In 2005, just 5% of American adults were on at least one social media platform. By 2020, that number had risen to 72%. And as social media has become a ubiquitous part of modern life, social media marketing has, in many ways, become a virtual version of the storefront. It is vital to the success of retail operations in the United States.
However, the booming cannabis industry cannot capitalize on social media marketing the way that others can. Because cannabis has still not been legalized at the federal level, major social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn all limit cannabis companies’ ability to promote their product on social platforms. Each platform has a specific policy in place that limits the efficacy of cannabis marketing online.
Many cannabis companies and cannabis-adjacent companies have had their profiles deactivated and pages deleted without notice by various platforms, and still others have their ad accounts shut down when they try to post a promotional ad for their products.
This ultimately costs each business money and customers and reduces their visibility and reach online. Social media platforms police these businesses and the content they post, and it’s not unheard of for a company to alert the platforms’ administrators to a competitor’s post as an underhanded way to reduce the impact of their advertising.
But while cannabis brands face and will likely continue to face specific challenges in advertising their product until it is legal at the federal level, there are still ways that they can advertise themselves while operating within social media platforms’ stated parameters. Let’s take a look at some of the ways cannabis companies can appeal to the hundreds of millions of people on social media without risking deplatforming.
While you can definitely still make use of social media advertising, you will need to tread carefully to ensure that you are not in violation of any of the platforms’ policies, which vary from service to service.
One possible loophole to the platforms’ blanket moratorium on cannabis advertising is to publish ads that are for educational purposes. By ensuring that the ad is not promotional and doesn’t link to a promotional page, you will have improved the chances that your ads will be approved by the powers that be. There are, obviously, limits to the effectiveness of an ad that doesn’t actually advertise, and you’ll need to get creative for it to be effective.
However, even if your ads are educational and created for advocacy purposes, Facebook could still try to shut down your ads account or your business page. They may argue that even though your ads were merely meant to be educational, they still promote cannabis use.
At the end of the day, ads are an option, but you must exercise extreme caution. Most cannabis companies do not have much success with traditional advertising on social media platforms, and the few that do are in an extremely fortunate minority.
Educational and Valuable Content
In order to develop your unique brand online, you should publish content that your target audience will value. Your focus should be on educational content that could be useful to your customers, rather than on promotional content.
Share useful data with your target audience and indirectly promote your brand through videos, posts, articles, and more that help bring visibility to your brand but don’t violate social media policies. Even customers of businesses that are permitted to post promotional content regularly post other types of content, including educational content, as most customers don’t want to follow companies who only promote their products and offer little that is informational or otherwise useful.
Instead of focusing on promotion, you should focus on engaging with your current customers and your new potential customers. Don’t post information about your products or price info. Don’t publish any content that shows customers interacting with your products. Instead, concentrate on creating content that won’t violate the platform’s policies.
There are many types of engaging and entertaining content that can be used to instill brand loyalty in your customers, such as tutorials, infographics, behind-the-scenes content at your place of business, and more. When consumers interact with this type of content, it puts a proverbial face to your name, increasing their trust in your brand, and helping them get to know your business better.
Earned Media Attention
One of the most important social media advertising opportunities for cannabis companies is earned media attention. When individuals share content that you published in other forums, on other social media platforms and elsewhere, you earn social media attention. And unlike running ads that may go against platform policies and get your page shut down, this publicity is entirely free. Generating word of mouth is one of the very best ways to bring in new customers.
The content that people talk about and are excited to share is content that is entertaining, informative, and authentic.
Some ways to generate this shareable content is through:
- Blogging – If you are in the cannabis business, you should absolutely maintain a regular blog. Draft interesting blogs and then share your blog posts to your social media platforms so that your audience can easily find and share your blog content. Select topics that you think your audience will care about and remember to keep it educational and informative rather than promotional.
- Videos – Blogs, of course, require consumers to engage with the written word. Many people prefer a visual format, which is why videos are such a great way to reach your target audience. In fact, if you have the resources, you could turn your blogs into video blogs for those who prefer to watch rather than read. You can also share video content across various social media platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Instagram. You might consider using videos to interview important individuals in the cannabis industry, educate your audience on the many different beneficial compounds found in cannabis besides the well-known THC, and advocate for the federal legalization movement.
- Podcasts – Finally, you can use podcasts to promote your brand and reach your audience. Grab some recording equipment and use one of the numerous free apps to create your own podcast. Use the podcast to do an audio version of your blog, or to conduct interviews with influencers in the industry or activists who are leading the fight to legalize cannabis at the federal level. And of course, share that content across all of your social platforms.
If you run a cannabis business, it can be an uphill battle trying to leverage social media tools to promote your products online. But there are still ways that you can reach your target audience and increase engagement through these platforms.
Contact Avaans Media
If you are interested in learning more about how to use social media to your advantage as a cannabis business, or are seeking assistance building your brand, look no further than Avaans Media, recognized as a top cannabis PR agency. Our team has the experience and skills to help you develop a strong brand and increase your customer engagement through social media marketing. Contact us today to find out more.