As we get further into the 2000s, we can take a look at the world around us and compare it to the recesses of our memory.
Needless to say, there are some stark differences, but if you were to ask anyone about one thing that stands out about today’s world, their answer would have to be social media.
Once dismissed as a childish hobby for teenagers and try-hards, something that started off so trivial has become a fixture in society like Starbucks and Uber. (Remember when we weren’t supposed to get into cars with strangers?)
As much as we hate/envy celebrities, there used to be a skill involved in order to be one. Athletes, artists, actors, etc.; say what you want about them, but what you couldn’t say was they were talentless. Enter social media and suddenly, regular old people with an iPhone have become “celebrity brand ambassadors” that seem to be integral to some companies’ digital advertising campaigns because they… post a photo from a music festival with a #lit?
Leave it to humanity to latch onto such a ridiculous trend, but almost half of the world’s population is online, so naturally, us over here in the cannabis business have to adopt new marketing tactics to keep up with today’s ever-evolving dispensary technology.
There are many perks to adding social media marketing to your overall dispensary marketing strategy, and not just looking cute for the Discover page. Brand awareness, customer service, local SEO, and brand loyalty, among other metrics, are feeling all the love because of social media marketing. Especially for cannabis brands because of the barriers they face in using traditional marketing channels. According to research by Blue Fountain Media:
People love to be recognized, especially by the brands they enjoy using. Just being active on social media will show you care about what’s being said about your brand- good, bad or otherwise.
Engaging with your customers will give an added sense of humanity behind your brand, a smiling face, and a listening ear behind that fire product. Every interaction is a display of passion for your customers and potential customers, telling them how much their business and input means to you.
Even if it’s negative input- especially if its negative input- responding to it directly will put you in a positive light because customers see you actively trying to better your brand by engaging with your customer base and fulfilling their needs – not something a lot of retail cannabis brands can say.
Why all the fuss about dispensary customer relations? Because it all leads to a big boost in the word of mouth marketing, and in turn, customer loyalty, something worth quite a bit more than the $0.00 it costs to post a photo promoting your brand.
Entire businesses and industries are run through social media, with entire marketing strategies hinging on Instagram posts (trust us, better than email marketing). So let springbig’s cannabis CRM show you how to use them harmoniously with your dispensary marketing plan (or stop reading and book a demo so we can really show you).
As you’re probably well aware, the state of the cannabis industry is one of constant change. Legalization around the country is only growing, and with it, the number of cannabis users: “Within just the last five years, cannabis purchase and use have grown by 25%“, with the number of users rising 85% from 2009 to 123 million in ’17. And as legalization and popularity grow, so will the size of the pie we’re all bidding for a piece of forecasts project the cannabis industry to enjoy revenues of about $24 billion by 2025.
That’s with a ‘B.
That’s all great news for cannabis retailers, but with all this growth comes an influx of regulations for cannabis marketing. Marketing laws vary from state to state, and sometimes even from one municipality to the other, so marketers are forced to come up with marketing ideas for dispensaries that aren’t exactly traditional ways to promote their cannabis brand, often settling on experiential marketing or content marketing to relate to their customers.
That being said, we’re now going to focus on the guidelines of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that concern marketing cannabis products and dispensaries. These policies are a challenging trapeze course to navigate through in their own right. because the guidelines are frustratingly vague (maybe deliberately so), and if violated, your post and even your account could be taken down, so it’s important to understand the policies you’ll have to workaround:
According to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.” They even give an example of recreational marijuana as not being allowed.
According to Instagram’s, “Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts.
For a deep dive on cannabis marketing on Instagram read this article
According to Twitter’s advertising policies, “Twitter prohibits the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia.” The policy goes on to cite recreational and herbal drugs specifically as being against their advertisement policies.
So how can a cannabis dispensary take advantage of the benefits of cannabis social media marketing and run a marketing campaign successfully with all of these different policies banning talk about cannabis?
Fortunately, there is one thing you can do that can help you work around these policies: Displaying your website. Displaying your website is the loophole you should be taking advantage of in order to not only stand out on social media but to also generate the most leads.
In this, you can traffic to your website with posts about promotions and sales, (i.e. last week we had BOGO on KingPens. Wish you knew about it? Enroll in our loyalty program to receive text message updates on all the latest promotions, use the link in our bio to be the first to hear about these deals!”) but funnel it through the guise of promoting your dispensary’s loyalty program to avoid any problems with Instagram shutting your page down.
There’s not much wiggle room to work around, but it’ll have to do until the stigma surrounding cannabis is lifted. But, things aren’t as they used to be- that much we know. And as much as we hate to admit, the booming economy of “social influencers” and #dumbhashtags still serve a purpose, however tight we may clench our teeth as we continue to deal with it. But soon enough, this too shall pass and another dumb trend will come along and turn the world upside down…again. Except for this time, we’ll be ready for it.
While there are many social media platforms that lend themselves well to cannabis social media marketing, there is one social media platform that stands out above the others: Instagram.
That’s not to say the others aren’t important, because it is important that your customers are able to find you on whatever platform they frequent. But Instagram is one of the especially important social channels that dispensaries need to utilize because it allows you to build your online presence by leveraging the two most effective forms of media, photo, and video.
Instagram is special because it allows you to grab your audience with eye-catching pictures while also connecting with them through captions and keeping in touch with them in the comments.
What makes it even more powerful are Instagram’s stories where you can give your customers a special behind-the-scenes look into your dispensary. All of this allows you to not only build brand awareness but also build a voice and personality for your dispensary which will ultimately lead to customers or potential customers identifying with you, following your business, and hopefully purchase your products.
It’s important to note here that your goal isn’t to increase sales on Instagram, but to build awareness. With more brand awareness (and some patience) the sales will come.
While it holds huge potential, social media marketing is risky business because of all the restrictions we mentioned above, and one thing you’ll want to avoid is trying to sell anything directly through social media – so yes, hopefully, they are purchasing your products, just not through a link on your Instagram. This isn’t the only thing you should watch out for.
Building your brand on social media can be hard as a cannabis dispensary, but it can be done and can have huge pay-offs given you can do the following:
Your bio will be the first introduction people have to your page, so you’ll want it to stand out and adhere to the voice you choose for your brand, but you want to make sure you don’t mention cannabis, weed, marijuana, or any other variant of the name in it.
You’ll also want to make sure that your bio mentions that your content is for users 21+ to make sure you are adhering to Instagram’s guidelines.
What is dangerous about investing in and building a following on Instagram is that if your account gets deleted, you lose all of those followers and your entire investment – so it is best to try to take your subscribers off of Instagram and make them a text or email recipients.
That way, you can more directly market to them and give yourself a safety net just in case your account does get deleted.
Customer engagement is crucial, but too often you see businesses failing to respond to comments on their posts. While at some points there may be too many to respond to, it is always good practice to try messaging customers back and responding to comments as fast as possible.
In this way, you are showing your customers you care and making a good impression on them so that they will then spread the word about your dispensary.
Your subscribers won’t stick around if you aren’t consistent with your post. If you fail to post for weeks or months at a time, your subscribers will more than likely go find a dispensary or page that does post weekly and puts out content regularly.
Making sure your social media content strategy includes a posting schedule for every month or quarter can help you and your dispensary stay on top of your posts and keep your customers engaged.
One of the main benefits of social media is the analytics and insights that come with using it. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all come with analytics for businesses that can help businesses better understand what posts are working, and what posts aren’t.
In this way, optimizing your social media marketing strategy is made much easier. For example, you may find that linking to your website on your Instagram Story as opposed to in the comments of your posts is more conducive to customer engagement and lead-generation.
Instagram specifically states that selling or attempting to sell drugs on the platform is against policy. While cannabis is widely accepted by many, it is still a schedule-1 drug federally and thus it is against policy to attempt to sell cannabis on Instagram or even to link to your dispensary’s inventory page.
There is some wiggle room here – while to be safe we would suggest that you don’t post pictures of your products and instead post pictures of your team, business, customers, and events, you may be able to post pictures of your products. But if you do, it is at your own discretion.
That being said, you can avoid your post being flagged if you are going to post your products by making sure that your caption doesn’t mention anything about cannabis, marijuana, or any other variants of the name.
At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you and you can build a substantial following no matter which way you go.
If you follow the above guidelines when putting together and posting on your Instagram account, then you should be on your way to building a following and growing your brand awareness – but if you want to take your social media marketing strategy to the next level, then you should consider making room in your marketing budget for influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing turns your loyal customers or followers into your top advocates by enabling them to share promotional posts of your brand to their social networks in exchange for benefits at your dispensary or compensation.
This type of marketing has become extremely popular, and for good reason, it has proven itself to be extremely effective. For starters, it has the potential to yield an impressive ROI, with studies finding that on average businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
Instagram itself has proven itself to be the most effective platform for influencer marketing, with a recent survey finding that 79% of individuals considered Instagram as the most important platform for their influencer marketing, followed by Facebook at 46% and YouTube at 36%.
Studies also show that many businesses, 61%, found it difficult to find relevant influencers for their campaigns. Lucky for you springbig has you covered in that area with our referral platform Budz, which allows you to enable your loyalty members to become influencers for your brand.
With unique referral links for each of your loyalty members, live data to track results, and more, you’ll be able to get the most out of your influencer marketing strategy, optimize your social media marketing plan, and meet your business goals with springbig’s Budz.
Fore more insights into making your dispensary stand out check out our cannabis marketing guide
CEO and Co-founder of springbig