How Cannabis Brands Are Navigating Advertising Restrictions with Influencer Marketing

Thu Nov 01 2018
Terilyn Walker
Best Practices

Whether you’re team #highlife or you prefer to stay away from the “devil’s lettuce,” I’m sure you’ve seen (and smelled) the fact that the cannabis industry is growing like a weed (pun intended!).

As of now, the number of states that have legalized recreational cannabis use now outnumbers the number of states where it remains a criminal offense. As we see more and more dispensaries and e-commerce CBD startups making their mark on the growing cannabis industry, recreational marijuana use is becoming normalized and generally accepted by the American population. However, unlike traditional health and wellness brands, CBD and cannabis brands face some difficult hurdles when it comes to advertising. Due to different state legislation’s advertising restrictions, it is proving difficult for these brands to gain national brand awareness.

Social Media Policies Regarding Advertising Cannabis

Regardless if a business is operating in a state where marijuana use has been legalized, nearly every social media platform has policies in place which ban the promotion of cannabis and CBD products through their paid marketing channels.

Despite the fact that the marijuana business is a billion dollar industry, it’s promotion still remains on the list of Facebook's prohibited content, alongside weapons, gambling, and spyware. This means you won’t be seeing any sponsored ads for your go-to dispensary on Facebook and Instagram anytime soon, much to the frustration of business owners.

Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat also globally prohibit the promotion of recreational drugs and paraphernalia.

So what does this mean for cannabis startups that want to reach the national and very diverse community of marijuana users?

The Key to Cannabis Brand’s Success Is to Partner with Influencers

Influencers allow you to hyper-target without the need for paid ads

Social media influencers get their name from the fact they have large dedicated audiences that look to them for product recommendations and inspiration within a particular space. The online cannabis community is no different.

The best way to reach a targeted audience without having the targeting capabilities of Facebook Ads is to partner with influencers who can promote your brand to their audience, which shares interests similar to them.

Influencers can tell your brand story authentically

Influencers are storytellers and will be able to convey your brand story in a way that resonates with your audience through videos and images that show how your product is incorporated into someones everyday life.

One of the biggest struggles cannabis brands will face is creating a sense of brand identity and brand affinity with consumers. Cannabis newbies might not know where to begin, and they may have no brand loyalties at all. Yet experienced “weed snobs” have their go-to sources. By partnering with influencers, you’re not only spreading brand awareness, but you’re able to create a brand identity that will result in a loyal fan base.

Just like any industry, marketing your brand with stale, close up images of your product isn’t going to result in the conversions you are hoping for. You’re going to have to emphasize the lifestyle that comes along with your product and bring it to life with dynamic, creative content.

Instead of your feed looking like this,

it should look more like this…

Source @sunny.daze on Instagram

Influencers can introduce new audiences to CBD and cannabis products

Don't limit your efforts to just the #cannabisommunity. As Marijuana becomes more mainstream, its users are expanding to people from all walks of life. While some influencers may still be hesitant to promote drug use of any kind, some users may surprise you. We’ve seen foodie influencers who typically create health conscious recipes incorporate CBD oil and other cannabis products into their recipes. Fitness gurus explain how cannabis can help them relieve muscle soreness, and even moms show how marijuana products can help them relieve anxiety and stress.

Instead of solely focusing on the stereotypical “stoner,” identify several markets and partners with influencers who can speak to these different people in an organic way.

Influencer Marketing for Cannabis Brands 101

Use an influencer marketing platform to find influencers willing to promote your brand

To find influencers who are willing to work with your brand, use an influencer marketing platform, such as AspireIQ, to discover influencers who have followings in this specialty niche. These platforms streamline the discovery process because you can search through powerful filters like keywords and hashtags (popular hashtags include #weed #cannabis #weedstagram #cannabiscommunity). Through the platform, your brand can find and connect with influencers, specifically posting content focused on marijuana.

Additionally, AspireIQ has a brand marketplace so that influencers can apply directly to your campaign. This means they have already bought into your brand and are willing to promote cannabis and CBD products.

Use generic language in your social media posts

Promoting cannabis to consumers is different than soliciting a business to them. Influencers are pros at creating content that appeals to the cannabis consumers without blatantly offering them the substance to purchase.

Some cannabis brands have admitted to creating fake pages to see what pieces of content gets flagged by Facebook and Instagram. While we don’t necessarily encourage others to potentially break Facebook policies, cannabis brands such as GreenRush have found that content that does not explicitly promote the sale of marijuana is not flagged by Facebook. You can and should promote your branding, but you could potentially get your social shut down if you share prices, say where you can buy your product, or show the drugs themselves.

Create educational or advocacy content

CBD brands should be hyper-aware that although these products are nationally legal and don’t get users high, people often confuse CBD and THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gets you high.

Rather than explicitly selling your product or brand, create educational content that makes consumers aware of the different uses for your products. Not only will this result in a more informed user, but educational content also tends to pass Facebook’s ads policies.

Are you a CBD or cannabis brand looking to get started with influencer marketing? Feel free to reach out to us at aspireiq.com/demo to schedule a strategy session with one of our experts!

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