Is social media worth the time, money, and effort to build brand awareness in the cannabis industry when borders are closed, and the rules are so restrictive?
Today we’re talking to our social media partner, Amy Donohue from Hybrid Social, to discuss why social media is the place to build brand, community, and authenticity through storytelling, not sales. Here’s why.
How do you approach creating a social media strategy when you get a new client?
First, each of them is different, and so are their stories. It’s a lot of discovery questions and me doing a deep dive on the internet to find out as much as possible about the business, target market, and competition. A Google search will tell you almost everything you need to know about a company.
Please tell us why periodic social media audits are imperative.
An assessment of both your social channels and the competition is important for determining a social media strategy.
An audit of a new client’s existing account will tell me if it’s compliant, genuine, and did they buy followers. Many think that buying fake followers to pump up their numbers will make them look better when all you have are fake friends that won’t engage with you.
I look at the competition’s social media to see what content they are posting, the rich media they are creating, who is their audience, and who are they following? Who is engaging with them? What tone of voice are they using? These are all valuable insights to help you compete in the marketplace.
Generally, how long does it take to build a significant following?
My current minimum contract with a client is six months, but I will be changing that to a year because even six months is not long enough to get things off and running.
Spending at least an hour a day on each network is needed to get traction and build brand recognition. It’s also important to pay close attention to notifications and respond to mentions and tags to keep your followers engaged.
How many and which platforms do you suggest using for the cannabis industry?
It depends if it’s B2B or B2C. You have options other than the top four depending on your target customer. For branding purposes, you must be in several places to meet your customer where they are.
Twitter, Leaf Wire, Reddit, and LinkedIn have strong and active cannabis communities, to name a few. TikTok, Google, Facebook, and Instagram are the least cannabis-friendly, making promoting a brand challenging unless you pay to play, but that is not allowed. And Instagram is so oversaturated that unless you have a fantastic content creator, it’s tough to fight in that algorithm.
Snapchat seemed to fall by the wayside, but I reconsidered it when I went to MJBizcon and saw how one company used it to geotag their booth on Snapchat. And I thought that was a clever use of the social media platform.
Facebook, Google, and Instagram could lose all market share in the cannabis industry once marketers start pulling people onto Reddit, Discord, Snapchat, and other cannabis-friendly platforms.
How do brands generate sales on social media without access to paid advertising?
Social media is not for selling your product. It’s not called sell my shit media. It’s called social media. Use it to get to know people and build a community. Build a brand on social media through authenticity and storytelling. Differentiating yourself through storytelling is how you can punch a hole through the competition, and there are so many fascinating stories in this industry.
How do you answer clients when they ask about the ROI on social media? What do you say?
What’s the ROI of your mom? You can look at numbers and engagement. But what does that mean? It means that more people are interacting with your brand. And that’s what social media is for.
If you want to find sales ROI, put a billboard, run ads with a discount code you can track, or something like that. But again, it’s not about sales. It’s brand building.
What kind of benchmarks do you use to measure your social media performance?
The stat I look at the most is my engagement rate, not the growth rate, and I use social media management tools like Zoho or Sprout Social to generate monthly reports and meet with my clients regularly to discuss. Engagement is what gets you into the algorithm. When comments happen, that gets you into the algorithm, not a new follower. A new follower doesn’t do a thing for the algorithm.
Building a house takes time. So you have to be patient with it.
Social media is just one piece of the marketing mix. For quicker results, paid advertising and public relations can be worth the investment too. It takes time and money, that’s for sure.
Where do you source your content?
For B2B clients, there is no shortage of news or information since it’s a new and growing industry. Publications like the Cannabis Business Times, Marijuana Moment, and MJ Biz Daily are examples of quality resources. It’s the kind of content you use on a platform like Twitter because you need to tweet several times a day.
And then, there are the peer-reviewed medical sites that can provide you with research and articles when you need to source reputable content.
I usually rely on my client for visual content because that requires a photographer and/or graphic designer to create worthy posts.
Google My Business and Yelp are crucial SEO tools for dispensaries. Are they part of your toolkit?
Your Google My Business listing will generate activity through Google’s algorithms as your website does; it is equally important to keep it updated with new images, content, and information.
A presence on Yelp is also a must-have SEO strategy since it is the second most used search engine on the internet. Like most social platforms, the downside is that they will allow dispensary listings but don’t allow ads.
How do you view Weedmaps, Leafly, and the other cannabis-specific apps as essential to your strategy?
I love Weedmaps. I have partners there I work with, but I didn’t use them for a while because they listed illicit market delivery services on the platform, and it wasn’t fair to my retail clients. They have since stopped doing that.
Many brands neglect to keep product images updated on these apps and typically rely on stock footage, so they don’t stand out when consumers browse products on these marketplaces. Another service I offer is Leafly and Weedmaps profile optimization.
It boggles my mind how little people put into those apps when they are the most used for finding dispensaries.
My last question – because social media is a global platform, and you can’t geotarget an audience through paid advertising, how do you reach your intended audience?
First, many brands are in multiple states, but the state line doesn’t matter because people travel. Social media helps generate excitement for your brand. Again, we’re not selling anything because we’re building brand awareness for when the borders open up, and when they do, you will have a group of loyal people who’ve been waiting for you!