With the slew of hurdles already persisting in the cannabiz, from online promotions and social media marketing to packaging and brand design, marijuana’s scheduling as a federally illegal substance also means cannabis marketing and promotions are under strict regulation and limitations.
Because of these new and evolving developments in marketing regulations, cannabis business owners must pivot and pay attention to the way they advertise cannabis and market their marijuana to stay legal and visible—especially in the digital age.
When Regulation Meets Cannabis Advertising and Marketing
In one sense, the legal, American cannabis consumer is seemingly spoiled. As of 2017, more than 60% of Americans live in a state where they can legally access medical or recreational marijuana. Though restrictions still vary state to state, for the most part, American innovation has indelibly transformed the cannabis market.
From the variety of cannabis products made available to American consumers, to the implementation of avant-garde marijuana marketing techniques, entrepreneurs in the cannabiz are proving their ingenuity with every new hurdle thrown their way.
As a result of federal regulations, ganjapreneurs have found themselves:
- Leveraging connections with their audience through social media platforms.
- Harnessing the en masse group texts as a means of legally advertising daily cannabis specials.
- Pivoting quickly and effectively in response to changing regulations in the production, packaging, and marketing of their products.
When it comes to marketing and selling your marijuana service or product without breaking the law, enlisting the help of a savvy cannabis consulting firm can help ensure your company isn’t the next Kiva Confections.
Get creative with cannabis social media marketing
While social media marketing typically falls within the scope of digital marketing, when it comes to medical marijuana and social media marketing entrepreneurs should take the time to consider their SMM strategy.
As most social media platforms don’t allow paid cannabis advertising due to marijuana’s federal illegality, you might need to work with a marijuana marketing or consulting firm to develop creative and consistent organic social media tactics.
Know your audience first
When it comes to designing your social media marketing strategy, your first goal should be to figure out who your audience is. While much of this work should have been done during your initial branding meetings, make sure you have a firm sense of who your product or service is intended for. This will also help you determine which platforms to start with when it comes to your audience and your brand’s voice. Though there are dozens of social media platforms that can serve as access points to your audience, each platform comes with it own unique sets of hurdles and challenges.
Keep in mind that, depending on your state, your advertising and promotions campaigns must also adhere to local regulations, which vary in scope and stringency from state to state. As the most stringently regulated market in the industry, Nevada’s marijuana businesses have to adhere to a particularly strict set of regulations.
Here are just some of the Nevada cannabis business regulations:
- Restrictions regarding a cannabis business’s logo, marketing materials, and tone; this includes typography, incorporation of stoner culture, and other advertising limitations.
- Limitations when it comes to the production of marijuana products even ‘suggesting the presence of a child.’ This includes, without limitation, products that harken to toys, characters, cartoons, or any design that may be appealing a person who is younger than 21 years of age.
- Geographic, physical, and demographic restrictions on advertising placement or airtime.
Grow Your Cannabis Brand on These Social Media Platforms
Once you know and understand your state’s regulations about marijuana sales and marketing for your cannabis business, you can still leverage your company’s presence on social media to establish the culture of your cannabrand and connect to your audience.
Build a following on Facebook
Facebook is commonly considered the king of all social media platforms, and unfortunately for cannabis companies, the social platform has maintained its reputation for being pretty strict when it comes to marijuana advertising.
However, Facebook has developed into a dynamic platform that offers entrepreneurs more options when it comes to establishing a social media presence for your marijuana business, as long as you go out of your way to create compliant ads.
Although Facebook has gained notoriety the enforcement of its advertising policies, cannabis business owners can learn from the cases of their peers. If you DO find yourself getting blocked by Facebook, communication will be key in resolving the issue and maybe even getting your ad put back up.
What can and cannot be mentioned about cannabis in a boosted post? Facebook’s most common reply is simply that “cannabis cannot be promoted in a boosted post,” but page owners are still encouraged to create “policy compliant ads.” Per Facebook, although the promotion of cannabis sales and use are prohibited, advocacy for the legalization of any these are allowed.
Though you may be limited regarding what you can advertise, you CAN post your business’s location, hours of operation, allowed images, news updates, industry articles, blogs, and any other cannabis advocacy information your audience finds valuable.
Before getting discouraged, keep in mind that 67% of people get their news and other information from Facebook, so having a business page is essential to reaching your audience. You can also make the most of the customization options and the platform’s ability to integrate with other social media platforms when developing your page.
Engage with your audience in real-time on Twitter
As one of the most widely used real-time social messaging platforms, the more informal nature of the platform allows the brand to engage with your audience in real time through text, static and moving images, videos, and more. Utilize Twitter to post news and updates about your company, to share relevant industry articles, deals, and specials. You can even use the platform to ask your followers questions or take polls. Depending on your brand’s voice, different frameworks for messaging will work better than others.
When designing your Twitter strategy, bear in mind that although the platform has a more casual tone than other social media outlets, it regulations prohibiting the promotion of “drugs and drug paraphernalia globally,” are widely in effect. Twitter’s cannabis ban includes promotions of accessories related to its use, cannabis products, and services like dispensary directories.
Twitter’s policy applies to:
- Illegal drugs, where “drugs” refer a substance sold and consumed to induce an unnatural state of euphoria, psychoactive effects, and altered perception of reality
- Substances sold as “legal highs,” including psilocybin mushrooms and salvia Divinorum
- All accessories related to the consumption of drugs, including items like bongs, pipes, grinders, vaporizers, and more
- Products and services enabling access to drugs—this includes services like dispensary directories
Twitter’s policy does NOT apply to:
- Products made out of hemp
- Content involving drugs thematically, like movies, music, or t-shirts
- Pertinent news and information about drugs
- Information about how drug policy varies from country to country. This includes updates on advocacy movements
Although this policy applies to all ads on Twitter ads around the world, cannabis business owners will also be subject to complying with applicable local laws and regulations when it comes advertisements as well.
Create a space for cannabis advocacy on Instagram
Instagram, Facebook’s image-driven sister platform has become quite popular in the cannabis community despite the fact that the platform essentially adheres to the standards regularly enforced by Facebook. Social media sabotage has also been reported by marijuana business owners and recently, Instagram issued the following statement about cannabis advertising in a letter to Kiva Confections:
“Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts.”
The platform did offer a caveat of sorts which lends itself to the advocacy aspect of the cannabis industry. Marijuana advocacy content IS allowed on Instagram so long as the content doesn’t promote the sale of the cannabis. To that end, dispensaries can promote the federal legalization of cannabis and even its use—as long as they don’t ALSO promote the sale of their product or provide contact information to their store.
This critical guidance means that cannabusinesses can use enticing images to drive customers to their websites instead, where address and contact information, daily deals, and current menus are prominently displayed and easily accessible.
Set up YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn
Although your company may not have the marketing budgeting to maintain a video campaign, make sure that you at least set up your brand’s Google Plus and business pages, YouTube channel, and LinkedIn business page. That way, when you are ready to invest in expanding the scope of your social media marijuana marketing, you’ve already staked a claim on your brand’s online identity.
Although it may seem like a waste of time, especially in an industry where sheer growth has stretched many companies past capacity, social media marijuana marketing is not one size fits all and you will find, over time, that your audience gravitates toward and responds to different media platforms in constantly evolving ways.
If you can’t devote a fair amount of time to each social media platform, start with just registering your name and basic information across all of them. When starting your social media marketing campaign for a marijuana company, focus your initial efforts on the big four:
- Google Business
Not only are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram three of the most used social media platform, Getting your marijuana business verified on Google Business is another good idea if you want to maximize your business’s visibility on search results.
#MaJorIgnite Tip: Keep in mind that your audience will vary slightly from one platform to the next, as will the regulations your marijuana marketing must adhere to. Make sure your team is comfortable navigating the nuances of all social platforms.
Make sense of Google Adwords
Unlike Facebook, Google maintains the consistency of their regulations and implementation. Nevertheless, the company received quite a bit of press in 2016 after it suspended the AdWords account for Medtainer, a medical-grade storage container with built-in grinders. The accessory is used by both cannabis consumers who need to grind weed as well as caregivers looking to grind up medications for patients who can’t swallow whole pills.
Medtainer paid Google AdWords nearly $30,000 over the course of a year while their account was still active. However, in 2016 AdWords support advised MedTainer of their account suspension because their business promoted the use of “dangerous products and services” and their product “can be utilized for grinding the recreational drugs [sic].”
While MedTainer saw its AdWords account suspended, department store chains like Sears, Staples, and even Bed, Bath & Beyond were able to advertise the MedTainer product through Google AdWords.
According to a Google spokesperson, policies around cannabis are not affected by the size of the company sponsoring the ad. Instead, their policies revolve around the ads themselves and the products that people are selling as opposed to policing search queries. That means that users can still look up whatever related terms, like weed or marijuana, and the search engine will show organic results.
In the case of MedTainer and its products, “When they look for something that says, for example, ‘weed grinder,’ we identify that they are seeking to buy a grinder, so we do show ads that are compliant for grinders. If these products were marketed as ‘weed grinder’ by the seller, they would not be allowed. We interpret that search, if you’re searching for ‘weed grinder,’ we think you’re searching for ‘herb grinder’ and then we show you herb grinders.”
Marijuana Marketing and Advertising in the Future
As more markets open up to recreational cannabis, politicians and communities have begun to see the potential of the cannabis market come to fruition, making the end of federal prohibition the next logical step for lawmakers, industry leaders, and citizens alike.
In addition to easing regulations on cannabis advertising, the end of federal prohibition would also help patients in states with nascent cannabis industries get access to legally grown cannabis from out-of-state production facilities without having to turn to the black market while legal production facilities establish themselves over the course of 18 months up to three years.
Promote Your Cannabis Business with Marijuana Marketing Professionals
Our marijuana social media marketing team in Las Vegas is ready with the knowledge and the experience you need to ignite your brand across all social media platforms. Connect with MaJor Group today!