How Cannabis Brands Can Utilize Social Media and Other Nontraditional Channels

Restrictions on platforms make marketing tricky

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Just like alcohol and tobacco, the cannabis industry has been restricted when it comes to advertising and marketing. The government dictates what and how brands can advertise.

This means you’re unlikely to see a targeted sponsored Facebook ad for your favorite cannabis products. Even blogs, news sites and influencers have been censored just for talking about the plant and the industry at large. This has encouraged the advent of new channels, as well as a re-thinking of how to build customer loyalty in the modern era.

As the main consumer-facing operators in the space, dispensaries are feeling the wrath of the restrictions and regulations that are imposed on the industry and finding creative ways around them.

Similar to any other small business or big brand, dispensaries are creating Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts to build a presence among consumers. Unfortunately, there is a major problem with the way these platforms police drug-related content, and it affects the industry in a big way.

No matter how popular they are or how beautiful their photo grids, companies risk their accounts getting shut down and losing all their followers if they post the wrong thing. Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service state that accounts cannot promote the use or sale of illegal drugs and the platforms don’t offer any leeway based on a brand’s state-legal status.

Faced with tight restrictions on all social media platforms, many cannabis brands are learning that it’s flat-out irresponsible to put marketing spend into traditional social media channels. Without them, however, there are no easy ways for brands to scale marketing campaigns, track ROI or analyze audience demographics.

For these brands, the key marketing motive is to transform latent audiences into new customers and then again into returning customers. To accomplish this, they use many tools, some familiar and some totally unique to the cannabis space.

Smart cannabis retailers know that the key to getting a foot in the door is fostering customer loyalty. That being said, the mobile phone is the ultimate digital tool that cannabis brands need to look at.

Many cannabis brands are learning that it’s flat-out irresponsible to put marketing spend into traditional social media channels.

Sending friendly updates, coupons and product photos via text message is a quick and totally compliant way to push content directly to customers and stay top-of-mind among a sea of competitors. Plus, companies who use direct SMS services can record responses and retarget campaigns based on their most loyal customers and their unique shopping preferences.

Find a more unique route

Unlike social platforms, which prohibit paid cannabis media, SMS services allow marketers to track the performance of each text message campaign. Click rates, redemptions and, most importantly, resulting store visits are all vital data points that cannabis companies can’t get anywhere else.

Direct SMS marketing also allows for dispensaries to acquire new customers, even outside the confines of the store environment, via web forms or text-to-join keywords. Dispensaries can easily advertise a call to action for people to send a quick text to their sign-up line, engaging customers while collecting their information for future campaigns.

Connect through traditional channels

Though it won’t be the most effective form of cannabis marketing, building a basic, bare-minimum presence on the traditional channels is still important. Consumers live on social media and like to be in direct contact with brands they are interested in. Instagram direct messages are a hotbed of authentic conversations in the cannabis industry, both B2B and consumer.

Chatbots, like those introduced to the Facebook Messenger platform recently, may also hold a lot of promise for cannabis brands. These automated responders provide an instant “personalized” interaction, which is vital in capturing the attention of and educating the cannabis-curious individual. Though your brand may not be allowed to push a Sponsored Facebook Ad, you can be there to answer questions on-demand.

The cannabis industry is under immense regulatory pressure and that high pressure is creating figurative diamonds in the world of marketing technology. Don’t feel discouraged if your brand is facing obstacles—simply find a new solution.