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Currently, cannabis is legal in 10 states and Washington D.C. in the US. With more states (and countries) trying to legalize it, the cannabis industry is booming. By 2025, the global legal marijuana market is set to reach $66.3 billion. What’s more, it’s anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 23.9%.
Image via Profit Confidential
But there are a lot of rules and regulation in the cannabis industry. For this reason, cannabis marketing is complex. Before we delve into the best strategies for cannabis marketing, let’s take a look at some of the issues involved.
Issues In Cannabis Marketing
The first concern with cannabis marketing is that it’s not legal everywhere. In some US states, marijuana is legal only in specific jurisdictions. So, your target audience is very limited. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The biggest concern is that most social media platforms have restrictions when it comes to cannabis marketing. Vee Popat, founder of marketing firm ColaDigital.ca, said in an interview that the cannabis market is all gray. He added that it’s difficult to come up with a marketing plan because the industry is very unpredictable in terms of the content that is allowed.
Google has banned CBD ads. So, one of the major forms of online advertising is automatically ruled out. There are reports that Google is running a trial program to test cannabis marketing. However, even if the program is successful, they won’t allow the use of the term, “CBD.” The term refers to cannabidiol, the active ingredient present in cannabis.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram advertising policies don’t specifically mention CBD. However, they prohibit the promotion of drugs or drug-related paraphernalia.
Image via Facebook
YouTube is a bit more lenient. While the community guidelines doesn’t clearly mention anything about cannabis marketing, it does state that harmful content is prohibited. That’s a vague guideline. So what does it mean? If you’re posting about medical marijuana on YouTube, you should be fine. Otherwise not.
Reddit’s Content Policy states that you can’t post content that promotes illegal activities. However, cannabis-related content isn’t directly mentioned. Reddit’s advertising policy mentions that sale of recreational drugs or substances is not allowed.
Pinterest doesn’t allow ads that promote the use or sale of recreational or illegal drugs. However, the social media platform is open to ads that promote CBD-only byproducts of cannabis that don’t have THC as well as hemp.
How to Promote Cannabis Products Online
With so many restrictions, how can you promote cannabis products? The first thing to keep in mind is that you need to tread lightly. If you don’t follow the rules, you risk getting banned on social media platforms.
The only way to fight the restrictions is to get creative with cannabis marketing. Here are a few strategies you can use to reach out to your target market:
1. Focus on Education, Not on Selling
Cannabis isn’t widely accepted socially yet. Many people aren’t aware about its benefits and usage. If you want to get more conversions, you need to first work on increasing awareness about cannabis.
Your content marketing strategy should focus on creating content that can educate the masses. According to a study by Conductor, consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product after reading educational content.
Danny Keith, founder of the first cannabis-based broadcasting network, Cannabis Cable TV, vouches for it.
In an interview with Forbes, he said, “There are more new customers in the cannabis space than in any other space in recent history around product consumption. Without education of product, customers are ignorant and the lack of budtender education is a white-hot space.”
Not only does it spread product awareness but it’s also a great way to get your foot in the door for social media advertising. As mentioned above, certain platforms allow educational content.
Take a look at Leafly’s Instagram page. It is one of the largest cannabis websites in the world. And they produce content that is informative, educational, and innovative.
Their Instagram page shows ways to use cannabis in different ways. They also publish news related to the cannabis industry.
Image via Instagram
Cannabrand founder Olivia Mannix warns marketers to be careful while creating content for cannabis marketing.
“Stay away from counterculture, cartoons, jokes and anything that puts a negative connotation on cannabis consumers in not only their branding and marketing strategies, but also on their social media pages,” she said.
2. Join Online Communities
Advertising cannabis products is illegal on Facebook. However, in 2018, Facebook tweaked their community standards to be more welcoming to cannabis brands. They now allow users to locate cannabis-related pages using the search option.
You can either create a community or page of your own or join an existing one. You can leverage the opportunity by posting links to educational content. Your focus should be on building an audience of like-minded people without directly advertising your products.
You can organize polls, AMA sessions, and share infographics to build engagement in such communities.
3. Collaborate With Influencers
An influencer’s endorsement can hold a lot of sway over public opinion. So you can collaborate with cannabis influencers to reach out to a broader audience.
Find influencers who genuinely believe in cannabis legalization to collaborate with. If you work with influencers who share similar values, you’re more likely to reach out to people who will be interested in your product.
Take for example Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an American neurosurgeon and health influencer. He is a respected voice in the medical community. So, he would be a perfect fit for marketing medical marijuana.
Image via Instagram
4. Work on Your SEO strategy
SEO is your best bet for cannabis marketing. There are no restrictions and you can get more visibility online. In fact, there are several agencies that work specifically on cannabis-related SEO.
If you run a cannabis dispensary or a shop that sells cannabis products, make sure you create a profile on Google My Business. It will make it easier for Google to understand what your company offers. In addition to this, your listing may even show up on Google Maps.
You can use platforms like Ahrefs and SEMrush to find relevant keywords to know what people are searching for. Based on that, you can include keywords in your blog posts and on your website.
5. Use Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a great way to promote your cannabis products without burning a lot of money. All you need to do is list the details of the affiliate program on your website.
After that, you can start recruiting marketers on a commission basis. You can also get in touch with influencers or join affiliate networks to reach out to cannabis users.
Cannabis marketing is a tough nut to crack. All social media platforms have some form of restrictions on promoting cannabis. If you want to grow your cannabis brand, you need to change your perspective for social media marketing.
Instead of selling, focus on creating product awareness and building a community. Collaborate with influencers and work on your SEO to make sure you get more visibility online.
Which other strategies can you use for cannabis marketing? Please share your insights in the comments section.