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How Cannabis Brands Tread Social Media Tightropes

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As regulations evolve and algorithms shift, all consumer brands must adapt to an amorphous landscape of social media platforms to engage with consumers – and in some ways, that’s even more true for cannabis companies.

Bethany Gomez, managing director at research firm Brightfield Group, recently shared insights with Green Market Report on how cannabis brands have been able to master the likes of Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit, which have become essential tools for brand building.

Building consumer connections

Gomez explained that Instagram remains a popular platform among cannabis brands for engaging with consumers. These companies use Instagram to showcase their products and establish connections with their audience.

Twitter’s recent move to allow paid ads – with certain restrictions – from cannabis companies also has many of those brands looking for ways to leverage the platform. But, she warned, “it’s really easy to waste a lot of money on bad targeting there.”

What Twitter is good for is giving users and activists a way to reach out to companies and celebrities. For example, Wiz Khalifa recently responded directly to someone questioning his partnership with Trulieve.

In-depth discussions and educational interactions

Reddit, on the other hand, is often used to connect with core consumers who have specific questions or seek more nuanced answers.

The platform allows for more open discussions about cannabis compared to other social media services, making it a valuable space for companies to share information and establish credibility among cannabis connoisseurs and internet sleuths alike.

What companies should not do on Reddit, however, is approach it like a free advertising space, blasting ads at users without providing value. That can lead to backlash from active groups.

For example, the FLMedicalTrees subreddit created a policy that required dispensaries to provide exclusive discounts for the community if they wants to post their ads there. Dispensaries are also limited to one ad per week, which must be approved by a moderator.

According to the group moderator, the policy aims to prevent the subreddit from becoming a free billboard for the retailers.

Juneteenth sales from trulieve lookin mad Sus
by u/RaptorSlaps in FLMedicalTrees

Another approach to Reddit was employed by Brady Cobb of Sunburn Cannabis. He recently participated in an “ask-me-anything” segment, where he had to face hard questions from patients concerned about his growing political influence in the state.

Members were also brutally honest about his Sunburn Cannabis products.

Hey, r/FLMedicalTrees- Sunburn Cannabis here!
by u/SunburnInsider in FLMedicalTrees

Creativity reigns

In order to maintain an organic social presence and avoid being flagged by platform algorithms, Gomez noted that cannabis brands often use creative methods. These may focus on lifestyle attributes or use euphemisms to avoid explicitly mentioning cannabis-related terms.

For instance, Seth Rogen’s recent ad for his company, Houseplant, highlighted the product’s positive attributes without mentioning cannabis directly, instead referring to it as being “for your garden.”

Other ads use the company’s house-goods items (and a lit piece of wood) as a way to market its line of California cannabis products.

He also partnered with Airbnb for a night at a promotional rental inspired by Houseplant’s goopy ceramics.

Video content is more challenging for AI algorithms to police, which allows cannabis brands to have some leeway in content.

Popular video-based platforms such as TikTok and Reels, Instagram’s short-form video feature, has made it easier for cannabis brands to avoid being shut down while still reaching users.

With Millennials reading Reddit and nearly half the Gen Z population (46%) browsing TikTok daily, Gomez said, cannabis consumers are more likely to be active on these platforms — making these spaces valuable for companies.

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