Social media, depending on your viewpoint, is either an ingenious way to bring together humanity into a global conversation, or the reason you no longer talk to your overly political family members. Still, whatever your views on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat are, they have proven invaluable in the never-ending quest to separate your cannabis brand from the rest of the competition.
By now, almost every business is familiar with the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which involves an ever-changing series of practices aimed at maximizing your placement on sites like Google or Yahoo. The theory being that you can configure your content in a way that the search engines will prioritize you over your competitors. And of course, once something can be manipulated, it can be exploited. Digital ninjas find a weakness and bend them to their will. Soon after, the search engines find the weakness and close it. The digital bandits then find a new loophole to exploit, and the merry-go-round continues to go in an endless circle.
The Big Four
A more fun, and less confusing aspect of digital marketing is Social Media Optimization (SMO). It’s not a new concept, but recent changes in how search engines access data, and users’ preference for using social media has given added weight to social media platforms. There are many social media platforms, but the most important ones are—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.
Facebook (2.2 billion users)
The stigma is that younger people aren’t using Facebook, but 81 percent of adults 18-29 use the social network. It’s a great place to build a brand, and if you have a blog, Facebook allows you a lot of helpful site integrations. On the downside, Facebook has a tumultuous relationship with cannabis, and that doesn’t appear to be changing soon.
Instagram (813 million users)
Instagram has transformed from a mere photo sharing platform to a place where your brand can really set itself apart. By using unique and interesting photos and videos to tell your story, businesses can really connect to audiences on a personal level.
Twitter (330 million users)
Tales of Twitter’s demise appear to be premature. The platform gives brands a great avenue to find potential engagement. You can search for users who are talking about your niche and engage directly with them. Twitter also melds the brevity of Instagram with the robust link-sharing capabilities of Facebook.
Snapchat (255 million users)
Like Instagram, Snapchat allows you to engage in a more personal way with your audience. When Snapchat burst onto the scene and became the go-to social platform for millennials, people assumed it would be the next Facebook. Its momentum has slowed considerably recently. However, its allure to the youth is still impressive.
“One of the biggest mistakes that new brands will make is to only promote their product. While it is true that your end goal is to peddle your wares, you first need to gain the trust of your followers. The best way to do this is by sprinkling in content from other, non-competitor sources.”
SMO in Action
You need to decide which social networks are right for your brand. Ideally you would want to set up accounts across all platforms, but if you cannot manage and fill them all, you’re better off focusing on what you can realistically manage. Even if you are not going to use a platform right away, you will want to create a page on it, so you reserve your username, just remember to keep it private until you are ready to launch it. Reserving your username will allow you to keep the same handle across all platforms for brand uniformity. So, start with the platform that best suits you, and once you and your business have that mastered move on to the next one.
Content, Content and MORE Content
Now that you have your shiny new social profile, you will need to populate it with rich and diverse content. One of the biggest mistakes that new brands will make is to only promote their product. While it is true that your end goal is to peddle your wares, you first need to gain the trust of your followers. The best way to do this is by sprinkling in content from other, non-competitor sources. A great way to accomplish this is by sharing videos or articles that endorse whatever your product is associated with. For instance, if your company produces CBD oil, then sharing a news piece from a reputable, mainstream news agency about the benefits of CBD will position you into the public conversation, while also solidifying your product as a viable alternative.
Engagement is Key
To bring this conversation full circle, engagement is the holy grail of SEO/SMO. Google and Yahoo are prioritizing social media engagement heavily in their latest algorithms—the reason being that if you care enough to engage in something, then it must be worth sharing with those using them for searches. So, make sure that when you share something on your business page, you look at it through the lens of, “would I share, like or comment on this?” If not, then consider augmenting the post into something you would engage with. Most platforms do not display content chronologically or attempt to curate content specifically for the user. So, if someone engages on your post, it will be marked as content that interests the user and be given priority in their individual algorithm. Conversely, if you publish uninteresting content that is largely ignored, you will be pushed down the page, and eventually you will stop showing up if the user’s feed altogether. Videos and infographics are a wonderful source of engagement, and make sure to reply to any comments that warrant a response.
Don’t Sleep on Snapchat
The younger generation is all about this multimedia messaging app. And while a lot of them are too young to specifically target for cannabis marketing, if you put in the work now, you will be established once they are old enough to utilize your services. To quote the legendary Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” But if you think you know more than the all-time hockey-scoring king, we’re sure someone would love to unload a whole heap of Myspace stock on you.