Matthew Morgan
Matthew Morgan 24 June 2019

Six Tips for Marketing Your CBD Brand on Social Media

With the legal gray area that is marketing for CBD and cannabis, an increasing number of brands are turning to social media as the most effective part of the marketing mix to drive eyeballs to their content. However, even within surprisingly forward social platforms, marketing your CBD brand might not be that straightforward. Here are six tips for more effective marketing of your CBD brand on social media.

Global hemp sales are expected to reach $13 billion by 2026, rapidly gaining market share as a beauty product, a wellness supplement, and medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD), the key ingredient in hemp oil and its marketing have emerged unconventionally in a landscape where legality itself is a gray area. Traditional formats like television and newspaper aren’t an option for most companies, regardless of budgets, but that’s an increasingly small concession. Today’s CBD user spends the bulk of their time on social media. More than 90% of adults under 30 are on at least one major social platform--80% of 30-50 year-olds, and more than half of seniors.

For hemp and CBD companies, social media itself is wrought with confusing legality around products, not to mention heavy scrutiny from the government towards Facebook, Google (Youtube), and Twitter after recent political incidents. A successful strategy gets more in-depth than just a photo of the product every week. Recently I’ve watched many big consumer brands experience the dangerous downside of being insulated from the consumer. So to help you design the perfect plan, here are six tips for marketing CBD brands on social media.

Be Prepared to Work with Influencers

Experience has taught me there is an art to being a successful influencer. In the age of outrage and fake news, consumers are less receptive to in-your-face product placement. Thus, the most successful organize campaigns within their lifestyle and incorporate the advertised product or brand. Despite recent FDA warnings around CBD products lacking sufficient labeling around influencers, brands aren’t deterred from connecting with influencers as their success rates are easy to fact-check. Influencers often use unique promotional codes and tracking links so the correlation to sales is far more clear.

In that same vein, just because an influencer has 300,000 followers doesn’t mean their lifestyle will driver purchases for just any product they put on their feed. Firstly, an influencer’s niche should match the target customer. Whether it be athletics, beauty, wellness, or senior care, getting this right is a key step to improving conversion.

Many people don’t have any idea how CBD can work for them. Learning about it from a personality they follow, and maybe emulate just a little, is like a virtual referral, the all-time best form of advertising. Whether the method is a giveaway, promotional video or event focused campaign, the right influencers offers a great way to get your brand in front of consumers interested in learning more about CBD or CBD enthusiasts looking for the hottest products on the market.

Be Clear About Guidelines and Restrictions

If you are advertising a CBD product, you run a genuine risk of having your account removed by platform algorithms citing guideline violations; therefore, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket In addition to having active accounts on more than one social media platform, make sure you are posting content that does not violate content or usage policy.

In general, don’t talk about CBD’s ability to “treat” anything. With media companies under the federal government’s microscope, they are taking special care to adhere to laws which do not yet consider CBD a food ingredient or treatment of conditions for which it’s used. Algorithms can also mistake CBD and hemp products for cannabis and incorrectly cite a violation.

According to Facebook’s Community Standards, they “prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers, and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, and marijuana.” Their Pages-Specific Policies also notes that company pages “must not promote the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals.” Pharmaceuticals can have Facebook pages, with permission from the social media company first. Facebook officially says that hemp and CBD products are allowed, but that doesn’t mean mistakes won’t continue to happen since so much of this is automated. Collectively, the industry is fairly certain these restrictions will change, but for now, they are what they are.

“Instagram is essential [to building] an online presence,” Ryan Kocot, a lawyer specializing in cannabis law, said in an interview with Forbes, “but to do so, the account must bring value in the form of education or entertainment to its followers.” Citing research about CBD from credible sources is a good way to talk about science without making a claim about your specific product.

Focus on Community, Not Follower Counts

Creating a community is essential to a long-lasting audience on social media. It’s not as much about getting members to buy the product as it is gaining the reach of their respective followings. The buyers will come organically as your movement grows, but only if there is quality content and interesting information worth sharing.

A retweet on Twitter by the right person can attract more attention than the original post itself. Encouraging usage of branded hashtags on Instagram helps consumers and algorithms find you. Respond to comments, especially those of persons who regularly engage with the brand. Posting educational material is no longer a consideration, but a requirement, especially in the CBD space. Every little bit counts towards getting your posts promoted and showing up on searches and as suggested content, reaching new users who can join the community.

 Liz Zucco, the CEO of Cannisence, which provides high-quality hemp health and wellness products, agrees:

“If you are simply thinking of social platform as a sales tool, you may be missing out on a lot more value for the time and expense.” According to Zucco, Cannisence focuses on building community through their social platforms. For the older demographics that they cater to, Instagram is less effective, and they’ve found the need to segment within older age groups to create targeted messaging.

Be Sure to Utilize Instagram

According to the most recent Pew Research report, 69% of American adults use Facebook, while 37% use Instagram, and 22% use Twitter. Most of these people are using the platforms daily. With its emphasis on beautiful visuals and influencer lifestyle, Instagram is the home of a culture-driving younger demographic, but, Facebook’s photo-based platform appeals to broader markets than the casual observer may think.

Forbes calls Instagram the “King of Cannabis,” and heavy is the head that wears the crown. For better or worse, lawmakers and the general public can’t help but lump cannabis and CBD together. To be fair, they are siblings. Those looking for cannabis products will often end up on CBD product posts making them potential customers, but algorithms looking for illegal content are also likely to mistake your CBD brand for weed.

This, however, hasn’t slowed the proliferation of CBD content on Instagram and many brands are promoting CBD tastefully and to good effect. Lord Jones is a popular CBD brand amongst celebrities, with over 75,000 followers on Instagram. The Standard Dose carefully crafts a very high end aesthetic for it’s numerous CBD products and PureKana with over 75,000 followers utilizes influencers to good effect.

Hone In on the Right Demographic

Most CBD companies emerge as a response to a single market and may not be aware that an entirely different demographic exists. Extending your marketing to those additional groups can be as simple as a hashtag or a new influencer. One good rule of thumb, according to Ryan Kocot, is to ensure that your social media account focuses on providing valuable information, rather than “hard selling.”

“The ‘Please Buy My Product’ approach is not going to work in an increasingly saturated market. [Businesses] must bring value to their potential customer and become well versed in how to strategically market to target demographics. This requires familiarity with Instagram’s targeting capabilities, as well the ability to run and test multiple forms of creative against target demographics,” he explains.

Dogs, cats, athletic recovery, sleep-aids, and skin care are examples of very different segments that are all popular right now in the CBD market.

“We currently market to what we consider three very different older markets,” Liz Zucco said. “There are no less than three conversations that must be maintained simultaneously within this broad category. Within those age categories, we segment out male vs. female, lifestyle, and even geography. Our goal is to utilize all viable social platforms to engage with our customers to share, to tell our story, and to hear theirs.”

Think Outside of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

With resources always limited, it may seem like a waste to give attention to media platforms beyond Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, other platforms like LinkedIn and Youtube have massive amounts of users and can drive more visibility. Adelia Carrillo, Founder of Direct Cannabis Network, said, “last year we were barely reaching 22% growth on page views on our LinkedIn profile. In December, when we started putting more time and thought into the content, the copy, the call-to-action, we noticed an average of 166% increase in page views month-after-month from LinkedIn.”

>Educational content can result in authentic engagement as well as returning viewers and shares, making the extra effort worth it. Even if you assume the majority of your audience is on one of the big three platforms, repurposing some of your top posts won't hurt. For instance, while Instagram works great for a fifteen-second clip, a longer video could be placed on YouTube and quick text excerpts would dovetail nicely with Linkedin or a list of tips on Pinterest.

Dedicating some time outside of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, especially if there is a unique demographic, can be worth the effort.

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