Social media has become a predominant marketing tool for many brands in various industries. The cannabis industry is no exception. Although social media platforms, particularly Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, can be extremely restrictive of cannabis content—the benefits of having a social media presence outweigh the potential challenges.
Why is Social Media Marketing an Important Tool for Cannabis Retailers?
Social media is an important method for cannabis industry retailers to communicate to current and future consumers and brand partners. Millennials and Gen Z use social media as search engines. Many will search your store name up on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok to check out your page and learn more about your company and offerings—like the way that many would Google something.
Having a presence on social media solidifies you as a legitimate retail brand and allows your consumers to reach out to you for customer service-related questions, complaints, and comments. In addition, social media content creation and community engagement allow retailers to foster deep and meaningful connections with consumers in the digital environment that they choose to participate in.
Which Social Media Platforms should You Use?
Depending on your customer base, target market, brand values, and organizational goals, there are several different social media platforms that cannabis retailers can utilize.
“Instagram is still the platform that has arguably the most attention and hype surrounding it.”
Instagram is still the platform that has arguably the most attention and hype surrounding it. As an image-based platform, 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 or 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 jobseekers 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 (potential partners at licensed producers, brands, media, and ancillary companies) and to target higher-wealth, older cannabis consumers.
“Snapchat allows for cannabis content and even paid advertising.”
Although it’s aimed at a younger audience, and 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 “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 though. It prioritizes short, flashy, fun, and interesting video content (usually with a musical or theatrical soundtrack in the background).
Monitor relevant Reddit forums such as /TheOCS and other cannabis reviewing pages. Posting on Reddit requires deep authenticity.
What are the Social Media Regulations?
How can you avoid getting your social media posts and accounts deleted as a cannabis brand? Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Reddit tend to be the most open 420-friendly social media platforms. There are also several cannabis-specific social media platforms including Weedmaps x Berner’s Social Club. On these platforms, you can generally post images of products, speak about promotions, and educate people on cannabis-related topics without fear of deletion or censorship.
Although Meta’s platforms (Instagram, Threads, and Facebook) are incredibly popular and useful, these platforms are also a massive pain point for many cannabis retailers.
Facebook/Instagram’s official content policies around “drugs and drug-related products” are:
- Avoid promoting the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs (i.e., 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 cannabis.
These rules aren’t necessarily encouraging for retailers looking to increase sales on social media. However, there are some creative workarounds and compliant content that can still be published to help brands connect with consumers.
“There are some creative workarounds and compliant content that can still be published.”
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 whether you’re posting cannabis-related content.
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 releases and feature your budtenders and staff members. Post educational-focused content, not sales-focused. Create interviews and content around people/budtenders (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.
What are the Best Social Media Strategies?
Community Engagement and Management: Proactively find new customers by engaging with hashtags and location tags. Answer comments, questions, concerns, and messages from current and potential consumers.
Search Engine Optimization: Secure a handle and username as close to your website and brand name as possible to aid in Search Engine Optimization.
Creative Direction and Brand Guidelines: Take time to establish your visual identity and brand guidelines that will lay the foundation for all of your social media content.
One-Off and Recurring Campaign Strategies: Establish on-going campaigns you want to produce over the next quarter, six months, year, etc. These campaigns could range from a “Strain of the Month” to a quarterly giveback program for local nonprofits. Implement one-off strategies for special promotions, sales, product or merchandise launches, etc.
Cohesive Content Strategy: Figure out which visuals will accompany your brand and campaigns. How will you create content? You can use photos, short-form videos, long-form videos, graphic design, motion graphics, memes, GIFs, etc.
Social Media Calendar: Create a calendar to keep your team on track. Online apps such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, and Canva have the ability to schedule your posts in advance.
What About Paid Social Media Advertising?
With cannabis, paid social media advertising is allowed on Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Snapchat. In many cases, these platforms require hefty monetary investments that are out of range for most independent retailers. On Facebook and Instagram, cannabis brand advertising is extremely limited and goes against the platform guidelines. ADCANN is currently working on a more nuanced paid advertising guide for cannabis marketers to explain the intricacies of each platform.
Colin Bambury is the founder and head editor of ADCANN and the Marketing Manager at Ghost Drops. With roots in the legacy and legal industry since 2016, Colin has led marketing initiatives at some of the world’s largest cannabis media companies, retailers, and producers. He continues to be the primary content creator for ADCANN.ca, the premiere online resource for cannabis marketers.