 10 hours. A study on Twitter found customers willing to pay an extra $20 for tickets in the future because airlines responded to their tweets within 6 minutes.
Some Parting Words
Yes there are difficulties with using social media marketing as with so many other forms of marketing other industries can use at leisure. While things are changing there is no telling when that change will include how social media platforms treat cannabis marketing and their related businesses. But if you are persistent and imaginative there are still some ways to use social media to your brand’s advantage and growth.