'A Bit Scrappier': How Cannabis Marketers Navigate Social Media Restrictions

Cannabis companies continue to rake in revenue. This comes with little to no advertising channel on social media platforms such as Twitter TWTR, Facebook FB or Instagram. The same applies to Google GOOGL GOOG ads.

Facebook prohibits cannabis ads under its Community Standards policy, although recent rumors suggest a policy change could occur.

Per Google's stance on recreational drugs, cannabis ads are not allowed. This applies to CBD as well, which the company also includes on its unapproved substances list.

A choice few businesses have found ways to advertise on these platforms. Yet most fail to do so and must turn to alternative marketing tactics.

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How Regulations Affect Cannabis

Joel Lunenfeld is chief marketing officer at NorCal Cannabis Co. Previously, Lunenfeld was at Twitter working as its brand strategy head. In cannabis, he said he notices the same restrictions that were found in early social media.

"The limitations we had early on — which were a lack of targeting and measuring tools, a lack of analytics and a lack of real native ads the platforms built over the years — they are not at our disposal today,” he said.

Lunenfeld said a lack of technology and targeting tools from these platforms leads NorCal and other cannabis companies to become "a bit scrappier." For NorCal, this means an emphasis on organic, community-driven content driven by influencers.

Nam Tran is brand director of ad and management agency The Goodfellas Group. Tran said social media regulations don't affect the company's focus on developing relationships with retail and dispensary owners.

"It takes a little creativity but it is definitely achievable," he said. "With our new brands, we focus on working with the stores to develop a solid consumer base within their local community. Doing this in multiple regions will allow the brand to organically grow on social media through word-of-mouth and real user testimonials."

Effective Tactics

Both Tran and Lunenfeld noted the need for creative marketing tactics. NorCal relies on outdoor and print advertising. The company also incorporates live events and works with influencers to, Lunenfeld said, “tell our story through their story.”

The Goodfellas Group taps into tactics from its past medical marijuana market forays: patient appreciation days, also known as in-store demos.

"It is a great way to work with a store to build a consumer base within their local community,” Tran said. “Once the store has the base, it is a lot easier for us to pitch the store on increasing our shelf space when they have a good existing business with the brand."

A Change In Policy At Facebook

The previously mentioned policy change at Facebook could alter how many cannabis brands advertise. For NorCal, it sees a path where its content marketing focuses on educating consumers and telling them about their options, safety and wellness usage of an item.

"With that approach in our content marketing ... with these platforms, we find them to be a bit more inviting to work with us in the future," said NorCal's CMO.

Social Media Slowdown?

For a year or so, reports have suggested that social media use is down virtually across the board. Notably, teens have shifted away from popular platforms from an earlier era.

Lunenfeld does not subscribe to this notion. He acknowledged that daily and some monthly metrics may be flat.

Yet: “the reach of social media, the off-platform reach, the embedded news stories and articles is larger than ever.”

Going forward, the CMO said he expects to see a crossover between cannabis influencers and those working in tangential sectors that launch brands and build communities together.

Effective Branding

Both Tran and Lunenfeld emphasized the importance of authenticity in branding. Tran also pointed out the importance of not becoming lost in the wealth of content online.

"Let's be honest, a social media page with just pictures of close-ups of flower will become white noise really fast. Becoming white noise is not good."

Lunenfeld singled out social equity efforts as well. He noted the importance of "products that have more good baked into the business model and local activation that really help raise up the communities that we work with."

Aside from the rumors of Facebook’s policy change, no other potential plans have surfaced as of late.

Related Links:

Report: Facebook Looking To Ease Cannabis Advertising Rules

Facebook And Instagram's Anti-Weed Stance Frustrates Cannabis Entrepreneurs

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentRegulationsTop StoriesMarketsTechInterviewJoel LunenfeldmarijuanaNam TranNorCal CannabisThe Goodfellas Group
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