Social media is a nightmare for cannabis companies trying to increase their footprint in an increasingly-competitive industry without being shadowbanned or shut down altogether. Meta, the parent company for Instagram and Facebook, has clear guidelines prohibiting the advertising of illicit drugs, and cannabis is discriminated against by company AI, even in markets where it is completely legal.
While it may seem like all hope is lost, there are still some ways that cannabis retailers can promote themselves on social media. Medical Marijuana, Inc. (OTC: MJNA), developer of the world’s first legal supply of cannabidiol (CBD), has suffered multiple shutdowns of their social media accounts over the year and has fought to prove that it is selling completely legal CBD products. After much trial and error, Jordan Guzzardo, the company’s Director of Marketing, has found the sweet spot with advertising.
Avoid Using Prohibited Words
“Because of the legality varying from state to state, it has been difficult for us to promote and utilize social media as much as we like,” Guzzardo said. “A few different tips and tricks to get around those issues include positioning the company as an educational resource, which is a great way to become both a source of information for folks looking for it as well as creating legitimacy and credibility for our company. Being aware of key words and knowing which prohibited words each platform has is really key. We have had some success advertising on Instagram and Facebook because we avoid using the wrong words.”
In order to be successful and prevent your account from getting shadowbanned or shut down all together, Jesse Rudendall, Head of Business Development at Metolius Hemp Company, says that retailers must use creative language and slang workarounds on social media platforms. Examples of this include writing “h3mp,” “c/b/d,” or even using emojis like 🍀🌿🍃🌱💨😮💨 can help prevent your post from getting flagged.
Utilize Other Marketing Mediums
Because there are no reliable guidelines on social media for how cannabis brands can properly promote themselves without getting shut down, companies have been turning to other marketing methods. For MJNA, Guzzardo says that PR has been really helpful because it allows the company to work with cannabis specific sites and advertising opportunities, as well as a way for them to get mainstream attention. Email campaigns and SMS messaging have also been successful since they are both great ways to reach consumers without platform banning issues.
“Reddit is a great way to reach a huge audience,” Harrison Baum, Founder and CEO of Daily High Club, said. “By design, it gives everyone a chance to go viral, regardless if they are famous or not already. They also are very cannabis-friendly. Once we made a YouTube commercial on 4/20 and hit #1 on Reddit videos, getting hundreds of thousands of views within hours. That is the kind of exposure big brands cannot even buy!”
Brands Cannot Promote Products on Social Media
When trying to decide what type of content to publish, whether it be on social media or other marketing mediums, it is important to position your brand as an educational resource for consumers. The cannabis and CBD market especially are so saturated with brands selling their own products that it can be difficult to differentiate yourself from the rest, so use the opportunity to distinguish your company by offering important content as to how certain products can help users, the ingredients you use, customer testimonials, or any other information that can be useful.
“Try to represent your brand with use cases of cannabis, so rather than posting someone smoking a joint at a festival, just post a picture of someone at a festival,” Blaise Lucey, VP of Marketing at Surfside, said. “You can still represent the experience, but just think about the lifestyle you are trying to promote rather than the actual product.”
Rudendall says that at Metolius Hemp Company, they have taken an approach in their marketing efforts to become “educators” in the industry. The brand focuses a lot on cannabis awareness, science, soil biology, organic and regenerative farming practices, health and wellness tips, and herbal wellness in their content strategies. The majority of their posts on social media are all about education on plant medicine, farming practices, and a healthy lifestyle. Use these tactics to ultimately lead viewers to your website, where you can then sell them your products.
The Best Platforms to Promote Your Brand
There are pretty mixed reviews when it comes to which social media platform to use to market your cannabis brand. Guzzardo says MJNA has had the most success with Facebook with getting a response from followers. Even though it can be hard to get ads approved, the company has been able to advertise on the platform by using the right wording and images. Lucey adds that Instagram is where a lot of cannabis consumers hang out because they like looking at pictures of weed, so that can be a great platform for retailers to get a following by posting relevant photos.
The more research that is done on cannabis and the closer it gets to becoming federally legal, the easier it will be for retailers to promote themselves on social media. Until then, these tips and tricks are sure to boost brand awareness and help to build a strong customer base.