Instagram can be an incredible marketing platform for dispensary owners. That being said, IG can also be incredibly frustrating for any business in the cannabis industry. Why? When it comes to cannabis, the rules are maddeningly vague. Nonetheless, many dispensary owners find marketing on Instagram to be well worth the risk. And if you follow a few common-sense business practices, you can minimize the likelihood of having your account shut down.
Instagram: What’s It Good For?
Instagram can be awesome! But specifically, Instagram can help your dispensary in numerous ways, including:
- Educating and inspiring your target audience
- Promoting events
- Growing your email list
- Building a community and brand loyalty
- Driving foot traffic
- Gaining credibility
In this article, we’re going to look at a few case studies of other cannabis brands to see what they did and why it was effective. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s take a look at the rules and best practices.
Here are two of the most essential rules followed by case studies:
1. Don’t Market!
Ok, let’s rephrase that. Don’t overtly market. Instagram has little to zero tolerance for profiles that conspicuously promote consuming cannabis or glamorize its use. They generally tolerate posting content related to cannabis (especially if the material is educational). Predictably, they don’t tolerate images that glamorize cannabis use. And overt promotions are strictly verboten.
2. Make It Clear You’re Not Selling or Promoting Cannabis Use (Even If You Kind of Are)
Most of the dispensary profiles that get shut down are so obviously promoting the use of cannabis it shouldn’t be a surprise why IG shuts them down. It’s not always clear cut, but more often than not, it’s pretty obvious. As a best practice, avoid anything that IG may consider gratuitous or overly promotional.
The Lucky 7: Seven Essential Ways to Boost Sales and Brand Awareness with Instagram
RULE #1: Define Your Goals
What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? The last thing you want to do is to post a bunch of random pictures. As a cannabis dispensary you know that you can’t explicitly promote products, but you can build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website (that if done strategically will translate to sales).
You’ll want to be as specific as possible when you define your goals and make sure that everything you post supports your goals.
RULE #2: Only Share Images That Are Eye-Catching and High Quality
You don’t have to be a pro, but it doesn’t hurt to hire one. If you don’t have a budget to hire professional photographers, look at some of the top cannabis brands for inspiration. Make sure the images you post look at the very least semi-professional and that you post images that are cohesive and that represent your dispensary in a way that favorably represents your brand.
Pro Tip: You don’t need to limit yourself to Instagram. If you’re producing great images, repurpose these images for other media-rich social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. In fact, you can integrate Instagram with your other social networks so that you can seamlessly cross-post.
RULE #3: Get Local: Get Involved In Your Community
As a dispensary, your presence is most likely regional or local. Connect and get involved with people and companies in your local community. Follow other local profiles, connect with other local businesses, and like and comment on profiles in your community. You can also do fun things like create contests or even scavenger hunts. Just don’t offer cannabis products as prizes, which is probably not only against Instagram’s terms of service, but illegal in most communities.
RULE #4: Use Instagram to Help Your Customers to Get to Know You
Post lots of pictures of your customers and your staff. By doing so you personalize the experience for your followers. Moreover, you’re letting your fans and followers see “behind the curtain” and associate faces and personalities with your dispensary’s brand.
RULE #5: Establish a Consistent Posting Pattern
If you don’t post consistently (or engage with your followers regularly), you won’t get noticed. Nor will you build any brand loyalty. Many dispensaries will make the mistake of becoming active for a few weeks. They’ll build a following. And then they’ll go MIA. This is big mistake! People’s attention span is short. If you don’t create a consistent presence, your followers will move on, and you’ll lose all the brand equity you worked so hard to create.
To make sure you’re consistent, create a plan and a posting schedule. Create themes. You should create a strategy by the quarter and implementation plans by the month, week, and day. You don’t necessarily have to post daily, but you should do post several times per week.
RULE #6: Geo-Tag Your Images
Geo-Tags refer to identifying your images with metadata that identifies where your photograph or video was taken. Instagram’s geo-tagging gives dispensaries the ability to upload an image and simultaneously transfer that information to other social media platforms. Now Instagram allows your dispensary to display a photo-map on your profile referencing the location of the image. You can leverage geo-tagging to promote events or your location and products.
RULE #7: #Hashtags Are Your Best Friend
A hashtag is simply a phrase, word, or keyword preceded by the hash mark (#). They’re used universally across not only Instagram but all major social media sites including Twitter and Facebook. And you simply can’t market successfully on Instagram without developing a #hashtag strategy.
Hashtags are so important, it’s hard to know where to start! We could devote an entire guide to hashtags. But here are a few essential tips:
Come Up With Your Hashtag and Get Your Followers to Use It
This is an awesome method for WOM, word-of-mouth marketing. By creating and owning your own hashtag, you can easily promote and monitor your brand presence on Instagram. More importantly, you enable people to find and connect with your dispensary more easily. It makes things a lot easier to see who your engaged users are.
Be sure to use keywords to create unique #hashtags.
Hashtags are an essential part of your IG strategy. Why are they so important? Hashtags are basically the SEO of Instagram. Brands (including dispensaries) and customers/social media users use hashtags as a discovery tool. Moreover, using keywords for your hashtags will make your brand and dispensary easier to find or discover. Make sure you use them consistently. Yes, you should include (most of them) across all your posts. Some clearly won’t be appropriate for every post, but overall, they should be used consistently and cohesively.
Create compelling and engaging captions focused on driving word-of-mouth marketing
Here’s a great example from MedMen:
MedMen uses a catchy Valentine’s caption which is timely, clever, and most importantly encourages users to tag their “special someone.”
Now that we’ve established some of the essential best practices, let’s dive into some case studies.
Case Study: Foria Wellness
One cannabis brand that does it right is Foria Wellness. Foria is one of the most popular herbal cannabis salves brands for the enhancement of “sensual pleasure and relief from discomfort.”
Take a look at the screencap below and you’ll see they’ve done a great job in communicating who they are as a brand.
What do you notice about the images they use in their feed?
They focus on lifestyle, the images are colorful and artistic. They avoid gratuitous images or the overuse of images of people using products that are clearly cannabis. With over 57,000 followers and one of the most popular brands in the cannabis industry, they’re clearly doing something right.
Instagram Case Study: Oasis Cannabis Dispensary
Oasis Cannabis Dispensary, a retailer in Las Vegas, obviously sells cannabis. After all, it is a dispensary. However, they provide a disclaimer at the top of their feed that clearly states the following:
🍁Oasis Cannabis Dispensary
❗️Cannabis Advocacy only
🚫Nothing for sale. For use by adults 21 years of age and older. Keep out of reach of children.
The feed does contain a few product images. However, not only do the images blend in with images of people who look like they’re having fun (without cannabis), they establish that the purpose of the feed is for advocacy only and they’re not selling or promoting anything. While it may be obvious to most consumers they are a cannabis retailer, a busy Instagram community reviewer is more likely just to skim the feed and find the assurances sufficient enough not to deactivate them.
Case Study: MedMen
A dispensary that’s found that has found a happy medium between sharing products and images that communicate its brand is MedMen. While some of their images are clearly cannabis products (including flower), they share far more brand and lifestyle (sans cannabis) images.
By maintaining a ratio that’s apparently acceptable to Instagram, they’ve been able to build a solid following without getting deactivated. Of course, this is where Instagram’s frustratingly confusing rules come in. What ratio is acceptable by Instagram’s rules? 5:1? 10:1? No one knows. In fact, Instagram probably doesn’t know.
Instagram tends to rely on subjective criteria. But what Foria and MedMen share in common is that both of their feeds look professional, engaging, and artistic.
There you go! Now you should have a solid foundation in how to leverage Instagram to build your dispensary brand and grow revenue. If you want to learn more or need help with strategy and implementation, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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Why wait? Learn how to market on Instagram, leverage this user-friendly platform, and share photos of your business to the social network in one click. With Instagram, you can apply a series of filters to your photos, much like Photoshop, making them look artistic, engaging, and frankly – turn yourself from an amateur photographer to a pro. So hurry up and take some fabulous pictures for your business and share them with all your potential customers now!