The Challenges behind Digital Marketing in the Cannabis Industry

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How does digital marketing work for the cannabis industry? The fact that the world has become more accepting of cannabis, in general, adds to the fact that much of the USA now allows marijuana either for medical use, recreation, or both. Though marketing cannabis and cannabis-related products have become a bit easier, it can be a murky area to get into.

There are both CBD and THC products in the market. CBD is short for cannabidiol, and this doesn’t make you high. CBD has actually been proven to have some medical benefits, but the clarity regarding marketing is still not perfect.

Federally speaking, cannabis is still not legal across the USA. This means that there are many different considerations when it comes to marketing, and certain companies you may otherwise use for paid ads might have stringent restrictions on what you are allowed to do. 

Social Media

Social media was not really designed with cannabis marketing in mind. Nevertheless, it is one of the most powerful tools out there for finding new customers. It would be best if you were cautious when creating a digital marketing plan in this industry. You may be breaking their terms of service.

For example, Facebook and Instagram (owned by the same company) don’t allow you to advertise cannabis-related products. They’re especially strict regarding products containing THC, which is the psychoactive compound you find within marijuana. CBD cannabidiol is another compound that is actually legal in even more states, as it doesn’t make you feel “high.” However, it is still cannabis-derived, so that social media companies might be more restrictive with this advertising.

Commercial posts encouraging people to buy cannabis or THC products are out of the question, but you can potentially use the platform to give informational content to users. 

PPC Advertising – A Huge Challenge

PPC is one of the tools companies use to great advantage, but it is hard to use this when it comes to cannabis. Big companies like Google run huge pay-per-click ad networks (Adwords), but you might find that they are prohibitive regarding cannabis.

Google’s terms of service class marijuana as a dangerous substance, so ads are prohibited. In addition, they explicitly ban “Ads for substances that alter mental state for recreation or otherwise induce “highs.”

Cannabis is listed as one of the examples. The terms also explain that other related products are banned, such as bongs or even cannabis coffee shops. Google is strict, and you will find that you can get your account banned.

There isn’t really a PPC alternative yet, meaning you have to do more of the legwork yourself. Pay per click is great because it automatically targets customers while searching Google or even visiting other related sites. It’s undeniably convenient, and many people build successful businesses out of this form of advertising. One day, as cannabis becomes more mainstream, perhaps people will begin to find a way to form a PPC alternative for the industry. In the meantime, you might have to work harder to form specific partnerships. There are some big websites out there, such as Leafly, in the cannabis niche. These can enable people to advertise directly. Blogs and similar platforms can represent an opportunity, and while it isn’t as streamlined, it is still possible to market your brand.

SEO Strategies

Cannabis websites aren’t banned from the Google platform or other search engines. Though you can’t advertise for this niche, you can still appear at the top of organic searches people make regarding cannabis searches. For example, if you run a cannabis dispensary in Nevada, you can still appear at the top of the searches when people search for this. The key is usually designing your website well and getting backlinks that can give you a boost or “vote of confidence” in Google’s eyes.

Finding relevant keywords is one of the biggest challenges. A lot of people use tools that are made to work directly with Google. In fact, Google has its own tool, a “Keyword Planner” showing what people search for each month. You can also look at Google Trends to see growing keywords.

One of the most effective ways to boost your website when searching results is to get links from authoritative websites. This can be where the challenge lies for the cannabis industry. Many websites will refuse to link to cannabis-related businesses, as they may think this will damage their own website or reputation. Unfortunately, attitudes have not changed enough to mean that everyone is happy to link out to cannabis websites to find your options for guest posting limited. Some sites will ask for big fees in return for posting something about cannabis.

Staying Within The Law and Legal Guidelines

This is yet another challenge for the cannabis industry when it comes to marketing the abundance of products. Whether it’s CBD, cannabis oil, vapes, or any other type of cannabis product, there may be specific guidelines that you need to think about.

Each state has its own rules and regulations around the cannabis industry. Though cannabis may be legal, there are still a lot of things that states want to avoid. For instance, they don’t want to encourage children to use marijuana or even for adults to use it without thinking it through.

In most states, the following restrictions apply:

  • You can’t use cartoons or mascots that appeal to children or young people.
  • You can’t create an exclusive deal to target one particular group.
  • You can’t use celebrities to endorse your products and claim that they are users of your products.
  • An animal character can’t be used as a spokesperson for your brand.
  • There must be a disclaimer on any packaging and often on any adverts.

These are just some of the examples. To fully understand the industry, you need to delve a little deeper and determine whether or not there is anything specific you need to think about in your own state. Some are stricter than others.

Finding Creative Solutions

It’s time to get creative. If you are going to make the most of your marketing campaigns, it is important to spread the net far and wide but to make sure that you don’t use methods that are not legal, as this can lead to sanctions as well as getting you banned from some of the most popular platforms people may otherwise use for their business. You can still use many advertising methods, as long as you don’t breach state or federal laws. On top of this, creating a community among your existing customers should be crucial to your strategy. For example, make sure you have a mailing list and use this for updating customers.

It’s also possible to build your reputation by educating and creating a positive culture around cannabis use, something that many societies are in desperate need of. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t fully understand cannabis and the surrounding industry.

The Bottom Line

In the scheme of things, the cannabis industry is brand new. It is easy to see why so many regulations and restrictions are still in a state of flux regarding cannabis use. People are starting to wake up to the medical benefits, and over time this might lead to more options and acceptance of cannabis marketing. Until then, you need to do your research and make sure you stay within the rules. 

A federal bill may change the outlook on the industry in the future. It’s impossible to predict, but we know that the industry is thriving and growing and generating tax money for people who really need it. Marketing is a challenge, but it is possible to build a successful and long-lasting brand if you get it right.

The Challenges behind Digital Marketing in the Cannabis Industry

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