Despite what many outsiders may think, owning a dispensary is hard. There's a great deal of competition, and the margins are increasingly small. Big dispensary chains are moving into new states all the time, making it even harder for independently owned weed shops to keep the lights on. In order to survive, let alone thrive, dispensaries need to create and execute effective marketing strategies that will allow them to stand out from the competition.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is with social media, not least of which because for the most part it is free to use the major platforms. Plus, the number one rule of marketing is to figure out where your customers are, and they are definitely on social media, in growing numbers. According to the latest research, more than 4.5 billion people are social media users, with 400 million new users added in the last 12 months.
Social media marketing is no different than other aspects of running a cannabis business, in that there are many obstacles that must be overcome. It also requires quite an investment, either in terms of time or money, if not both. But the rewards of a strong social presence will eventually pay for themselves with persistence and strategy.
Let's take a look at our top tips for dispensaries that want to stand out on social media:
Always Remain Compliant With The Platforms And State Regulations
When crafting a social media strategy for your cannabis dispensary, it is imperative that you start with the core principle of remaining compliant at all times. Every state has its own advertising regulations, and it is incumbent upon you to understand what they are. Many states have specific rules regarding what is and what is not permissible on social media. We recommend that all cannabis businesses go beyond the stated laws, and adhere to an advertising code of conduct that is proactive and forward looking, so that when new federal rules go into effect someday, you'll already be ahead of them.
At the same time, you need to research the individual platforms and understand their approach to cannabis. The hard part is that none of them explicitly lay out what the rules are, and so there's a lot of guess work involved. Coming up with a list of best practices that's on the conservative side will serve you well, but there are certain big no-nos that must be avoided at all costs, like advertising prices or offering free product. We also recommend avoiding showing consumption.
Create A Social Media Plan And Post Consistently
The number one mistake that most dispensaries (and really any business) make with regards to social media is committing to it without any sort of plan in place. There's no real secret to succeeding on social media. It's a brute force problem that just requires quality content and consistent posting. But there are best practices that you should be following, and you definitely have to stick with it. Success on Instagram or Facebook doesn't happen overnight.
Often, when I talk to dispensary owners about their social media approach, they complain that they weren't seeing results so they stopped. But when I look at the kinds of posts they were making, it's all over the place. No consistency in terms of content quality, messaging, or posting times. It's no wonder they didn't see the results they were hoping for.
Before you start down the road of social media, figure out what your approach is going to be. Who's going to be in charge, what are your goals, and how will you achieve those goals. Then, decide what your budget is and determine how you're going to reach your goals based on that budget. And then keep at it. Like I said, success doesn't happen overnight...until it does!
Use Analytics To Improve Your Strategy
Every one of of the major social media platforms give users the option to see how their posts are performing, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Yet many dispensaries ignore this free information. That's a mistake, because while you may feel like you have a general idea of what's working, oftentimes when you dig into the data you'll realize you're missing some subtle nuances that will allow you to increase engagement in meaningful ways.
I know for a lot of people that analytics may be boring. But successful companies use this data to refine their approach, focus on content that is more effective, adjust their post times, and uncover hidden patterns. Increased engagement will lead directly to increased foot traffic and increased sales. If you find the prospect of analytics daunting, maybe it's time to partner with a professional social media management team who can maximize your marketing investment.
Embrace The Latest New Thing, But Only On The Tested Platforms
One of the keys to social media is boosting your engagement by making ample use of any new services being offered by the platforms. For example, when Instagram launched their Stories feature, users that posted to it frequently saw increased views and follows, even on their traditional feed, as the platform began prioritizing Stories users. It's the same deal with their Reels feature. Basically, social media savvy dispensaries can game the system on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the other standard apps by immediately making their new features part of their heavy rotation.
But this same philosophy does not really apply to new social media platforms. Companies can waste a lot of time and money trying to become a leader in an experimental new app with the hope it becomes the next big thing. But since Instagram took the world by storm approximately a decade ago, there hasn't been a new platform that's proven to have any staying power. You may think TikTok is too big to fail, but remember the experts were saying the same thing about Snapchat not so long ago, and when was the last time anyone thought about Snapchat. And if TikTok or Clubhouse or some other newcomer proves me wrong, you can always add it to the mix of platforms your dispensary is active on.
After all, it's always better to be late to a party than too early.
Feature Professional Cannabis Photography
Social media, especially cannabis social media, is primarily a visual medium (except for Twitter, but Twitter is not really an important platform for dispensaries). When it comes to Instagram and Facebook, and even LinkedIn, the best way to stand out is with magazine quality photos. You want your social media feed to entice your customers to come through the front door, so anytime you post a subpar photograph, one that's blurry or too dark or simply fails to show of your shop and its products in the best possible light, you're giving your followers a reason to take their business elsewhere.
I tell dispensary owners interested in social media to think about it like this: the average user spends less than 3 seconds looking at a post before moving on to the next one. If your image doesn't immediately grab their attention, then you've lost them. The good news is that cannabis content is highly popular on social media, especially when the image quality is high. Even if you choose to manage your social media yourself, you want to populate your channels with professional photographs, whether you get them from your product partners or hire someone yourself.
Incorporate High Definition Video
Speaking of prioritizing the latest features, all of the major social platforms are investing heavily in video, as a way to combat the growing popularity of TikTok. That means dispensaries that want to make waves via social media definitely need to be using video in a meaningful way. Of course, just like we said with photos, low quality video is more likely to hurt your brand than help, so you're going to need to make an investment to get it right.
The good thing about video content is that it can be used in multiple ways, not just as a YouTube channel. Furthermore, video is a great way to educate your customers, something that the majority of cannabis consumers respond positively to. We highly recommend that dispensaries use video as a way to review products, announce new arrivals, document the sources of their cannabis, and give consumers the straight dope (pun intended) about the latest science and research.
Quality Graphic Design Is A Must
Another important rule of thumb when it comes to social media is you need to make it clear on your images and video where the content is coming from. You can post a great photo of a cannabis flower and get a thousand likes, but if no one associates that image with your dispensary, then it was a wasted opportunity. That's why we recommend including your logo or watermark, at the very least, on all of your image posts. The same goes for video. That way, even if your images get reposted or stolen, people will know where they came from.
High quality graphic design, especially when you combine it with professional cannabis photography and videography, performs very well on social media, AND more effectively promotes your brand image. If you don't have an in house graphic designer, it makes a lot of sense to partner with a cannabis marketing agency that excels at graphic design. Even if you keep the social media management in house, you can use a third party to create the content you share on your channels.
Partner With Farms And Cannabis Influencers
When you first start a dispensary social media account, you may find it challenging to gain traction. Even companies that have been at it for a while can be plagued by a lack of engagement, especially the way that the major platforms like to silo off cannabis content. That's where partners can be a huge boost.
The farms and manufactures that create the wonderful cannabis, hemp, and CBD products and accessories you sell in your store are natural partners for you. They want their products to be a hit with the public, just like you do. Working with them is really a no-brainer, and they may even provide high quality content for you, or be willing to split the cost with you as long as their products get featured.
But to really reach your audience, partnering with cannabis influencers in your area is super helpful. Depending on the cannabis laws in your state, you can provide them free review samples in exchange for mentioning you on their feeds. You may also sponsor their channels or pay for a photo shoot with the influencer, to ensure that you get the kind of love from their audience you're hoping for.
Market Your Cannabis Dispensary With The Hood Collective
Succeeding on social media is not easy, but the rewards make the effort worth it. The key is to maintain consistency and commit to your plan. While it's possible to do all of the above internally, many cannabis dispensaries don't have the time or expertise to handle their social media themselves. That's where a professional social media management team comes in handy.
The Hood Collective is a full-service digital marketing agency that focuses exclusively on the cannabis industry. We specialize in creating the kind of engaging content that performs exceptionally well on social media, whether it's professional photography and video production, or cannabis graphic design that ranges from single panel posters to animated carousels. Best of all, our social media experts can craft and execute a social media strategy that actually works, with the data to back it up.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.