With the current proliferation of new cannabis businesses and products, it’s easy to think of cannabis as a cutting edge industry. But many of these “new” applications involve technologies used by other industries for 10 years or more.
Social media represents a perfect example of this phenomenon. While many forward thinking businesses have made social media an important part of their marketing strategy for years, the cannabis industry was late to the party. Success required us to remain in the shadows, so marketing with social media was too great a risk.
Now that we are operating as a legal industry, we have the opportunity to use these powerful platforms to deliver our messages and market our products.
Social Media Strategy
Social media are essentially free to use, making return on investment nearly infinite. They are ubiquitous—not everyone is on every social media, but almost everyone is on some social media. Facebook has more than 1.2 billion users, and a recent Pew Survey found that more than 70 percent of Americans who are online use social media. Mobile phone companies have even begun to offer Facebook-only data packages. This means that a growing number of Americans can only access the internet via Facebook.
Effective use of social media requires a strategy. Ask yourself whether your posts offer your customers value. Set a goal of over-delivering value, and let this be your guiding principle as you craft and implement your social media strategy.
Begin by identifying the social media that you will use. At Pure Green, we focus on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We have recently begun posting on Google+ as well, mainly for the SEO bump that it provides.
Next determine how often you will post on each medium and what types of posts you will make. Promotional posts highlight available products and upcoming events and promotions. Socially approved content means the reposting of articles and other useful information.
Our industry has generated a third type of post, known affectionately as weed porn. This category includes pictures and close-ups of flowers and concentrates. Macro shots comprise an important subcategory of this genre as well. Promotional posts often have a weed porn component to them.
The trick is to find the right mix of posts to keep your customers engaged. Too much promotion and they will tune you out. Too much socially approved content and they won’t know about all the great products you have to offer. As far as we can tell, there is no such thing as too much weed porn.
While posting to social media represents a crucial first step, posting alone is not enough. After all, the goal is not simply for people to see your posts, but for them to engage with your posts and ultimately to buy your products.
Engagement should be part of your social media strategy. This can be incorporated into your posts by asking questions or having social media contests. We recently posted a picture of a couple hundred pre-rolls on our Instagram feed. In the comment section, we identified the product and the promotional price. At the end, we added a little question: “How long would it take you to smoke all of these?” This generated comments, creating engagement.
You can also engage by following others, commenting on other posts and reposting. This can initiate conversations that create additional opportunities to deliver value. Hashtags are important here as well, providing another avenue to engage potential customers.
Implementing the Plan
The next step after you develop your strategy is to implement it effectively. This can be a part-time or even a full-time job. Once you begin implementation, you must post and engage consistently. Even people who love your posts won’t keep coming back if you don’t have anything new.
At Pure Green, we have a social media coordinator who posts, engages and generally manages implementation. Choose carefully when hiring a social media coordinator. He or she will be one of the primary public faces of your business.
Tracking lets you know how well your social media strategy is (or isn’t) working. Tracking is easier online, where every behavior is logged. In the brick and mortar world, tracking can be much more challenging.
Most social media sites offer some analytics. These analytics can help determine engagement by providing statistics like how many likes, favorites, retweets etc. you generate.
This only gets you so far, since the ultimate goal is to sell products, not just accumulate Instagram likes. Have your staff ask every customer how they heard about you and diligently log this information. Over time, it will provide insight into whether your social media presence is driving traffic.
You can also use your contests and special offers to track. For example, say something like “mention this post for $5 off” and count how many people come in for a discount. Though somewhat rudimentary, this will give you a little data to go by.
The transition to a fully legal cannabis industry will create many opportunities to develop and utilize new technologies. It will also allow us to gain competitive advantages by applying existing technology to our fledgling industry.
Social media is a perfect example of the latter. Companies in a variety of industries have found effective ways to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies. Many cannabis companies have already adapted these strategies to marijuana.
Your customers are on social media. Your competitors are on social media. Are you?
Matt Walstatter and his wife, Meghan, are the owners of Pure Green, a patient owned and operated dispensary in Portland, Oregon. They have jointly owned and operated cultivation centers since 2001. Their dispensary opened in 2013. Matt can be reached at (971) 242-8561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]
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