Social media has become the primary marketing tool for a wide range of brands in a variety of industries. The cannabis industry is no exception. Although social media platforms, particularly Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, can be hard to deal with for cannabis brands – the benefits of having a social media presence surely outweigh the potential challenges. This article will explore the reasons that social media is important for cannabis companies and will seek to outline best practices for management and content creation.
Why is Social Media Important For Cannabis Brands?
Social Media is an important method for cannabis marketers to communicate to current and future consumers and retail partners. Millennials and Gen Z use social media as search engines. Many will search your brand name up on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok to check out your page and learn more about your company – similar to the way that many would “Google” something.
Having a presence on social media solidifies you as a legitimate brand and allows your consumers to reach out to you for Customer Service-related questions, complaints, and comments. Past that, social media content creation and community engagement allow brands to foster deep and meaningful connections with consumers in a digital environment that they choose to participate in.
Which Social Media Platforms Should I Use as a Cannabis Brand?
Depending on your brand values and organizational goals, there are several different social media platforms that cannabis marketers can utilize.
Instagram is still the platform that has arguably the most attention and hype surrounding it. It is primarily an image-based platform so lifestyle photography and well-produced graphics and motion graphics perform well. Instagram is a great customer service platform and allows you to engage with new potential customers via hashtags and discovery tools.
Facebook’s popularity has decreased slightly in recent years but brand pages are still a relevant way to connect with your consumers. Facebook has a large demographic of users in their 30s and 40s, making the average age slightly older than other platforms. An older demographic could mean a more educated audience with more income (but potentially less disposable income). Create a Facebook brand page that your consumers can “like” to stay up-to-date with your brand’s latest announcements and content.
Twitter is surprisingly a very cannabis-friendly platform. Twitter is also an excellent customer service tool, as many happy and disgruntled customers will share their thoughts on the platform. Responding to feedback is a great way to show your brand cares and is engaged with the community. Twitter also allows brands to start and engage in relevant conversations around the products they sell and the services they offer, allowing companies to establish thought leadership through the platform.
LinkedIn is known as more of a B2B, business-focused platform. In recent years it has moved past just job-seekers and job updates to a robust content platform with video, text, image, and blog content. LinkedIn is a great way to reach individuals within the industry (retail partners, budtenders, cultivation partners, etc) and to target higher-wealth, older cannabis consumers.
Although aimed at a younger audience and although the platform’s popularity has waned in recent years, Snapchat allows for cannabis content and even paid advertising. Cannabis companies can target 19+ individuals on the platform and feed them advertisements between their friend’s posts. Snapchat also prioritizes short video content.
TikTok is quickly replacing Instagram as the “it” and “cool” platform, especially among the younger generation. TikTok has aged up over the years, now having the vast majority of its user base over the legal age of cannabis consumption in Canada. TikTok is a unique and hard platform to create content for – prioritizing short, flashy, fun, and interesting video content (usually with a musical or theatrical soundtrack in the background).
We suggest monitoring relevant Reddit forums such as /TheOCS and other cannabis reviewing pages. Posting on Reddit requires authenticity. Only post on Reddit if you are posting transparent information about growing methods, lineage, etc, or if you are operating through a personal account.
How do I Avoid Getting My Social Media Posts and Accounts Deleted as a Cannabis Brand?
Although it can be incredibly useful, social media is also a massive pain point for many cannabis industry professionals.
Facebook/Instagram’s official content policies around “drugs and drug-related products” are:
- Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs (Ex. drug-related paraphernalia, such as bongs, rolling papers and vaporizer devices)
- Avoid using images of smoking-related accessories (such as bongs and rolling papers)
- Avoid using images that imply the use of a recreational drug
- Avoid using images of either recreational or medical marijuana
These rules aren’t necessarily encouraging for marketers looking to increase sales of their cannabis products. However, there are some creative workarounds and compliant content that can still be published to help brands connect with consumers.
For Instagram and Facebook, the most important rule to remember is that you can never make it seem like you are selling a product or promoting a sale. Terms like “now available,” “for sale,” “discount,” and “for purchase” will get your account flagged, regardless of if you’re posting cannabis-related content. The reasoning for this is that Instagram doesn’t want its platform being used for the promotion of sales unless they are getting a cut. They want users to utilize their in-app shopping feature for all purchases and are quick to remove posts that imply that the purchase of something is available somewhere else.
On Instagram and Facebook, do not use blatant language to refer to the plant or its product formats. Do not use the words “cannabis,” “THC,” “CBD,” “marijuana,” “hemp,” “cannabinoids,” “concentrates,” “blunts,” etc. These words are flagged by the platform and will instantly remove your posts. This will also result in your account receiving a warning that it may be deleted or temporarily disabled in the future.
Do not feature images of cannabis plants or concentrates if possible. Do not feature images of your government-mandated packaging as many believe that the THC “stop sign” symbol is automatically flagged by Instagram’s AI.
So what should you do? Create lifestyle content using clothing and accessories. If you are going to show products or packaging, show beauty packaging that does not feature the government-mandated THC symbol. Show product (bud) sparingly and try not to have it as the main focus of the picture. Use creative static and dynamic motion graphics to advertise new SKUs. Post educational-focused content, not sales-focused. Create interviews and content around people (to the degree that is allowed within the Health Canada regulations), not just products. Build stories through imagery, graphics, and photography. Images of individuals smoking and holding pre-rolled cannabis seem to avoid being flagged for the most part.
Want to Learn More About how Cannabis Brands can use Social Media?
We’ve got more information about email marketing for cannabis brands in the Cannabis Brand Marketing Guide we’re releasing at the end of the summer. We’ll be sharing some best practices and types of social media content for cannabis brands to use. The guide will be full of useful tips and tricks for navigating this highly-regulated and difficult-to-navigate industry.