Categories
BLOG

cbd oil instagram

Instagram Marketing for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses

Content published by businesses on Instagram can directly lead to increased brand awareness, word-of-mouth marketing, and sales. According to research by Facebook (which owns Instagram), 83% of users say they’ve discovered new products or services on Instagram. Similarly, 81% have researched products or services on Instagram, and 80% have decided whether or not to buy a product or services by using Instagram.

But that’s not all. 87% of Instagrams users say they’ve taken action after seeing product or service information on Instagram. Specifically, they have:

  • Searched for more information (79%)
  • Visited the brand’s website or app (65%)
  • Made a purchase online or offline (46%)
  • Visited a retail store (37%)
  • Followed the brand’s account online (31%)
  • Talked to someone about the brand, product, or service (29%)

The data shows Instagram is one of the most effective platforms that businesses can use to promote their products and services to online audiences, but Instagram has a history of shutting down accounts for cannabis and cannabis-related businesses and brands.

Despite that history, some cannabis businesses have found success on Instagram, and your cannabis business or cannabis-related business can be successful on Instagram too. You just need to know what you can and can’t do, and follow the rules.

Instagram Guidelines

Specifically, Instagram’s Community Guidelines state, “buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is not allowed.” That means buying or selling cannabis products (even if recreational marijuana is legal in your state) is not allowed on Instagram because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

The key to leveraging Instagram for cannabis marketing is to take that statement from the Community Guidelines very seriously. Instagram is notoriously inconsistent about deleting cannabis business accounts. One account may get away with publishing posts that blatantly violate the guidelines while others are deleted for simply pushing the edge of those boundaries the tiniest bit.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what cannabis businesses and brands should avoid and what you should do to stay on Instagram’s good side.

Mistakes to Avoid in Cannabis Instagram Marketing

Instagram’s rules make it very clear that posts which promote the sale of cannabis are not allowed. As mentioned above, Instagram’s application of that rule has been inconsistent, but it’s safe to say there are a few things cannabis license holders should not do in order to avoid having their Instagram accounts shut down without warning or recourse.

Some of the key mistakes to avoid when cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses post content to Instagram are listed below. Keep in mind, these mistakes apply to both the content of the images and text that you post.

  • Don’t publish anything that references your prices.
  • Don’t publish anything that references a sale, discount, and so on.
  • Don’t publish anything that says you offer any type of product or service “for sale” in any way.
  • Don’t publish your product menu.
  • Don’t publish links to your products, your online store, your store locator, or any other page that tells people how to buy your cannabis products.
  • Don’t publish images of cannabis, cannabis products, or cannabis paraphernalia.

It’s important to point out that many cannabis license holders break these rules. For example, many cannabis businesses and brands post images of their products and cannabis paraphernalia. If you decide to post these types of images or videos, don’t forget that there is the possibility Instagram will find them, won’t like them, and will send you a warning to stop.

Once you get a couple of warnings (if you’re lucky enough to get them in the first place), your account is likely to be deleted, so tread carefully.

6 Tips for Cannabis Instagram Marketing

Instagram can be a powerful component of your social media marketing plan if you play by the rules. Here are six tips to help you get the most from Instagram for your cannabis business or cannabis-related business.

1. Diversify Your Content

Post a variety of images and videos promoting the customer experience and lifestyle your brand reflects. Is your cannabis brand a luxury brand? Is it a friendly, casual brand? Who is your target audience? Do you provide a white glove treatment or a welcome back old friend experience?

By determining what your brand promises to consumers and how you deliver on that promise in every brand interaction with consumers, you’ll be able to identify the experience and lifestyle that your brand represents.

With that information in mind, think outside the box and post images of your employees, your manufacturing, cultivation or dispensary activities, your accolades, your products in real-world settings, advocacy, and things that reflect the lifestyle consumers want to experience when they buy your brand or visit your business.

Let’s take a look at high-end cannabis edibles brand Coda Signature. The company publishes a wide variety of content on its Instagram profile that promotes people, experiences, and lifestyles, not just cannabis products.

For example, the company posts images with stories about their employees and activities.

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:39pm PDT

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Nov 30, 2018 at 10:30am PST

Coda Signature also uses creative ways to show off its products without offering them for sale directly by displaying them in high quality lifestyle images.

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Oct 31, 2018 at 10:00am PDT

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Dec 21, 2018 at 2:38pm PST

Simple images that draw attention to your brand logo can also help to promote the lifestyle your cannabis brand represents without selling your products. Coda Signature does this by showing its logo on mugs and more.

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Nov 5, 2018 at 12:13pm PST

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Jul 10, 2018 at 6:37pm PDT

2. Post Regularly

You need to be visible on Instagram or people won’t see your content. To that end, plan to post new content one to two times per day. According to several research studies over the past couple of years, one to two times is the recommended amount to get the best results from your efforts.

In addition, actively comment on and like other people’s content and respond to comments posted to your own images and videos at least once per day.

You can also publish your content to Instagram Stories to keep your audience engaged with your brand. Posts published to Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, so they should be timely.

3. Use Hashtags Strategically

Hashtags (i.e., one or more words preceded by the # symbol, such as #cannabis) help people find content on Instagram, so it’s important to include a variety of popular and less popular hashtags in every Instagram post.

You can include up to 30 hashtags in each Instagram post, so use a tool like Hashtagify to find hashtags that are relevant to your post and add them to the end of your post. When people search for a hashtag on Instagram, your post will be included in the search results.

While it’s hard to get your posts near the top of a results list for a popular hashtag like #cannabis, you could get noticed if you use more targeted, niche hashtags like #cannabisedibles, #medibles, #infused, and #thcinfused.

4. Engage with People

Many people read comments on brands’ Instagram posts when they’re looking for product reviews. With that in mind, simply publishing some posts isn’t enough to move the needle with Instagram marketing. You need to be active and engage with other people to get your brand noticed, known, and trusted.

Brand trust leads to sales, so on a social media platform that doesn’t allow cannabis ads or direct mentions of cannabis products for sale, engaging is a must. Engagement includes commenting on other people’s posts, liking their posts, and responding to people when they comment on your posts.

Your goal is to engage with your audience at every step along the customer journey as they move through the marketing funnel. For people at the top of the funnel, publish content that promotes discovery and brand awareness by including targeted hashtags in your posts. To nurture people in the middle of the funnel, publish content that helps them research your company, products, and services such as product information, reviews, and customer testimonials. For people at the bottom of the funnel, help them convert into customers by publishing posts that aid the purchase decision process.

It’s also a good idea to recognize your customers, vendors, and business partners on Instagram. Coda Signature provides some examples you can use for inspiration.

In the Instagram posts below, you can see that Coda Signature acknowledges dispensaries that carry its products and customers who use its products.

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Oct 6, 2018 at 4:53pm PDT

A post shared by Coda Signature (@coda.signature) on Feb 24, 2019 at 10:40am PST

5. Leverage Influencers

Online influencers can be an important part of your Instagram marketing strategy. The key is to reach out to influencers who are the right match for your brand. Look for Instagram influencers whose reputation matches your brand’s reputation and have a following of people who match your target audience profile.

One way to search for influencers is by using hashtags. Look for hashtags that are relevant to your business, brand, products, and services and search for people with not just large followings but highly engaged followings. A lot of followers won’t help you if they never see, comment on, or share the person’s posts.

6. Use Tools to Save Time and Drive Better Results

There are a variety of free and affordable tools available to make Instagram marketing easier and less time-consuming. I already mentioned Hashtagify for finding hashtags, but you can also use Tailwind to find hashtags and schedule your Instagram posts.

Other tools for post scheduling include Later, Sked Social (formerly Schedugram), Hootsuite, and Buffer. To learn about your audience and track your Instagram analytics, try tools like Audiense and Iconosquare.

These are just some of the tool options available to you. Do your research, take advantage of free tools and free trials for paid tools, test them, and find the tools that work best for you.

Your Next Steps for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses Instagram Marketing

Just like Facebook marketing for cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses, only you can determine how much risk you’re willing to take in terms of the content you publish on Instagram.

The most important thing to understand (aside from the written rules) is that just because another cannabis business is getting away with publishing sales-related content on Instagram doesn’t mean it’s okay to post sales-related content on your own Instagram account.

That type of content violates Instagram’s rules. By publishing it, you’re putting all of the time and effort you invest into building an audience on Instagram at risk of disappearing at any moment and without notice.

Again, it’s up to you to decide if it’s more important for you to publish your prices or promote a sale or if it’s more important to try to follow the rules and keep your account up and running for the long-term.

Originally published 4/23/19. Updated 5/22/20.

Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media , is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. , a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies , 30-Minute Social Media Marketing , Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps , and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business , an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.

12 Comments

Cannabis products are highly require packaging of the product, These packaging boxes are customized in unique shape and design with color printing and logo printing as per to the demand.

So I just got back from the Indo Expo in Denver and there was a guy doing an Instagram break down for the cannabis / hemp industry. He didn’t mention anything about taking a picture of the product.

I mean I think it’s silly being that hemp is federal legal and I’ve been removed for showing images. I’m lacking to see how this is helpful if we can not show certain things about our business. We are the creator of the cannagar niche back in 2010 with Magars and we’ve been rolling hemp for the past couple years into a hemp cigar with the fan leaf and what not.

However Instagram still doesn’t like it.

How is it that this industry will ever be allowed to freely promote when it’s legal.

I don’t agree with the “don’t post photos of cannabis products,” and this blog is full of them, but done in creative ways. It’s ok to show product, just nothing promotional.

Hi Amy, to clarify, the recommendation to not post pictures of actual products is related to Instagram specifically, not blogs hosted on your own channels like this one is.

Posting product photos is ok, as long as there isn’t anything promotional in the post.

Hi Amy, I understand what you’re saying. Many brands are posting product images on Instagram, so it would seem that a cannabis business should be okay doing the same as long as each post doesn’t directly promote a product. That’s where legal interpretation of Instagram’s rules gets muddy and where Instagram’s subjective and inconsistent enforcement of those rules gets challenging for cannabis and ancillary businesses.

Here’s the link to Instagram’s stance on the sale of marijuana: https://help.instagram.com/789164081427334. Note that in this very high-level explanation, Instagram states, “Instagram doesn’t allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country.” By posting images of products, a business is indirectly promoting those products. At least, that’s what courts have found in the past in other industries and other online platforms.

Bottom-line, Instagram could ban a cannabis business’ profile for publishing product images. Clearly, this doesn’t always happen, but there are so many stories of cannabis businesses (and ancillary businesses) having their Instagram accounts banned for this reason and more that aren’t specifically stated in Instagram’s policies. As I wrote in my article, “Instagram is notoriously inconsistent about deleting cannabis business accounts. One account may get away with publishing posts that blatantly violate the guidelines while others are deleted for simply pushing the edge of those boundaries the tiniest bit.”

I also explained, “It’s important to point out that many cannabis license holders break these rules. For example, many cannabis businesses and brands post images of their products and cannabis paraphernalia. If you decide to post these types of images or videos, don’t forget that there is the possibility Instagram will find them, won’t like them, and will send you a warning to stop. Once you get a couple of warnings (if you’re lucky enough to get them in the first place), your account is likely to be deleted, so tread carefully.”

Bottom-line, it’s a risk that every business must consider, and then make an educated decision about the level of risk they’re willing to accept. If a company is comfortable posting product images, then they can certainly do so as many other cannabis businesses do. For social media agencies supporting the cannabis industry, educating clients about the risks and allowing them to decide is important so in the event an account is deleted by Instagram, it’s documented that you warned them.

Great tips! I would add that even though there are lots of tools to schedule, not many of them allow for the feed of the different networks to like and comment on other posts. That’s one of the best ways to get free exposure, since we can’t pay for anything.

I learned a lot of marketing tips that maybe I will reconsider as we move forward to business. You might want to check us also at https://speedgreens.co/ .

These are gold tips. This can help me especially that I’m starting my small business at https://ezweedonline.org/ .

Hey, thanks for sharing these amazing tips for Cannabis Instagram Marketing. Using the right hashtags and engaging with people can be really helpful to generate traffic. It was really a good read, keep posting!

I think hashtag is really the game changer. I’ve read this also from weedly.news

Thank you for sharing these tips! Time for me to clean up my IG. I didn’t realize even posting where to find my products was a violation. I find my hashtag reach is only 4% most of the time (I switch it up), hardly seems worth it sometimes. Does this mean I shadow banned?

Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media , is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. , a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies , 30-Minute Social Media Marketing , Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps , and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business , an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.