Cannabis still has a lot of stigmas to move past before mainstream society is fully accepting of it. This is made abundantly clear by Meta and Google (Alphabet) and their subsidiaries ban on paid cannabis advertising and history of removing accounts from the platforms for promoting legal cannabis businesses, I looked into this when I was working for a pre launch cannabis company and found a couple of articles that examine the problem and offer solutions.
In this article from TM Staff Cannabis Advertising Alternatives to Get Around Google, Facebook’s Restrictions this problem and says while these are limiting there are still digital strategies for meeting their target markets online.
Growing organically on social media is discussed first. Businesses can still share informative and entertaining cannabis related content on Facebook pages and in FB groups and suggests groups particularly as a way to naturally encourage discussion among your community. The section concludes by pointing out the importance of posting frequently and that using relevant hashtags has on social media growth.
Giving your content an SEO boost is another alternative marketing method. This includes creating helpful and original optimized content for your website and for sharing on the various platforms you are growing on. Google doesn’t allow the placing of ads but great content will always be irresistible to Google’s algorithm. Creating blog posts optimized with keywords, meta descriptions and tags as well as high quality media will make your content easier to find and more engaging. Landing pages are suggested to point visitors toward specific information. Dispensaries and cannabis tourism can benefit from local SEO strategies such as Google My Business and listed in cannabis related directories such as Weedmaps.
Lastly, Earning Customers Through Email & Text Marketing the article points out are an option. Using web forms on the companies website or call to action buttons on social media can be used to gather contact information you can use for text and email campaigns to alert customers to new products, events, deals and content. These campaigns can be automated by tools such as Sendlane since some email marketing solutions such as Mailchimp prohibit cannabis.
In Jeff Ragovin‘s article Why California’s cannabis billboard ban shouldn’t keep you up at night he begins by mentioning another roadblock to cannabis industry marketers, namely ever shifting local and state regulations over what kind of advertising is legal. Colorado and California’s have bans against billboards and many dispensaries have come up with the clever workaround of adopting highways. Because the problem will become more fractious as states and eventually the federal government legalize restrictions such as this will will become more numerous and varied so these solutions are too temporary and limited.
Programmatic digital advertising is future of cannabis marketing. He explains that this methods allows brands to optimize their targeting in real time freeing marketers from having to deal with platform restrictions. Google and Facebook’s value is being able to micro target potential customers for advertisers across their own platforms but Programmatic advertising can do the same things with everyone outside of the restrictive walls of these networks.
There’s an ocean of information from a wide range of sources such as transaction data that can be aggregated to allow for targeting customers who are interested in cannabis products.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data is the name for this which in addition to finding people who might be interested in buying your products can be used to exclude customers you already have, therefore not wasting your ad buys. This allows brand managers to move beyond simply “getting their name out there”.
For marketers, founders and brand managers in the cannabis industry frustrated over restrictions, I recommend these three actions to ensure your voice in the digital space.
- Create SEO optimized content for your website. Continuously create brand specific helpful and/or entertaining content for your website and make sure it’s optimized for search engines.
- Grow organically on Social Media. Use the above mentioned content to post on your social media accounts and interact with the people who respond.
- Use programmatic advertising. There’s a huge amount of publishers and content producers outside the social media walled garden who would love to work with you. Leverage big data and AI algorithms to automate your ad buys most effectively.
If you’re worried about the ever changing winds of government regulations on cannabis advertising or the exclusion of the largest web dominating social media giants, look further into these recommendations. I’d love to help.
About The Author:
My name is Ed Reibsamen, I’m studying Social Integrated Marketing Communication at Northwestern University. I’ve been creating websites and graphics for the music and cannabis industries since 2015 as well as managing social media accounts more recently.