In barely two decades, social media has gone from a quirky time-suck for procrastinating college students to an integral part of maintaining and growing the brand identity of multibillion dollar companies.
Entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are as eager as any other business to turn online fans into loyal customers but abiding by the rules of social media platforms can be difficult.
Alice Moon is a Los Angeles-based publicist and social media strategist with Trailblaze, a public relations agency specializing in cannabis brands. She says that the policies about cannabis on social media are so strict because it remains federally illegal in the United States.
“Also, these are global brands,” Moon pointed out in a telephone interview. “It would take a lot of effort to change their policy for each country. The laws are so different everywhere, platforms would rather not deal with it at all than make it more cannabis friendly.”
If you try searching for certain names and terms on social media platforms – like “Spokane cannabis” if you are searching for local retailers – you might get limited results. Or if you click through a social media link on a cannabis brand’s website, you may get a “Sorry, that page does not exist” message if an account has been suspended for violating a platform’s rules.
“It’s risky to use hashtags. The majority of brands don’t realize what they are doing, and then they wonder why a post or page gets taken down,” Moon said.
One of the most common mistakes that Moon sees on Instagram is that a brand included their contact information – like a street address or phone number – in a bio, which is strictly prohibited.
“Instagram does allow brands to include a website link, as long as it is not a link to an online order or delivery page,” Moon explained.
Platforms do not want to be potentially accused of facilitating the sale of marijuana, especially because social media companies say this creates a possibility for illegal sales as well. That’s why contact information and promotion of product sales is not allowed on Instagram.
“Never use the word ‘sale’ or ‘available here,’” Moon advised.
Facebook and TikTok are two more not-so-cannabis-friendly platforms for brands.
“If you search the word ‘cannabis,’ you can’t even find it,” Moon said.
She said that creators get creative when referencing cannabis on these platforms, using code words like “broccoli” or “salad.” So, the common phrase “I’m going to smoke a bowl” becomes “I’m going to eat my greens,” followed by a leaf and puff of smoke emjojis.
Moon says Twitter is a more friendly platform, as you can list contact information, sales updates and links to purchase, but it’s not as popular with consumers.
“Brands will post on their Instagram to go visit their Twitter page for all the details about sales or products,” she said.
LinkedIn is another platform that Moon has found to be more accessible for the cannabis industry, although it’s better for building professional networks than attracting new customers. Industry professionals can include skills related to the cannabis industry on a profile and endorse colleagues in such areas.
Moon recently had a positive interaction with the editor-in-chief of LinkedIn after one of her cannabis-related posts was mistakenly removed; they reinstated the post and apologized. It’s rare to receive a non-automated message from many platforms – let alone from the EIC – especially for cannabis content.
Speaking of content, although brands don’t have as much freedom when it comes to promoting a business on social media, Moon says that many brands will partner with content creators who can post about their favorite products.
“It’s more flexible because the influencer is not the one selling it,” she said.
Moon advises that brands follow the standards set by the alcohol industry when it comes to sharing images of products. “They can be holding it but should not show consumption. That’s the direction we should be going; it still gets the messaging across.”
Despite all the difficulties with standard social media, Moon doesn’t see a cannabis-centric social media channel taking off in the same way Instagram and Facebook have, with 1.4 and 2.9 billion users, respectively.
“You’d be speaking to the echo chamber, not educating new customers,” Moon explained. “And the reach is not as strong, you can’t get that on a new app.”
To help cannabis brands use their social media most effectively, Moon offers online courses to create the perfect Instagram bio and how to get into the world of influencer marketing, as well as customized consultations.
To learn more, visit https: alicemoon.la.
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