“Deleted 900 times at 1 million, 2.2 million and 9 million,” reads one cannabis company’s Instagram bio. A bit of an exaggeration, but maybe you’ve seen something similar, or worse, you’ve experienced it – a social media account, suspended or deleted with no warning. All of your hard work and followers…gone.
The bottom line is that major social media platforms still don’t want to mess with a substance that’s illegal at the federal level – but there’s still plenty you can do (or avoid) to successfully promote your brand and products. Here are our top Dos and Don’ts for cannabis social media marketing.
Cannabis Social Media Marketing Dos
DO: Know each platform’s rules for marketing and advertising. For instance, Facebook only permits ads for drug rehabilitation and support groups, and provides very clear guidelines on the types of ads they do allow.
DO: Post pictures of your shop’s swag. Safely promote your brand and your store by posting images of legal, TOS-compliant items. Two of our favorite (non-cannabis) brands are Everlane, because they’re engaged with their audience and constantly change their content and features, and Outdoor Voices, because they’ve mastered the perfect blend of product photos, lifestyle and everyday photos.
DO: Emphasize your compliance. Make it clear that all products are compliant with state regulations and are available only to customers 21 and older. Facebook and Instagram like this kind of thing, as it shows you’re making an effort to be transparent and play by the rules.
DO: Take advantage of Instagram Stories. We’ve found Instagram Stories to be our most successful social platform. It’s easy to share short, digestible pieces of information and telling engaging stories about products, our brand or our retail store without boring our audience. We’ve also found it to be the best place to post daily specials.
DO: Know your audience for each platform, and tailor your content accordingly. For instance, our most engaged audience on Facebook is age 38-50 (also known as Generation X). This squares with the social media research on Gen X, as well.
Cannabis Social Media Marketing Don’ts
DON’T: Be afraid to cultivate your brand and move past the old stereotypes. For most people, this is the first time they’ve ever purchased marijuana legally, in a retail setting. We no longer live in the days of dimly lit headshops off side alleys – professionals should be calling it cannabis, not weed; flower, not bud.
DON’T: Post pictures of plants or smoking tools (even vape pens) or use sales terms like “buy”, “discount” or “free”. Posting images of flower, wicked glass and other cannabis-specific content may be a fast way to Instagram likes, but it can also be a fast way to have your account flagged. Follow the same rules with terminology as you do with images. Avoid industry-specific terms (even “marijuana”) in your posts.
DON’T: Make ANY scientific claims or promises about the effects of cannabis. First of all, you’re not a doctor. As a writer or a business owner, making claims about the medicinal effects of cannabis is not only potentially harmful to people, it can also land you in hot water. Leave the comments on health effects to scientists and doctors.
DON’T: Go overboard with your Instagram hashtags. We know, we know…this is an unpopular answer but we have seen time and again that our posts with fewer hashtags garner more likes. You don’t have to get rid of them entirely but whether this is due to an Instagram algorithm or personal preference – the proof is in the likes. #dropthosehashtags
DON’T: Forget to make backups of all your content. If one of your pages is shut down, you’ll be able to get up and running again as fast as possible. Never assume you’re safe because you’ve followed all the rules up to this point.
Bonus Do for Social Media
DO: Try out video in 2018. According to Marijuana Business Magazine, YouTube is more relaxed when it comes to content. Whether it’s a how-to on rolling joints or a compliance webinar, figure out what you want to film and get rolling!