From the Kardashians to everyday users, Instagram has been facing major backlash for its onslaught of changes in the past year. Since TikTok entered the scene at the start of the pandemic, the social media giant has announced new updates and tested features every couple of months.
Not only does the platform move much quicker than it did a year or two ago, but there is (seemingly) no method to the madness. For instance, Instagram regularly and carelessly sweeps through regulated industries – like cannabis – by scanning through keywords in usernames, captions, hashtags, and more.
Still, the app remains one of the most popular platforms for users to interact with businesses, which means your cannabis dispensary needs to bite the bullet and map out an Instagram marketing strategy.
Cannabis brands need to be cautious and strategic if they want to keep up on Instagram (and avoid getting shut down). To create content that your audience will love, ensure you have a comprehensive strategy in place and are using data to create more successful content.
Instagram Marketing Tips for Your Cannabis Dispensary
Here are eight tips to help market your cannabis dispensary on Instagram:
1. Optimize your profile
Your Instagram profile is the first impression you have on new, potential followers. From a high level, your profile should share who you are, what you do, and why someone should follow your business.
Instagram has unique anatomy to its overall profile since it is an inherently visual platform. Right away, people notice:
- Profile Photo
- Account Type
Your profile photo will become an identifying factor for your audience once they hit follow. It should share your branding upfront via your logo or a branded image.
Having a profile photo that clearly shows your cannabis brand’s logo or submark, centered, and in high quality is important to show users that your brand is well-established.
Use your bio as a place to quickly tell your audience what you’re all about. This space has limited characters, so it’s essential to not only describe your business clearly and concisely but to also optimize it for users to find you.
Most notably, your “Name” is the most searchable part of your Instagram profile. This means instead of only adding your company name as your profile name, consider something more optimized and descriptive.
For example, an event called the “TeeHC Open” is not very descriptive. Rather than using the event name as the profile name, we use “Cannabis Networking Event” to make our profile more searchable. Since the username (also called the handle) is @teehcopen, this also helps add more information upfront without being redundant.
As a dispensary, you can use your name and then add some descriptive words about your dispensary or the location. Think: “NAME Boutique Dispensary” or “NAME Boston’s #1 Dispensary”, and so on.
Instagram’s bio text is also important to entice people to keep discovering your content. Use emojis or simple language rather than jargon or an abstract mission statement. Additionally, you should have a clear call-to-action in your bio that directs users to your website.
Here is an example of an optimized dispensary bio:
Based on the buttons below your bio (as well as a potential title beneath your name), a user can figure out what type of account you are, whether it is a Personal Account or a Creator/Business account.
As a Business or Creator account, you are able to see Insights on everything from which posts are performing best to what times your audience is most active on the platform. It also makes additional contact buttons available to your followers, such as an “Email”, “Phone”, or a general “Contact” button for users to get in touch with you right from the app.
By using the Business or Creator account features, you are also able to add an age-gate to your profile. This allows you to verify that all users that interact with your account are 18+.
Doing so will add an extra layer of protection to your account and your business. However, it may deter users from actually hitting follow, as it requires them to go through an additional step before proceeding.
Speak with your legal and marketing teams to decide whether or not the age gate is the right move for your business.
Located below the bio section of your profile is your Instagram Highlights section. Your Highlights draw attention to your best, or most relevant, Instagram Story content.
Highlights are a great way to add an element of branding and personality to your account. We recommend creating branded highlight covers to give a polished look to your overall account.
In general, ask yourself what is most important to your audience when creating these Highlights. What are they here to see? Different brands may have various purposes in these Highlights.
For instance, Hennep prioritizes product updates to keep all visitors – local and otherwise – up-to-date while also including community-centric content to cater to its Provincetown locals.
Create a small selection of Highlight categories (we recommend between 4-7) and make sure there is some element that ties the cover art together with your brand. For instance, Pure Oasis uses its brand color and font across all Highlights. On the other hand, brands like Mission Georgetown use images that describe the Highlight category.
Note that not all your posted Instagram Stories need to be added to a Highlight. Instagram Highlights live on your page forever (but can be edited), so it’s important to pick and choose what type of content your audience might be interested in seeing.
Lastly, your feed is the overall appearance of all your posts on a grid. Rotate through posts that are consistent in color and branding so that when a user looks at your page in full, it has a cohesive appearance.
From a content creation perspective, this means making sure to use a consistent font when using text on images, or using the same filter to edit all your photos, if applicable. For instance, 1906 creates a color-cohesive feed using images with similar colors and rotating the selected color every 6 or so posts.
2. Post consistently
You’ve surely heard it before, but “content is king.” Building a community online requires consistency.
Start by posting at least 2-3 times a week and adjust as needed. Use a variety of post types to keep your audience engaged: image posts, infographics, videos, Reels, carousels, and more.
In the past year, authentic video content has been the most popular form of content (hence the rise in TikTok and Reels). As a dispensary, this means focusing more heavily on quality, real-life imagery and video is becoming more critical than ever.
When you can consistently deliver on value and post frequency, your audience will start to know what to expect from you both online – and off.
3. Showcase your brands
You don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel to deliver value to your customers. As a dispensary, your customers want to know what brands you carry in-store and what sets you apart from all the other dispensaries they might have already come across.
When in doubt, take existing photography from the brands you carry and repost (with credit!). Although you should use this tactic in moderation – since original content is more highly prioritized – it can be helpful to have an additional bank of content from other sources when you’re in a bind.
If you want to take things a step further, work with professional photographers or marketers to take in-store photo shoots with your brands so your followers can envision stepping into your dispensary for their favorite products.
4. Share behind-the-scenes content
What makes you stand out from other dispensaries? At the rate that the industry is growing, you need to emphasize your unique value proposition whenever you can. For a dispensary, this usually means highlighting behind-the-scenes content.
- Were you at an exciting trade show? Post videos and photos of your team at the event.
- Did you have some in-store pop-ups with big brands? Share live video of customers interacting with them. (And don’t forget to ask people for their Instagram handles so you can tag them in your pictures!)
Posting behind-the-scenes photos of your store, your team, and industry events is a great way to connect with customers, suppliers, and other people in the community.
A great example of this is Hennep dispensary in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
View this post on Instagram
5. Go easy on the selling
One key mistake to avoid on Instagram comes down to language. Since cannabis brands can’t market or promote the sale of cannabis, it’s essential to avoid “sales” language in your posts.
As you plan out your cannabis social media calendar, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t talk about prices, sales, or discounts.
- Don’t publish your product menu or talk about inventory.
- Avoid sharing links to your products, your store, your store locator, or any other page on your site that directs visitors to purchase cannabis products.
- If a user asks questions about pricing or inventory in the comments section, encourage them to call your dispensary directly for more information.
It is a fine line to promote your dispensary without explicitly encouraging the purchase of cannabis. If you are struggling to walk this line, we encourage you to reach out to us to work with a team of cannabis social media experts.
6. Use hashtags strategically
Unfortunately, something as small as carelessly using hashtags could put you at risk of getting your Instagram account disabled. Strategically selecting hashtags on Instagram is half the battle. As a cannabis marketing agency that’s been through it all on social media, we recommend the following:
- Do hashtag research regularly (about once every other month or more frequently)
- Keep tabs on popular, relevant hashtags in your community
- Ensure the hashtags you use are not being banned without your knowledge
For more information on banned cannabis hashtags and best practices, read our blog on Why You Need to be Careful Using Cannabis Hashtags on Instagram.
7. Interact with your followers
Remember those mall kiosk vendors that try to strike up a conversation while you’re walking, asking if you want to buy their product? How often do you actually buy from them?
We’re guessing, probably not very often.
On the other hand, if you’re perusing some rings at a jewelry store and the salesperson asks if you’re shopping for a particular item, you’re more inclined to continue a conversation and maybe even ask for their help.
The difference between the kiosk vendor and the jeweler is their genuine authenticity and engagement. The kiosk vendor is not being genuine in building a relationship with you and is instead focusing on how they can get you to buy, while the jeweler is trying to understand your needs and desires without being pushy.
Social media is the same.
Instagram is about community. If all you do is hype your own products, people will lose interest.
Instead, focus on building that genuine connection with your audience. If they are looking at your content, it is safe to say they are interested in cannabis. Your audience wants to hear from you, but they don’t want you to scream “Buy now!” in their face all the time.
Feature your customers on your page, ask them questions and share video responses, provide educational information based on the questions in your comments and DMs, and so on.
Engagement is a two-way street. The more love you show to your followers, the more you’ll get in return, and the easier it will be to grow your audience.
8. Partner with cannabis influencers
Instagram may not necessarily play nice when it comes to cannabis, but they love their creators. Influencers are a key strategy for dispensaries trying to grow their brands online because it allows you to circumvent major marketing restrictions.
Rather than paying for targeted ads – which will definitely get you shut down – collaborating with cannabis influencers allows you to target a niche audience without having to be the direct source of the advertising.
While this is a popular tactic, the creator industry is wildly unregulated. It’s important to set standards internally for your budget and the type of influencer you want to work with before doing research and reaching out for collaborations.