A how-to guide market your local dispensary and cannabis brand through social media platforms.
If you’ve been responsible for a cannabis social media, you know the feeling.Take out your phone to check notifications and cross your fingers that the page hasn’t been suspended.
Everyday is stressful when it comes to cannabis social media. It’s important, as one of very few ways to connect with potential new customers and connect with existing customers. And it’s hard, dealing with ever changing algorithms and additional rules social media platforms add to cannabis accounts. The rules, which at times, seem like they came from Who’s Line Is It Anyways, where “the rules don’t matter and we make them up as we go.” seems to be arbitrary, are enough to stress any social media manager out, but getting banned is a social media manager’s nightmare.
But it’s absolutely worth the headache and meticulous work to implement a strong social media strategy for dispensaries. Even with all the rules, social media is an impactful piece of your overall marketing strategy.
Combined with loyalty programs, email and texting campaigns, community involvement, and (of course) amazing budtenders that deliver a great customer experience, social media plays a role in both gaining new customers and increasing the lifetime value of your existing customer base.
Use social media to communicate with your customers. Be careful to follow the rules of each platform and community, but you can keep them updated on information they may want to know, like newly stocked products, upcoming events, industry or company news, community engagement highlights, and more.
If you’re new to the game, we’ll walk you through a few of the basics below:
Each platform has their strengths and weaknesses, while some appear to be more strict on posts regarding cannabis. When it comes to deciding which platform to use for your cannabis social media strategy, there are a few things you want to consider. With each platform you use, more time will need to be allocated to that platform.
Not just making and posting the content but engaging with the audience, and replying to comments and messages, as well. What your strategy will be and the type of content you will be focusing on are going to be huge parts on what platform will be best for you.
Over the years we have found that Instagram is one of the better platforms to use for cannabis social media for a few reasons. While there may not be a ton of data or studies on it, it seems that there are a lot more cannabis users on Instagram than any other platform on top of being easier to find them and engage with them.
The ability to tag the state, city, and surrounding areas is a huge bonus of instagram that rivals aren’t as good at. By tagging locations, audiences searching those location pages are able to see the posts and hopefully in-turn make their way to your page, giving you the chance to gain a new follower. We suggest not only tagging the actual city you are, but the surrounding areas and the entire state as well. For example, if your shop is in Detroit, Michigan, you can tag Detroit, Michigan, Farmington Hills, Novi, and any other close area that you feel customers would be willing to travel from. This expands your reach and allows you to get in front of people who may otherwise may never have seen or heard of you.
On the other end of that, you can also go to those location pages and engage with the people posting there. You can put the ball in your court by going and following the people in your area and putting your face in front of them. There is a lot of potential with this strategy and one that we found to be extremely effective.
Another asset Instagram offers is the highlight section of your profile page. Here you can save valuable stories for be viewed even after your story expires after 24 hours. This is a great spot to include things like new and featured products, events and vendor days, and any special announcements.
While the younger generation may be moving away from Facebook and onto other platforms, Facebook still has a lot of potential for dispensaries.
Facebook allows the creation of event pages which people can share and invite their friends and family to. This gives you a chance to expand your reach with a strong likelihood that who is seeing it is part of your preferred target audience. People strongly rely on the word of mouth of friends and family and by them sharing your event gives your page and brand a sense of authority.
One of Facebook’s best attributes is to be able to share links right to your profile page, unlike Instagram or Tik-Tok. While caution must still be taken with posting links we have found that Facebook favors sharing links that are of high quality and are less likely to be flagged, as long as your caption you use while sharing isn’t going against their terms. Sharing a high quality blog to Facebook tends to have great reach and to add to that, people have the ability to re-share it to their page. With people sharing your posts your reach can increase by 10 fold if not more! We always encourage our dispensary partners to talk to their team and ensure they are sharing and engaging with their posts. If you can get content with your preferred wholesale and local partners, getting them to share the link can also have a huge positive impact.
Something we don’t see many dispensaries take advantage of is the ability to create photo folders on Facebook. The reason we find a lot of value in this is because the engagement remains for the life of the folder. So when people like or comment on that folder it will stay there unless you delete them or the folder. While that is true for any post, the reason we find this valuable is because with a post, it gets buried underneath each new post. With a folder, each time you update it, it creates a new post showing new photos and goes to the back of the timeline while also saving that previous engagement. So when people see it they may see a ton of people liking and commenting on it, giving it more authority. You can have a variety of folders; event graphics, product categories, budtender reviews, and more!
The strength of Tik-Tok doesn’t come so much from its ability as more of their audience. Tik-Tok has become the favorite social media platform for the younger generation that will soon be of age to legally buy cannabis.
Unfortunately as it stands, Tik-Tok is pretty unfriendly when it comes to cannabis content. If your content has a cannabis product in the video, there is a good chance that it will get flagged before even being posted. However, there is some good content you can post that doesn’t include using products in it. Education should be a basis for any cannabis social media strategy, as that type of content is less likely to be flagged. Featuring your budtenders, comedy, and following trends are all great ways to gear your dispensarie’s social media strategy.
Linked-In has seen an increase in popularity for cannabis brands over the last few years. In a heavily saturated and competitive market, brands are using any and every way possible to get in front of their customers. We have seen brands have great success on Linked-In when focusing their social media strategy on a few key things; education, events, and information.
This is one platform that we find is usually more successful if it fits your brand identity. If your shop is more of the laid-back, stoner vibe, this may not be the best platform for you. But if you are known as the shop that knows everything about cannabis, that is constantly have cannabis events, in and out of the store, and putting out valuable information that this is a great place to showcase your cannabis brand.
Twitter has had its fair share of media coverage over the last year as Elon Musk has taken over. Looking to find revenue anywhere he can, Twitter recently announced they were going to allow cannabis advertising.
While there are still certainly limitations, the door has officially opened. Something that can a game-changer is looking to become a reality. We expect that once other platforms start allowing this, they will see a huge increase in ad revenue from cannabis dispensaries and wholesalers. Though there are still rules in place, it may be a good place to start building a following if your dispensary hasn’t already been doing so.
As cannabis social media managers, we are in a very gray area. We are a business that isn’t allowed to post sales or prices. So how do we get around that?
Education content is usually at the forefront of a lot of cannabis social media marketing strategies. One shortcoming we tend to see in the cannabis industry is dispensaries just posting to post. They made a post about terpenes because they saw someone else do it and called it good. If you want to have an effective social media strategy you need to go further and get away from the mentality of just posting to post.
We find that your whole marketing strategy, social media included should be a circle. Where everything is tied together and comes full circle with people purchasing and becoming brand loyal.
Going back to the terpene post, you could take a post about terpenes, tie it to a blog, and have other social media posts with strains or products that have that terpene. Make it a monthly focus where you feature those brands, highlight them on your menu, educate your budtenders on the strains and terpenes, include signage in store, and other brand fitting things to make it all flow together. You can tie in specials and deals to this too.
Social media is just one tool in the marketing tool belt and by using them all in conjunction with each other you’ll find yourself with more successful campaigns.
Budtender highlights and product reviews are another great set of tactics to use your social media. Again, refrain from pricing and verbiage that includes things like products or sales but talk more about the strain, the flavor, and the effects. Your budtenders are one of your most powerful assets and customers rely on their recommendations. Get these out as much as you can by including them in blogs and newsletters.
Highlight them with interviews and questions and let your customer base get to know the person behind the face that is helping them.
Posting about products is one of the more gray areas in regards to social media. You can find blogs saying not to do it, but we disagree while at the same time say play it safe. Again a lot of it comes down to the caption, the language, and the images or videos being used.
If you are posting products make sure to avoid language like sales, product, price, etc. Instead talk about the benefits, the strain, or something specific instead of it just being a cannabis product. Consider instead using content like fresh drop alerts, fan favorite restocks, production process, product education, or posts that highlight the intersection of the personality of your brand and the brands on your shelves
As stories disappear after 24 hours we have found that this is a great spot to post riskier types of content. That doesn’t mean go all out, but simply that as it will be gone after 24 hours the risk of it being flagged can be much lower. Use this opportunity to use links to your pages and blogs on your website to get around not being able to use links on platforms like Instagram. One way to keep your users engaged is with polls, quizzes, and questions that stories have built in to them. The more your users are engaged the more your page will be shown to them as well as help boost your page overall.
It’s clear that social media heavily favors video, more specifically vertical videos. As the majority of people are using mobile devices the trend has moved to reels that take up the entire phone screen. A big part of the algorithm is how long someone spends on your page. With a video you are giving them a reason to stay longer than what a photo may have.
Captions are something that we have seen be overlooked on a pretty regular basis. Another thing that can get someone to spend more time on your post is a longer caption. Much like we said don’t post just to post, we will say don’t make a longer caption just to have it long. Make sure it fits the post and isn’t spammy. Keep your brand identity in mind when making your captions as well as this is the voice of your brand and people see you outside of when they come in to the store.
In most industries, hashtags are usually recommended and even in the industry you can find several blogs saying to use them for cannabis. Within the cannabis industry a lot of the #cannabisindustry hashtags are flagged and can actually hurt your page and account. If you are going to use hashtags for your page, be strategic about them.
Don’t spam the same ones over and over again, keep them fresh and relevant to the post at hand. Audit them on a regular basis and make sure they aren’t flagged. You can do this by just clicking that hashtag. It will then go to the page and if it is flagged there won’t be photos.
Use branded and local hashtags. Create your own hashtag for your store and encourage customers to use that. Possibly incentivize them to use it with a monthly give away to a random selection of people who use it for a month. Local hashtags are for your cities, state, or any relevant hashtag that people in your area use. Like we mentioned above about going to the local areas and engaging with users on those pages, do the same here with local hashtags.
Now that you’ve thought about what platforms you want your cannabis dispensary to be in, lets talk about the content and how to avoid getting your posts flagged and finding yourself unable to log-in to your page as they’ve been permanently banned.
First, we will point out the more obvious things not to do. Avoid talking about pricing, deals, sales, or anything that could come off as trying to sell a product. These are the quickest ways to get your posts flagged. While you may see some accounts doing it, it's very much like speeding in a car; you may get away with it, you may not. And if you get caught, you’ll wish you hadn’t.
One thing we usually recommend is deleting any comments people may leave asking about prices, or which stores they’re located at. At the same time though, it is a great opportunity to message that person directly and tell them you’ve deleted the comment because social media bans accounts and you are just being cautious. You can then answer their questions, direct them to your website or to contact your store, and make a more personable experience and connection opposed to just replying to their comment.
A lot of cannabis dispensaries are forgoing their social media strategy all together because of the rules, limitations and risks of being banned. But we still find a ton of value in having a social media strategy.
Play it safe but flirt with the line of riskiness. If something gets flagged, play it safer for a while. Keep an eye in your settings on how many things have been flagged. After a year, as of now, they will be removed from your flagged posts.
Always try to keep it below 3 within the year. We have seen accounts go above that but after 5 is where we have seen it start affecting exposure and as these rules are always changing its better to play it safe.
Most importantly, have fun! We are working with cannabis and helping people with medicine!
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