Online Marketing 101 for Cannabis, Marijuana and Weed Industry: Social Media

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Cannabis Marketing & Advertising

Social media has so much potential for marketing teams across various industries. The huge audience that it caters to is a brilliant source for marketing your brand, no matter what services you provide. The algorithms on social media simply spread like fire immediately when some post gets clicked on multi-thousand times; the viral post as we call it! But not all posts can be freely posted on social media. Some industries have certain rules and restrictions imposed on them when it comes to sharing and posting social media content. Some countries have some obstacles and bans set for the cannabis industry branding their produce on social media but NOT IN CANADA!

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, loyal to his campaign, has legalized medical cannabis. Now, having received the Senate approval, Canadians and visitors to the country are able to purchase marijuana legally. Although medicinal cannabis has been legal in Canada since quite some time now, recreational Marijuana is officially legalized from October 17th 2018 onwards! This will enable Canadians and visitors to legally purchase and smoke weed on Canadian soil. This is a massive boom to the cannabis industry and budding entrepreneurs of the ‘weedy’ world.

 

 

 

Just like alcohol and tobacco, the cannabis industry has been restricted when it comes to advertising and marketing. The government imposes restrictions and regulations on what and how demerit product brands can advertise. This means you won’t be seeing a sponsored Facebook advertisement of your favorite marijuana product. Even the Senate of Canada has rules and legislative laws regarding the packaging of legalized cannabis for sale and branding purposes. This has got budding entrepreneurs scratching their heads how to endorse their brands and product to increase sales by encouraging customer consumption. However, it is a demerit good which causes a negative consumption externality. In the highly competitive market of the cannabis industry, entrepreneurs need to consider appropriate, eye-catching, and provoking content for marketing. And for social media, there are certain marketing strategies that need to be considered.

Strategies are used not just in marketing the product, but also in creating content about cannabis. For instance, the anatomy of the cannabis plant, its growth from a single seed to multiple buds, can represent the stages of your social media marketing. This is exactly what’s followed throughout this article. The subheaders co-relate to the structure of the plant, step by step leading to online marketing tips for the marijuana and weed industry through social media.

digital marketing weedThe Seed to Weed

The challenge for weed industry to use social media for marketing is that some platforms have censored blogs, news sites, etc. They don’t permit influencers to post content about the weed plant. Other than recreational weed, medical dispensaries are also feeling the wrath of the packaging restrictions and regulations in Canada. Therefore, weed entrepreneurs need to find creative ways to market on social media channels.

An entrepreneur with creative ideas can certainly market this business on social media. With the inexpensive global communication networks and computing power available, even a three-person team can accomplish much more than the whole companies would in one entire year. One essential tool that has helped to revolutionize the way they do business is social media.

The Mary Jane R-o-u-t-e

Each social media platform has a different audience type and different kind of content are posted. It’s ideal for your cannabis store or dispensary would have an account on at least the most popular platforms in the digital world. This enables your customers to find you via the search function easily. Being active on every single site would be totally overwhelming, unless you have a department dedicated to just social media marketing. Before you brand your product on social media, find out where your audience is and engage them accordingly.

 

Platforms that permit cannabis content:

Pinterest

This platform boasts an audience across a wide demographic, from the millennials to gen Xers to baby boomers. Cannabis companies create Pinterest accounts, have category-specific boards and pin images of products, packaging, recipes, and other content that appeals to the audience on Pinterest.

 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a popular app among the youth and has a growing audience. The app has features to post stories that appear for a 24-hour time limit. In the ‘discover’ section if one would type the word ‘weed’, it suggests you weed-related accounts to subscribe. Snapchat also has a section of ‘publisher stories’ where cannabis business owners can share their articles and blog links. These articles and blog appear on the ‘discover’ section when the viewer searches for relevant content. Apart from public viewing, you could also create personal accounts and post stories about your business and factory budding process that engages consumers to know more about your cannabis product.

Instagram

Instagram is an image-driven platform that is quite popular. There aren’t any restrictions at all for cannabis content on this social media platform. You could post infographics, images and videos of your product. Use the poll and question feature of Instagram to get feedback from your consumers.

 

YouTube

If you have video making and editing skills, then get high on YouTube! YouTube doesn’t promote cannabis ads, but they don’t impose any restrictions over medicinal cannabis business companies to post content. YouTube for posting videos is a good platform as it allows sharing to other social media accounts as well, plus feedback can be directly given in the comment section. Also, cannabis companies can make money over their popular uploaded videos that has received over 100,000 viewers!

Platforms that prohibit any cannabis ads but not the content:

Twitter

Many cannabis business owners have Twitter accounts where they post infographics, images, videos and article links to their official website. Twitter does prohibit paid ads that appear on the viewer’s screen so getting customers via Twitter gets a little tricky for the cannabis industry. But there aren’t any restrictions for posting weed related content on Twitter. The #weedislegal campaign is in full swing this month after the announcement from the Senate stating that marijuana smoking is permitted on Canadian soil.

Facebook

Your Facebook page is like a miniature version of your official website- you can post locations, hours of operation, images, news updates on the news feed, articles on the timeline, and any other information or announcements that your ‘mary jane’ audience will find valuable.

 

The Cannabis-Only App Stalk

The story of how the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo began, gives us a gist of how marijuana is always a “shared” experience. Cannapreneurs are now feeling good about legalized cannabis, despite the ambiguity on what lies ahead with the next presidential administration.

Apple once had a ban on social media apps because of the marijuana and weed industry. The ban was on the marijuana related content. The company always censored or didn’t allow users to access weed or marijuana content from their apps. This ban imposed by Apple in 2015, was specific to a marijuana app called MassRoots (mentioned below). The app was first made unavailable on the store while the campaign of legalization was on. Under immediate Canadian pressure, Apple reversed its ban in just a few weeks. This reverse spell gave access to new cannabis-related app developers to list their creations on the App Store, benefiting both Apple and the app developers. After all, social media is ruled and powered by the millennials and that is making cannabis use, a legal one. These six ‘lit’ apps are the leading technology’s neuro-rush to support cannabis’ own social media world with its own social media platforms.

 

1} MassRoots

MassRoots, one of the first and continuing successful publicly owned cannabis apps, helped Apple change its mind. Support the legalization campaign of cannabis, the app promotes the economic, health and social benefits of marijuana use. The app promotes community building that empowers its consumers and providers. Their goal is “to develop the leading technology for consumers and businesses in the emerging cannabis industry.”

MassRoots offers a platform for users to post blog testimonials about their personal experience, likes, and dislikes about a cannabis company, etc. Members recommend strains, dispensaries, and advocate for community causes to show support for cannabis legalization.

 

2} Kush Guide

This is a cannabis trading platform that facilitates in wholesale transactions of marijuana from legalized farms to the weed market in countries that have legalized weed. They have a network of verified buyers and sellers as well. Their mission is to help the cannabis industry succeed on a global scale. This platform also has an iOS app for iPhones and iPads where you can locate their store and buy recreational weed as well.

        

3} Duby

Duby is a way to metaphorically pass a blunt among friends and telepathically create a puff-pass pot session. What Duby does differently is add gamification elements. The game on the app is to score points by passing around your uploaded photo of cannibis or weed so much that it goes viral. Yes, I know what you are thinking next. It is a free and secure app that uploads pictures giving anonymous credit and is open to those who are 17 years and above. And, it posts news, strain reviews and ads for sale.

4} GrassCity

GrassCity presents open forums for open discussions about cannabis publishes and news featuring product recommendations, favored dispensaries and retailers, and many more. The forum also recommends trending topics like the most recent being legal smoking of weed in Canada. A tab called ‘Recent News’, updates its members on hundreds of new strains and feeds. There is a GrassCity Headshop section for promoting sales of bongs, pipes, apparel and more. GrassCity Magazine is an eMagazine where you’ll find on news, politics, product, and lifestyle; just like any other social media app like Twitter.

The Medijuana Growing Leaves

The cannabis plants has an ancient history for medical use dating back thousands of years. Do you know how many ways marijuana is used for medical reasons? Take a look… capsules, lozenges, tinctures, dermal patches, oral or dermal sprays, cannabis edibles, vaporizing dried buds, and much more. After selecting a platform for cannabis-friendly content, these are a few steps, you might want to consider while creating and sharing cannabis content on social media for online marketing.

Image source: Pxhere.com

Use Influencer Marketing

Cannapreneurs are turning to influencers to broadcast about their services and products to grow their business on conventional social media platforms; basically getting around the platform’s ban on cannabis ads. MedMen is a cannabis producing company with dispensary outlets at 8 locations in California, 2 in Nevada, 4 in New York, some coming soon. They believe in producing quality cannabis products for both medicinal and recreational purposes not just in these locations, but at other states and countries that have legalized the use of cannabis.

Companies use influencer marketing that caters to hiring influencing spokespersons or social individuals to post videos, stories or images on their social media accounts talking about the product to their followers or subscribers by DMs (direct message mode in platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat). Influencer agency called Cannabrand has a network of 1,000 influencers on social media, with millions of followers that are willing to post about Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products. Olivia Mannix, the founder and CEO of Cannabrand says, influencers will eventually catch on as the cannabis industry goes mainstream, just as tattoos have.

 

Build a Non-Business Presence on Platforms

The best and only way to wheedle your customers on social media platforms that prohibit direct advertisement of cannabis is by keeping restrictions in mind while posting relevant content. Create a personal account to post educational content about cannabis instead of having a traditional business account or page just like other businesses. Facebook has proved to be the worst offender by abruptly deactivating pages and accounts of so many demerit product companies in the cannabis, cigarettes, and alcohol industry.

The tips to avoid such censors on Facebook and Instagram:

  • Never post about promoting your product directly as an ad, instead post educational or informative content related to weed and hyperlink your official website.
  • Avoid controversial imagery. Using photos of cartoon characters or packaging that might be appealing for children will definitely put your account in a danger zone of account deletion.
  • Be careful while using hashtags and creating your own brand hashtags.

 

Create_Publish_Snap_Yield

Yes, I’m referring to Snapchat! It’s truly amazing how Snapchat has this ‘discover’ section, where all I did was type the word ‘weed’ and it suggested me so many cannabis related publishes to read and go through, and even subscribe to their account to get more updates. Cheddar is a business news outlet that post informative videos across social media platforms. Cheddar on Snapchat though brings a different approach to business news. They post stories that make sure the audience is updated about the topics they post about. Recently, like on 9th October 2018, Cheddar published a story about: “How many people really drive stoned?”.

Do you know what more Snapchat offers? FILTERS!!! Snapchat geofilters are popular right now and they’ve begun to trickle over other social media platforms too. Snapchat custom filters are filters that you can create for your own event or your brand. Geofilters are for both personal and business use. Snapchatters can simply just swipe right and add “your” filters to their pictures while they attend your event or visit your business. The geofilter allows you to insert location tags determining the real-time location of your store or your dispensary outlet. Like how the Gary Vaynerchuk, the marketing Guru puts it, “A Snapchat geofilter is a branded impression on steroids”.

Since Snapchat doesn’t have an advertising platform like Facebook or Instagram, using influencer marketing through snapchat users upgrade your branding strategies. They help to promote your brand through the word of mouth. I feel word of mouth advertising is more effective in building customer’s trust with your brand and products. Having a popular person use your brand filter lens while creating stories is a fantastic way to build brand awareness.

The Social Buds

Create and share content that makes your brand special. Try a mix of content to keep your audience interested and become loyal subscribers. Use the ‘Poll’ feature in your posts to see what kind of content and information your audience prefers best and deliver what they want to read or know about.

Hashed-Tags

These are a few tips I’d like to share in creating hashtags for your cannabis business that can help build an online community.

  • Capitalize the initial letter of your hashtag to help with legitibility.
  • Do a search of existing hashtags to ensure your hashtag is unique.
  • Don’t just use trending hashtags if they aren’t relevant to your business, it misleads the viewers.
  • Find a creative way to integrate the hashtag word in your brand message.
  • Keep hashtags brief, ensuring they are punchier and easy to remember.
  • Understand the medium or platform before using hashtags. Like compared to Facebook, Instagram has more credibility of creating a hashtag group that increases visibility of the post.
  • Don’t pepper 10-20 hashtags on one post! Keep it topic-specific.

One of the most popular marijuana-related hashtags on Instagram today is #cannabiscommunity, boasting over 6 million posts added to it and still counting. You can find a big spectrum of cannabis enthusiasts under this hashtag posting pictures of their bongs, cannabis-inspired artwork, crafts, deals from dispensaries, and much more. I really recommend browsing through the hashtag during your free time, it’s worth a watch!

Live Weedeo

Yes, I am certainly referring to the live video feature on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Although you cannot create live videos directly talking about your product and your company, you can always use the live video feature to broadcast an event or cannabis-growing hub. BUT ONLY ON INSTAGRAM! Facebook and Twitter completely prohibit posting live videos about cannabis and marijuana what so ever it may display, including an artwork of a cannabis leaf!

Swipe Up High

Since, social media platforms have restrictions and rules to not have advertisements about your product in a direct way, you can simply link your official website for sales and orders just like other conventional business websites. You can use the swipe up feature once you have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram. Swipe up is a feature that links two accounts from different platforms. So, if you have an Instagram account and a YouTube channel, you could simply post a story on Instagram using the swipe up feature that links your YouTube video URL.

The Marketing Flowers

Blogging allows your dispensary store and sharing posts about your expertise builds customer trust. Sharing customer testimonials and vendor features gives an insight into your brand’s process. Share blog posts answering frequently asked questions related to cannabis. Also, you could simply hire a digital marketing agency, that is friendly to the cannabis industry, to help you boost your product branding on social media while you execute creative ideas for business growth!

Share a Glimpse of Your Content

Build customer’s or the viewer’s anticipation for your new product by sharing close up pictures of it before the launch day. Include testimonials and reviews about what people have to say about the new product.

Get Creative

Find some interesting topics or questions to blog about. Something like: Can smoking weed out of fruits get you high?I know it sounds weird, but that’s the point here. Blog about something that you’ve never done before, and things that nobody has done before.

Be Hilarious

You would obviously have some funny stories to share, then why not literally share them! Compile a roundup post that can include funny customer questions. These are retable stories for viewers, showing a human persona to your brand. This connects customers to a personal level.

Create ‘Best Of’ Posts

These posts are basically blog posts that cover relevant topics to the cannabis industry. For instance, you could consider blogging about “11 best Christmas gifts for stoners”. You could include your products in the blog like bongs, weed cleaners, and other cannabis apparatus that a stoner needs.

Create ‘Myth Burning’ Posts

Not everybody has a complete understanding of marijuana and weed use. Usually, people have a big misconception about the consumption or smoking of weed and hash. This creates myths and rumors among people in general. Create blog posts regarding such topics that address such myths and educate the audience about facts. Also, include interesting facts that haven’t been talked about before.

The legalization of marijuana and weed in Canada has made this year a pivotal one for the weed enthusiasts. Also, the legalization of recreational cannabis this October, the cannabis industry will revolutionize into a global, sophisticated, and a brand new sector to invest in. As a whole, myths in the market about cannabis are wheels of pure floccinaucinihilipilification! If you have any questions, suggestions, or insights about how weed companies can use social media marketing, let me know in the comment section below.

Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing – Canada’s fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500’s and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company’s customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they’re most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.

Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches. Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.

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