Quality content marketing is essential in today’s digital landscape. That’s especially true for businesses in a highly-regulated industry that’s rapidly evolving. Cannabis professionals can build a strong content strategy to not only reach their target audiences, but help educate curious consumers, challenge decades of anti-drug rhetoric, and shape a new era of cannabis culture.
When done well, a cannabis-fluent content strategy can provide a lot of bang for the proverbial buck. But understanding the value of cannabis content marketing and knowing where to get started are two different things. That’s why we have five tips for building a winning strategy and navigating the unique challenges facing cannabis companies eager to broadcast their brand messaging.
1. EAT the competition
An effective cannabis content strategy starts with capitalizing on useful, compelling content that conveys expertise, authority and trustworthiness—otherwise known as EAT. Whether you’re writing a blog or posting to social media, make sure what you’re sharing is informative and answers the kinds of questions your target audience might have with authentic, factual information. Not only will that resonate with readers, but it will also help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) value. EAT is especially valuable for cannabis companies looking to educate the public and reduce stigma, too.
2. Stay on top of SEO
Speaking of SEO, it’s incredibly important to use the right search term keywords on your web copy, blogs and other owned digital content. From the snappy headline to the meta description, and the H2 headers to the last paragraph, Google is able to crawl and index every element of your website to identify its value to readers and categorize the information you’re providing.
SERPS and Snippets
SEO best practices are crucial to making sure your content shows up high in search engine results pages (SERPS)—the results a search engine like Google or Firefox serves up when someone keys in a query. It’s so much the better if you can structure your content in a way that Google pulls some of the copy into a feature called “snippets.” Snippets are a brief preview of the content on your page that Google showcases in a box at the top of the SERPs. They are typically positioned as an answer to the kind of question a searcher might be asking. This can be especially relevant for people who are interacting with Google from a mobile device or using voice search rather than typing.
Another benefit of optimizing your content for search engines is the ability to help search audiences in a particular geographic location or region find your business. Ranking high for a general term like “cannabis” is a much bigger challenge than ranking for a more specific term like “Portland cannabis dispensary.” Those dialed-in, multi-word keywords—called long-tail keywords—are increasingly important for helping searchers find brick-and-mortar businesses in a particular metro area, or to find cannabis business services tailored to a particular state’s regulatory structure.
3. Know your cannabis advertising rules
Like every other aspect of the cannabis industry, marketing and advertising are highly regulated. Because cannabis is currently still illegal at the federal level, many national advertisers and advertising platforms aren’t willing to promote THC products. The same can be said of most state-level ad networks, even where medical and/or recreational cannabis is legal. That’s one thing for B2B marketing efforts, but it’s quite another for B2C.
Many plant-touching businesses and ancillary businesses in the cannabis space are limited in how they can use marketing channels. From TV ads to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, there are a lot of limits on where cannabis businesses can share product information and what information they can show.
Knowing the most up-to-date advertising rules for social media platforms is also key to getting the word out about your company without getting shadowbanned—that’s when a platform like Instagram doesn’t outright delete an account but does use its algorithm to bottleneck the visibility of your posts.
4. Include alternative marketing channels in your cannabis content strategy
Cannabrands have to work a little harder at marketing to compensate for advertising platforms that are out of reach due to regulations. But if you get creative, you can reach new audiences through alternative routes. Podcasts, for example, are becoming a popular vehicle for cannabis brands to advertise because the same restrictions that apply to radio networks overseen by the FFCC simply don’t apply to podcasts. Event marketing is due for a big boom starting in 2022 on the heels of the COVID vaccine, too.
Sure, television, radio, Facebook and Google Ads are a little tricky for cannabis brands. But there are a lot of channels where cannabis content marketing and advertising is absolutely welcome, and while they might not have the sheer global scale of the biggest platforms, they do have certain advantages. For example, third-party directories geared towards cannabis brands are already tailored directly towards your industry.
Other canna-friendly marketing venues can be found on your brand’s owned media platforms as well as third-party sites. Google My Business directory listings give companies space to list their products in addition to logistical details like addresses and hours of operation. Review sites like Yelp, Leafly and Weedmaps also provide opportunities to engage with existing customers through short-form digital content. And email marketing efforts like newsletters are guaranteed to hit the inboxes of your target audience.
5. Position yourself for good PR
Public relations for cannabis brands is a whole rich subject in and of itself, but it often goes hand-in-hand with a broader cannabis marketing plan. A strong PR strategy can not only leverage your marketing efforts and help them go further, it can also get your message into spaces that owned content can’t always reach.
Earned, paid and native media, for example, are different types of placements for your brand to appear in a variety of publications, from cannabis-industry-specific outlets like Ganjaprenuer to national outlets like Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone or The Washington Post. A press release about your company’s latest product launch might reach potential customers who haven’t found your blog yet or signed up for your newsletter.
Thought leadership, too, can take your marketing strategy further. This type of content development is fantastic for establishing EAT, from op-eds in well-read publications to television appearances or speaking events. Positioning members of your company’s leadership team as industry experts not only contributes to the enhanced legitimacy of cannabis by boosting public perception of the industry, it also presents a chance to reinforce the messaging at the heart of your marketing strategy while leading new audiences back to your owned content channels.