Cannabis branding leaders say that community building is essential, regardless of the social media methods utilized.
By Andrew Ward
Cannabis brands and fans alike often run into having their account deleted, banned or suppressed in some fashion. With cannabis-specific platforms still not earning substantial memberships, the industry is left to scramble from platform to platform in an attempt to connect with enthusiasts, buyers, investors, media and other crucial members.
Most sources say one option appears to be the best for cannabis today. Still, alternative platforms and methods may be beneficial to building lasting connections.
Is LinkedIn The Top Social Media Platform For Cannabis Today?
Though metrics or methods to determine the most cannabis-friendly platform aren’t readily available, it appears LinkedIn is the most cannabis-friendly platform at the moment, according to anecdotal feedback from various sources.
Cannabis PR and social media professional Alice Moon said LinkedIn is great for connecting industry professionals. “It’s more so for people and not brands, but it is a great place for brands to share their latest press coverage and news,” she said.
She also highlighted Twitter Inc. for tolerating cannabis content but said its search feature connects the term cannabis with substance abuses messages.
Others agreed. Karina Karassev, co-founder and COO of cannabis packaging brand Stori, said LinkedIn does a good job recognizing cannabis industry professionals.
“Linkedin does an excellent job removing negative stigmas surrounding the cannabis industry,” Karassev added.
Brooke Benavides, director of marketing for CMW Media, said the cannabis conversation is growing on LinkedIn. She reported that clients tell her that the platform is still taboo to non-industry members–with those connections rarely interacting with posts.
Despite its shortcomings, she believes the professional-focused platform is the best today.
“LinkedIn remains one of the only platforms that allows for organic reach as it relates to cannabis content and groups, and industry pros and businesses don’t have to worry about potentially being penalized or ‘shadow banned’ from their networks,” Benavides said.
Other Social Media Options Worth Considering
Liz Gottbrecht, director of delivery brand Lantern, said Reddit helps connect with fans by hosting AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions on specific subreddits. She added that the audio-based platform Clubhouse appeared to be another viable option, though its popularity has not expanded beyond industry leaders and movers. “It hasn’t really found the mainstream appeal needed to scale and maintain relevance long term.”
Lantern also focuses on platforms like the Alphabet Inc. Class C, YouTube, Twitch and Pinterest.
“They have strong cannabis-adjacent communities where we can explore and share relevant content within the guidelines – food, how-tos, gaming,” Gottbrecht noted.
Rather than focus on the mainstream, some are targeting smaller audiences and cannabis-specific platforms. Both Gab and Mastodon came up as viable options.
While social media giants like YouTube seem to have lessened restrictions on cannabis as of late, plant-dedicated platforms like TheWeedTube, Leafwire and MJLink are just a few startups aiming to provide a solution to the cannabis community and its businesses.
Brand Success Without Social Media
Branding leaders say that community building is essential, regardless of the methods utilized.
Companies with advertising budgets may want to dedicate a portion to a public relations campaign. CMW’s Benavides said releasing press releases and offering quotes to the media helps build credibility.
“Releasing company news and providing quotes on trending stories is a way for brands to build editorial credibility while remaining top of mind — and top of a Google search,” she noted, speaking to the power of search engine optimization (SEO).
However, in this writer’s experience, companies need to exercise caution or risk de-valuing their credibility to analyze every news story. Rather than being perceived as a trusted expert, the brand can appear media-hungry and be deemed an unreliable source.
Moon said merch giveaways are worth consideration, with winners often receiving branded merchandise that serves as word-of-mouth marketing.
“If the cannabis brand is able to do DTC sales, they can offer referral commissions, which would encourage people to tell their friends about the brand,” Moon added.
Gottbrecht also spoke about word-of-mouth marketing, namely through employees, referral programs and local community building. Most methods can be conducted online or in person.
She elaborated, “For us, the focus on social is community building — through partnerships with local businesses, creators, cannabis brands and dispensaries, as well as growing our own audience as much as possible through email.”