Social media can be both a help and a hindrance for cannabis marketing. Here are six ways to make your voice heard above the rest. Marketing your cannabis company is essential, and social media provides one of the most cost-effective ways to reach out to potential customers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn’t allow advertisements for marijuana on radio or television, which are already popular among young demographics. In addition, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a ongoing process that needs regular effort to sustain since Google often updates its algorithms. Email marketing can be influential as well; however, it generally asks for continuous outreach and engagement with possible customers- something many businesses lack the time or workforce to do so efficiently.
The cannabis industry has found that social media is the best way to reach very specific target audiences, as well as larger groups of people. The use of Instagram and TikTok are continuing to grow in popularity, with 18-to-34 year olds making up 60% and 70% of each platform’s audience respectively, according to HootSuite.
The age ranges of social media users sometimes align with the cannabis community. For example, 60% of all cannabis consumers are Millennials, and Gen Z accounts for 12%. However, Gen Z is the fastest-growing age group since more members are coming of legal age to purchase each day.
As social media platforms instigate modern marketing, it is crucial for cannabis brands to operate on these Spaces with ease. To aid you, here are six tips for being successful on the world’s most popular social media platforms as a cannabis marketer or influencer.
Understand the algorithm
The algorithms that control what users see on Instagram and TikTok are designed to keep people scrolling by providing them with personalized content recommendations. This means that your “endless scroll” of cute cat videos is not an accident, but rather a design choice meant to keep you engaged. You can use this same algorithm to your advantage by promoting your cannabis-related content (or catnip).
If you want your content seen on Instagram, be prepared to shell out some money for advertisement; it has become a pay-to-play platform over the past five years. Although this may seem unfair, it is one of the most effective ways to spend your ad budget–that is, if your brand or product can pass META’s restrictions.
Additionally, popular content formats such as Instagram photos are becoming increasingly less effective due to Instagram Reels’ push to compete with TikTok’s short form video style. Since paid ads are now being placed more frequently on Instagram, users have been able to gain exponential growth on TikTok in a shorter amount of time by posting and tagging videos strategically.
When we spoke with David Hawkesworth (@CampCanna on TikTok), he had already amassed a following of 850,000 people in just a few months- an impressive feat considering TikTok’s harsh censorship policies surrounding cannabis. Unfortunately, shortly after our conversation, his account was completely deleted by the platform
It’s hard to win when you don’t know all the rules of the game. This is especially true for TikTok, which has been dealing with an influx of older users who are more likely to consume cannabis content. David Hawkesworth (@CampCanna on TikTok)
Algo-speak is a term for the language that creators use to avoid detection from algorithms. Through trial and error, people in the cannabis community have discovered effective ways of circumventing restrictions, such as using abbreviations and slang that can fool censors.
Hawkesworth warned others of the dangers that come with posting online without heavily censoring oneself.
Hashtags that are related to illegal activity, such as ‘cannabis’, ‘weed‘, and ‘stoner’, paint a target on your back and make you more likely to be grouped with others who engaged in such activities. To avoid this, TikTok creators have started using slang terms and euphemisms which only their fans would understand. David Hawkesworth, @Campcanna on TikTok
Furthermore, your comments aren’t safe from the algorithm. The chances of being marked as a spammer or solicitor go up exponentially if you use phrases like “DM me” or “Msg me.” This might seem restrictive, but it protects users’ experiences and keeps things feeling organic. So don’t let the algorithm think you’re one of many fake accounts trying to sell Cookies or Runtz cheaply.
Slowly, you’ll notice certain hashtags or words that slip past the censors. So while you can’t search the word ‘weed’ on TikTok, you can browse budtender videos (for now). Over time, the algorithms are updated with new censored terms. But the community will adapt, and so will you.
Get creative without weed
Social media platforms areuptight when it comes to marijuana, so picturesque nug shots are also out of the question for the most part. However, Instagram has been more lenient with images that allude to flower shots in content. Sarah ElSayed, Content & Influencer Manager at Ardent Cannabis stated that people can understand the symbolization if you provide replacements forthe word or flower itself.
ElSayed is most commonly known for her DIY recipes, but she has also gained traction by creating viral content for Ardent’s TikTok. ElSayed weaves cannabis related content into other popular niches such as astrology, food, and music without ever mentioning the plant directly. Her advice: “Try to substitute any cannabis visuals with mullein or broccoli so that you can avoid any bans while still trying to educate people.”
Without any images of leaves, buds, or other traditional “weed” branding associated with it, the first @NotPotDealer TikTok video generated over 2.3M views and 560k likes.
“We gave a few unknown individuals $5,000 to do outrageous stunts like painting skateboard decks and blowing up cars. The end result was an intriguing video that went viral.” – Charlie DePew, Head of Production at GRTR.
Prepare to be banned: Get a backup account
Always have a backup social account ready in case your main one gets shut down. Don’t take the chance of starting a cannabis social account without also securing a back-up page you can switch to if your account gets zapped.
If an account is not removed, it can still be negatively ranked by the algorithm- this is known as shadow-banning. This means that unless a user knows exactly what page they’re looking for, your page will not show up on discovery pages or in search results. For every new social media account you create, make sure to create a backup account too so it can grow passively and avoid any bans in the future.
Run giveaways through your backup accounts for fun, or make a burner account (finsta) to share content that’s not posting-worthy for your main profile.
Earlier this year, @CampCanna’s 200,000 follower account was shut down after being bombarded with mass flagging by bot accounts. However, he luckily won his appeal within a week. “ What I learned is that there is no protection against mass reporting. If the platform gets enough notifications or numerous reports, they’ll just shutdown your account and ask questions later,” He explained,.
After our interview, @CampCanna was banned from the platform and had to move to the @WorldWideStonersClub page. Hawkesworth’s loyal following on Discord helped alert his most engaged fans of the move. And even while he waits for a possible appeal, his influence is still evident; searching “camp canna” on TikTok returns posts with over 33 million views.
Yung LB, Runtz co-founder and Joke’s Up CEO, had his 220,000 follower @YungLB_Litt Instagram account suspended multiple times for promoting the plant on Instagram. He rapidly pivots to backup accounts like @official_YungLB, which has an audience of only 14,000. However while he and other canna-influencers have had their main accounts restored by Instagram and TikTok after appeal ,the appeals process is inconsistent and difficult to navigate without help from representatives at each company.
Invest in LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest
Don’t focus all of your content on one social media platform. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest are cannabis-friendly websites that are worth investing time in; even if their numbers aren’t as high as other platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
LinkedIn is an excellent networking tool for the cannabis industry, but it doesn’t give marketers many chances to reach new consumers and community members. You might have noticed that some people are unwilling to interact with cannabis-related content on LinkedIn because it’s a professional platform. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t see it.
Although Twitter and Pinterest have their own individual benefits, they don’t use discovery in the ways we previously mentioned. The best method to get a grasp of how these communities function is by following accounts that are comparable to yours, and then adapt the strategies you witness working for others to fit your needs.
Before you start posting on different platforms, remember that each one needs a unique approach. Your content shouldn’t be the same across all social media channels. Consider how your audience will react differently to the same piece of content on TikTok versus Twitter, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Keep track of what strategies work best on which platform, and keep tweaking as you go along.
Own your community & data
When you utilize Instagram and TikTok, you are subject to their terms and conditions. deceived into thinking these platforms don’t own your account as well as the followers you gain while using them.
The end goal for content creators on these platforms is to obtain user information like emails and phone numbers that can be used to contact fans outside of the app. These data points are essential for newsletters, live event activations, and communicating with audiences long-term in case an account gets banned from social media.
Final takeaways for social media marketers in cannabis
Despite the obstacles, the cannabis community has always been resourceful and found a way to succeed. Marketing on Instagram and TikTok is just one of the many challenges we face in this day and age.
So take out your smartphone and get to work on finding the latest cannabis marketing algorithm. And remember, if you can market cannabis, you can market anything.