The legal marijuana industry has come a long way in the last decade, from greater public awareness and acceptance to the number of states who have legalized it. When it comes to cannabis advertising and marketing your cannabis brand digitally, however, there’s plenty of catching up to do.
Four of the world’s largest digital players — Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — still have landlocked restrictions against promoting THC and CBD-related products on their websites.
This has left many cannabis brands confused and turning to traditional advertising methods as a fallback, but traditional strategies aren’t the only reroute around the restrictions that have stymied so many cannabis companies beforehand.
The time to invest in digital cannabis advertising and marketing is now. The legal cannabis industry is currently the fastest growing in the United States, and digital marketing spending budgets are primed to surpass traditional marketing strategies for the first time ever.
Organic social media pages and posts, SEO-boosted content, and email and text message campaigns are a few key digital marketing strategies you can use to better advertise your cannabis brand.
Let’s first take a look, however, at the restrictions currently holding cannabis companies back.
Defining Digital Cannabis Advertising Restrictions
While traditional marketing methods may rely on the restrictions and regulations made by each legal cannabis state, the digital space is a little different. Websites, apps, and platforms are able to make rules arbitrarily at their discretion.
Even worse, most digital businesses like Google often take an extremely cautious, if not zero-tolerance, policy approach for displaying digital paid ads about cannabis products because the cannabis flower itself is still federally illegal. They don’t touch cannabis advertising with a 10-foot pole.
Despite individualized restrictions being implemented, in general, these are the regulations set against cannabis advertisements online:
- The advertising copy can’t suggest the product provides health and/or medical benefits
- Elements of the advertisement must not directly appeal to children, such as cartoon characters
- The advertisement can’t include false or misleading information, including about a business’ competitor
- Advertisements can’t include testimonials or endorsements
- No form of the cannabis product can be shown being consumed in a digital ad
- The advertisement can’t include the product’s price, potency, or any promotional offers
- Advertisements for products infused with cannabis have to be properly labeled “For Adult Use Only”
These restrictions stand in place whether the cannabis product is THC or CBD. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, legalizing hemp-derived CBD products in the United States, companies, like Facebook and Google, still reject these digital paid ads.
Taking these advertisements off the table, however, doesn’t mean cannabis companies can’t still capitalize on other digital marketing strategies to promote and spread their brand across the web.
Cannabis Advertising Alternatives
Today’s consumers start their purchasing journey online, so it’s important for cannabis brands to meet their target audiences on the websites, apps, and platforms they’re already visiting.
With digital paid advertisements out of the discussion, for now, marketing strategies, like social media, SEO, and email and SMS marketing, can be good places to start.
Growing Organically on Social Media
Sure Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter don’t let cannabis brands promote paid advertisements on their platforms, but there’s a better, cost-effective way to reach audiences across these platforms.
Posting organic content on your business pages and accounts, creating a group to share cannabis-related content, and interacting with your intended audience on each social media platform can all be great ways to increase your organic reach and promote your business.
As of 2018, Facebook lifted its ban on marijuana-related pages, making it an apt space for businesses to curate around their audience’s needs. These pages could highlight internally created blog posts, provide insights from experts in the industry, or directly promote your brand.
If your company focuses on the medical benefits and use of cannabis, create and invite online users to a group where everyone can discuss different medical news updates, ailment solutions, and more. Companies with a focus on specific soil and fertilizers to grow cannabis plants may form a community around growing techniques, best practices, and recommended products to use.
For your cannabis brand to sprout new wings and succeed in organic social media marketing, it’s important to post frequently and generate relevant hashtags that will introduce you to conversations already being discussed online or allow you to start conversations with your customers.
Giving Your Content A SEO Boost
Another alternative cannabis advertising method includes creating content that can then be optimized to land a primetime spot on the web. Just because Google doesn’t give cannabis companies the opportunity to place paid advertisements doesn’t mean the company’s great content can’t place high in search result rankings.
Creating blog posts around topics of interest to cannabis consumers can be optimized using keywords, meta descriptions and tags, and high-quality multimedia, such as photos or videos, to catch the attention of a company’s target audience.
Landing pages can be created and optimized for the web to point customers to the specific information they may be looking for. From there, you already have the customer on your website, you just have to redirect them elsewhere on your website and keep them engaged.
Making use of local SEO strategies can pay dividends for a cannabis brand too. By showing up on Google with a Google My Business profile or being listed in local (think Yelp and Yellowpages) and cannabis-related (like Weedmaps and Leafly) directories, you can get past the restrictions and have a better chance of getting noticed by prospective customers.
Creating organic SEO-optimized content for the web can also have the dual benefit of being posted and promoted on your companies social media accounts too.
Earning Customers Through Email & Text Marketing
Email and text message campaigns that target customers through automation can be an efficient, cost-effective method of connecting with new and existing customers.
Creating a form or using a call to action button are two ways to compile customers’ contact information in an organized fashion. Once you have a base of customers, you can create email campaigns around new product alerts, special events and promotions, exclusive deals to subscribers, videos and vlogs, and any other digital content you can imagine.
By using automation within these campaigns, through tools like SharpSpring and MailChimp, you can begin to score your new customer leads by how much they’re interacting with your content. Seeing which leads are “hot” and “cold” can allow you to send targeted messages to your highest-rated customers.
It’s important to measure and understand the frequency that you’re sending content out to customers through email and SMS. No one wants to be bombarded with an overrun email inbox or have their phone buzzing off the hook. Create two options for each campaign and push them out at different times and frequencies to measure what may work best.
That said, the numbers point to email marketing campaigns still raking in success. According to Litmus, every $1 that’s invested into email campaigns sees an average return of $36 in product revenue. To see this type of success, create intentional, focused, and well-timed email and SMS campaigns.
Don’t Be Afraid of Digital
We get it — it’s tough out there for a cannabis business to market and advertise online. Facebook, Google, and the like have placed hard and fast restrictions that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Just because they’re stuck in the past though doesn’t mean you have to be. There are plenty of accessible, advantageous cannabis advertising alternatives on the web. These digital cannabis marketing methods may take a little time to grow and pay off, but the best part is they’re all relatively low-cost or free to start. We’re ready to get started with you.
Contact our talented marketing team to take your cannabis advertising from the weeds to your customers’ newsfeeds.