There’s no business like the cannabis business, we’re all in it together and despite (or maybe because of) the challenges, we love it. One of the areas with “challenges” is cannabis social media.
Every cannabis brand knows that social media is an integral part of branding – and done right, it can play a pivotal role in press opportunities as well. Yet, it can be a little disheartening to be on social media when just about every platform has become “pay to play.” But, never fear, there are solutions to the cannabis social media challenge.
There are so many social media opportunities, I hope you’ll take a look at this and think about these issues within cannabis social media and how you can lead the industry with your social media.
Product First, Second AND Third?
One of the issues I currently have with cannabis social media is that it’s so product forward, there’s so much opportunity to tell stories on social, and yet stream after stream is a picture of a plant or a bottle or a vape. OF course, it’s important to put your product out there, but who (besides a bot) stops to comment on a picture like that? The opportunity in cannabis social media is to create a passionate audience–very few people get really excited about product images. Think about the last visual ad you saw, I bet you remember the story in the ad better than the product hero shot.
So what should we do about product/story balance?
Consider including product within a mix of posts. Either find a way to tie together a series of posts that together, tell a story. Your stories can be vignettes, values, people, anything that underscores your brand values and attributes. Within the context of these brand values, your goal is to make people pause long enough to look again, maybe even long enough to look at the rest of your feed. Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t post product at all, I want you to post the product, especially in ways that highlight your customer’s experience. I WANT you to have products shots, but
Disruption: The Good, The Bad and The Amazing
First, I’d like to encourage all brands to consider the nascent stages we’re in and consider that it’s on all of us, as a community to improve our image. If you’re going to take risks on social (and not every brand is a “risk taking” brand), then be very clear about how other people perceive the message you’re putting out there. For example, if you’re marketing to women, be aware, women aren’t generally all that jazzed about hypersexualized images. But hey! If you’ve done the research and your cannabis brand is about disruption, and you’re using images like this strategically, I’m a huge fan of bold moves. But go into that kind of brand risk-taking with open eyes. You might just end up on the pages of a publication with an outraged journalist writing a missive about their disgust. And even if THAT doesn’t happen, you may forever alienate the people you thought would be interested in your product. Strong brands sometimes do alienate people, but that’s usually because they know their audience SO well, they know their audience will stand by them. Knowing your audience that well means you’ve done your research.
Maximize your payoff
On the other hand, recently I’ve seen some cannabis brands take a strong stand on controversial social justice issues. It’s a gutsy move, but when it’s consistent with the brand, it’s previous community building and presented well, it has the potential for huge pay-off. I’m personally really excited when I see brands taking a strong stand on issues, even when they aren’t MY issues, I’m excited to see brands stand for something. If you’re going to take a risk like this, lean into it, own it. Make sure the language and the imagery support the position in a strong, powerful way, and when you do this, leave out the product placement. Let your leadership shine, let the connectivity happen. Strong positions are much more memorable when they don’t feel like an advertisement.
Rethinking Social Media Influencers
When I Googled “cannabis influencers” today I got 4,530,000 hits, so clearly, it’s a thing. Most social media influencers know their value, and social media influencers are advertisements. Treat them as such. I’m not suggesting the relationship isn’t collaborative, because it is. What I’m telling you is keep your brand strong, You’d never let someone create a print ad for you without reviewing it. Insist on that same communication with your influencer.
But since you’re collaborating with your influencer anyway, why not invite their creative input for what the post(s) will look like. I’ve found that content creators are incredibly creative and they’re so excited when someone wants to hear THIER ideas, the collaborative outcome is much better than originally imagined.
The “thing” I wish cannabis brands realize is that you can pay big bucks per post for social reach and usually get really beautiful, custom content in return. Or you can do it for a less expensive per-post price and get a higher percentage of reach with a little grittier content. In either case, you’ll be managing the influencer, and the bigger the influencer, the bigger the personality, but also, the more professional. Really be thinking about what you expect from your cannabis influencer campaign and how you’ll evaluate success.
One last word of advice about social media influencers: no cannabis brand has been publicly fined for lack of disclosure, YET. Don’t be the first. Brush up on the FTC’s disclosure rules about social media influencers and don’t assume you’re flying beneath the radar, because cannabis is never REALLY under the radar.
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