Market Overview

Leveraging Instagram To Build Cannabis Businesses

Leveraging Instagram To Build Cannabis Businesses

By Bentley Rolling.

When you are trying to market your business in the cannabis industry, you have to think differently.

Traditional marketing verticals are not really an option for you; Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Instagram, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB), etc. all restrict advertising cannabis products, as well as accessories. In some cases, they even delete your business’ account.

So how do you get exposure in an industry where all the major players still see cannabis as illicit? 

This was a question I found myself asking when I first started marketing cannabis products. Even though these outlets want to silence our community, you can still leverage their selling power with a few work arounds. I’ve found these methods work even better than using the ad platform. 

Quality Content First

It does not matter the amount of people who see your account if they have nothing to look at. Focus on creating quality, engaging content.

Think from a consumer perspective.

What content do you find yourself sharing, saving and direct messaging?

Generally speaking, it is either beautiful, awe-inspiring, funny or educational. Figure out how you can create content that fits both your brand identity, while encouraging interaction. Interaction is the key to growing your community and getting on the Explore Page. 

Getting On The “Explore” Page

The Explore Page is a curated page of related content to posts users have liked in the past and is where people look to find new accounts to follow.

If you make it on the Explore Page it gives you exposure far beyond your core group of followers, making it the fastest way to gain an organic following. When people see the shareable content you have created, they tend to check out your account to see if you have any other content they may relate to. This results in a large percentage of new followers.


Why use hashtags?

This helps categorize your content, gets you on the Explore Page and allows users to find what they are most interested in. Recently, Instagram started allowing users to also follow specific hashtags, making it a great way to show up in their feed even if they don’t follow you yet.

I recommend creating a couple brand specific hashtags, so your biggest fans can share about your brand and it will all be categorized in one place. I also recommend using popular industry specific hashtags. If your post Starts trending on a major hashtag, this gives you a large boost in exposure to a cannabis specific audience. It is important to alternate which hashtags you use and to limit the amount you are using, as it could trigger Instagram to label you as a spam or bot account.

When done properly, the use of Hashtags will result in a large percentage of new followers.

Building A Strong Relationship With Your Followers

Follower count is just a number unless you build a meaningful relationship with them. You may wonder why you would want to build a relationship with someone you don’t know?

People are far more likely to support a brand that they have a personal connection to, which results in brand loyalty and more sales.

How do you build a relationship online?

Respond to comments and direct messages in a meaningful way and interact with your community by commenting on others’ posts. You can also use Instagram’s Stories and Lifestreams to give your community a more behind the scenes look into your company, product and history, without having to worry about it being as polished as a post on your page. This gives you a chance to attach more personality to your brand and connect with your customers in real time.

You can also partner with influencers in the community, allowing them to take over your story or do a joint Livestream. 

Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing is a method of leveraging someone else’s following to gain even more exposure for your brand. When an influencer shares about your product, their loyal audience will be more inclined to see what your brand is all about.

The key is to find accounts that have a large amount of interaction, as well as share a common belief and aesthetic. Follower count is starting to become obsolete in a world where people pay for fake followers. Fake people don’t make real purchases.

You need to identify which accounts have the most likes and, more importantly, real comments. That number reflects their real selling power. You will be surprised how fast this method will increase your sales and your following. Even if you don’t immediately make a sale, you will get many more chances to sell to your newly gained followers. In addition to influencer marketing, you should take advantage of cannabis centric accounts/publications. 

Advertising On Cannabis-Centric Accounts

It’s important to identify the most trusted publications/accounts in your industry. Accounts like High Times, Leafly, Herb, etc. have millions of engaged followers.

When they say something is cool, people are inclined to believe them, as they have positioned themselves as the authority in the community. This makes them a great outlet to advertise with. A well made video shared on these types of accounts can result in a rush of followers and sales. It can be expensive, but it’s worth it. Beyond exposure, it gives your brand a new level of credibility. 

Experiment With Comment Pods

What is a comment pod?

Simply put, it’s a direct message group on Instagram. It works on an honor system. All the users in the comment pod, let the group know when they’ve shared a new post. Then the members of the group navigate to their post to like it and leave a meaningful comment. Then you return the favor when they share a post. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I recommend this for many reasons.

First, it helps you make connections with other creators and brands in the industry. Second, it helps boost your post as the Instagram algorithm sees this large amount of interaction and categorizes your post as “shareable”. This can result in an increased chance of making it to the Explore Page and trending on a hashtag. All of which increases your overall reach. 


The more time and effort you put into your brand’s presence upfront, the more exponential it will grow on it’s own in the future, with a lot less effort needed. With these simple practices above, you can circumvent the archaic censorship of cannabis on Instagram, while leveraging the platform’s very real selling power. 

If you would like more hands on help with growing your brand’s community online, contact Bentley at

All images by Bentley Rolling.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.


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