The cannabis industry continues to march into the future with new states legalizing and the end of federal prohibition seemingly just around the corner. Yet even as the industry is legitimized, individual growers, brands and retailers are often blocked from accessing the social media advertising tools available to other businesses, often without any clear indication as to why.
Cannabis brands must navigate unclear rules about what can be published without getting profiles shut down and they are often unsure if it makes a difference in sales. This guide provides a few easy tips to improve your social media marketing today.
At the core of any social media strategy are content themes that outline the designated areas in which you will develop content. Many in the cannabis industry focus on the most obvious theme — promotional content, because it correlates to sales. However, according to a survey by Sprout Social, the No. 1 reason customers will unfollow a brand is that it posted too many promotional messages.
Diversifying your themes will not only avoid annoying your customers, it can actually endear them to your brand, setting you up for the “soft sell” next time they are looking for products. Here are a few themes to consider to make your brand more relatable to a broader audience:
– Behind the scenes: Your day-to-day may not be very interesting to you, but for outsiders looking in, the inner workings of a cannabis company can be very interesting. Content that highlights your facilities, your employees and your operations can put a relatable, human face on your brand. Got an office dog on staff? Pets are social media gold and highlighting your furry mascot is a great strategy.
– User-generated content: There’s not much people love more about social media than being recognized and appreciated. Finding creative ways to feature the posts, photos and videos of your followers will show that you care about your customers. Don’t be afraid to ask for your followers to share a photo or video with you.
– Products in context: The same customer who scrutinizes flower in the shop may not want a social feed flooded with pictures of buds. Finding creative ways to showcase your products can make your content more shareable for more customers. Subtly place products in a lifestyle context that customers can relate to, like a low-dose edible amongst yoga gear or a pack of pre-rolls in a camping bag.
– Adjacent category content: An easy way to diversify your content is to leverage other content in which your customers are interested. This could include lifestyle content like top yoga retreats or music festivals, hobby content like snowboarding and camping or local content like sports teams and local news.
– Sharing content: Supplement your own content with that of other brands through a targeted sharing and retweeting strategy. Find brands your customers enjoy or you would like them to associate with your brand and strategically share content from those feeds.
– Diversify your platforms: Posting exactly the same content on every social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) will ensure your customers follow, at most, one of your profiles. Diversify your content by platform to give customers a reason to follow all. For example, use Twitter to share daily news and updates, Facebook for lifestyle content and Instagram for behind-the-scenes photos.
Defining a clear voice and tone for your brand is key to consistently delivering posts that are on-brand. This gets particularly difficult when multiple team members are posting on your behalf. Is your brand voice humorous or sarcastic? Are emojis on-brand? What hashtags are you targeting? What terms or slang are appropriate when referring to products?
Having answers to these questions and training employees how to properly represent your brand is key. As you decide what language is appropriate, remember that for most consumers, brands should not speak too much like people. Overusing slang, emojis or pushing opinions are a fast way to get unfollowed.
Great photographs and videos are paramount in today’s social media ecosystem. These assets are your first and often only shot to “stop the scroll” as users browse their social feeds. Whether you’re using a high-end DSLR camera or your smartphone, here are a few tips to help you take and publish better multimedia content:
– Lighting matters: Whether you’re using natural light or indoor fluorescents, lighting will change the entire look of your image. Look at where the light is coming from and where it casts shadows, then try a few angles to see which puts the best light on your subject.
– Use the flash: It may be counterintuitive, but a flash can be useful even during the day. Using a flash can help drive out dark corners and shadows. Try to angle the flash and your natural light sources to get full illumination on the subject. When in doubt, try it both ways.
– Buy a lightbox: Whether it’s for your own site, your online menu or to make a social post about new products, using a lightbox is a cheap and easy way to take professional-grade photos of all your products.
– Get in close: Especially when photographing people, getting closer to your subject will not just give you a clearer picture, it can actually help the viewer know exactly what to focus on.
– The rule of thirds: Rather than putting your subject smack in the middle of your image, imagine your photo is cut into thirds and use the lines to the left or right of center as guides. This will balance your subject against the background, helping viewers focus on what’s important
– Crop your photos: Each social platform is optimized for a specific image size and format. Taking the time to crop and resize your photos for each platform will help your subject stay in frame and your image maximize the available space in each user’s feed.
Platform Best Practices
While content themes and good photography are important regardless of which social platforms you use, each has their own intricacies that must be taken into account.
– Copy length: Twitter may have a hard cap on character count, but did you know that even on Facebook, shorter posts perform better? On social media, brevity is king, so always be brief and put the most important information first. Help keep your copy short by letting your image or video do the talking.
– Be responsive: Customers look to social media as a direct communication channel; when they complain to a brand, 72% of them expect a response within an hour. Ensure that your social media staff are prepared to respond (with proper voice and tone) and that they are accountable for missed messages.
– Be compliant: Understanding and following community and advertising guidelines for each platform is murky work at best. With an unclear “safe path,” brands must proceed with caution. When buying promoted posts, avoid using cannabis terms and cannabis imagery. Posting about adjacent category content can get you around the algorithms that flag content for inspection.
As with any marketing strategy, social media content is a never-ending game of testing and learning. Monitoring how each piece of content performs will steer you in the right direction. The social media landscape for cannabis brands is turbulent at best, but as more states legalize, the restrictions on cannabis content will relax.
Until then, it is best to proceed with caution when developing your content. Diversifying your content themes will not only help you avoid content policing algorithms, it will also help develop a broader appeal for your brand. So try new things, experiment with adjacent categories and engage with your followers to see what they like.
As Flowertown’s marketing strategist, Scott Heter specializes in consumer research and insights, campaign development and content strategy. He has more than eight years of experience marketing for national brands in the consumer packaged goods, business-to-business, automotive, insurance, restaurant and travel industries.