How to Grow Your Instagram Following as a Cannabis Business

Instagram has over one billion active users per month, which makes it the third most-used social media network after Facebook and YouTube. And building a social media following for your cannabis business is very important since attracting a following for your cannabis business on Instagram or other platforms can help you sell more and increase your revenue.

Related: Top 25 Cannabis Blogs and Online Magazines in 2020

But cannabis businesses might encounter difficulties when curating their content for Instagram. Just like Facebook, Google and Twitter, Instagram imposes restrictions on cannabis-related content.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to advertise cannabis-related products on Instagram, and businesses that do so without respecting the social media platform’s guidelines risk getting their accounts banned and losing all their followers.

So, how can cannabis businesses attract a following on Instagram without getting their account suspended? Read on to find out.


Why Instagram marketing is so important for cannabis businesses

Even though Facebook and YouTube attract more monthly users, Instagram is probably the ideal social network for cannabis businesses. Instagram attracts a lot of young adults. More than half of Instagram’s global user base is younger than 34, and young adults aged 18 to 24 are the network’s most active users.

But what makes Instagram different than other social networks is that it’s specially designed for e-commerce marketing. Instagram is mainly a visual social network, so brands can share images to attract potential customers. With their phones in hand, Instagram users scroll through their feeds looking for inspiration or remarkable stories.

And top-performing brands are well aware of this, so they use the social media platform to increase their sales. With the help of high-impact images or stories, brands reach potential customers that would be difficult to target outside of Instagram.

As the statistics show, Instagram marketing can be a recipe for success. About 83 percent of Instagram users learn about new products or services on the social platform. And 90 percent of Insta accounts follow at least one business on the social network, with 54 percent of users admitting to making a purchase after seeing a service or product in their Instagram feed.

These statistics show that Instagram marketing can help your cannabis business flourish if you know how to grow your account.


Instagram for cannabis businesses 101

Instagram does not allow cannabis businesses to advertise or sell their products through the platform, regardless of the state or country the business is in.

But here’s the thing. Instagram also prohibits cannabis businesses from showcasing contact information, such as a phone number, physical address or email address, and doesn’t allow them to use the ‘Contact us’ tab on their business accounts. However, cannabis businesses are allowed to showcase their website addresses in their bio information.

The social network’s Community Guidelines mention that you’re not allowed to buy or sell illegal or prescription drugs, even if the drugs in question are legal in your region. So, how can you attract a following for your cannabis business on Instagram if you’re not allowed to showcase your products? Well, by bending the rules in your favour, of course.


Respect the rules to avoid an account suspension

The most important thing you should do if you want to attract an Instagram following as a cannabis business is to respect the rules at all times. One wrong step can lead to an account suspension and even to an account ban, which could cost you all the progress your account made on the social platform.

Here are the steps you should follow if you want to play it safe:

  • Don’t provide a physical address or a phone number for your business.
  • Set up a disclaimer and inform your audience that they should be over 21 to follow your account.
  • Do not post images or texts that could be related to direct medical benefits of cannabis.
  • Do not post images or texts encouraging people to make a purchase, join a promotion, get a discount, etc.
  • Don’t post anything that mentions prices.
  • Direct people to your website’s contact page if you want to make it easier for them to find your business.

Too many great cannabis accounts have been banned by not following these simple rules. Always make sure your Instagram posts comply with the community guidelines if you want to avoid bans.


Make your bio promote your brand

Instagram bios are more important than you might think. In fact, some marketers say that bios can make or break your Instagram marketing efforts.

Now, you might find it difficult to optimise your company’s Instagram bio because of the 150 characters limit. After all, what could you possibly say in 150 characters that would convince a potential customer to follow you?

Well, the first thing you should mention in your bio is your actual business name. Your Instagram username should be relevant to your real business name, but the two might not match perfectly.

Instagram only uses names and usernames for queries, so it’s important to write your real business name in your bio.

Your bio should also tell people what your brand is all about. Write down your industry or niche, your speciality and what makes your brand distinctive. Spice up your bio with your personality, make it stand out and promote your brand.


Create a brand identity

Just like you, your cannabis business has a specific identity. This identity makes your brand stand out from the competition and attracts a certain audience.

Ask yourself what’s different about your business. What makes it special? What should potential customers feel when they stumble across your Instagram page? Should your brand be funny, energetic, sarcastic, laid back, informative or something else entirely?

Related: The Complete Marketing Guide for European Cannabis Startups

The thing is, people only do business with companies they trust. And the first step towards establishing that trust on Instagram is creating posts that speak your audience’s language.

Any brand identity will convince certain people to follow you and will repel others. There’s no way around it. But that’s alright because your brand shouldn’t address everyone in the first place.


Track everything you do

One of the good things about Instagram business pages is that they come with built-in insights. These insights show you statistics, such as impressions, engagement data, user information and more.

Now, Instagram’s free tools are priceless because they help you understand who your audience is and how your target audience interacts with your content. This, in turn, allows you to optimise and tailor your content to your audience’s wants and needs.

As a rule of thumb, the more you know about your audience, the better you can optimise your content to increase post engagement.


Use visual storytelling

You probably heard of the term ‘Insta-worthy content’. Well, not everybody agrees on what is and what is not Insta-worthy, but most marketers agree that the content you post on the social platform should have a powerful visual impact.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should only post high-resolution photos or motivational texts, even though both could help with certain audiences. What you’re actually going for is engaging content.

The most common post you’ll find on Instagram is the image post. And you might believe that the image post is simple to master. After all, how hard can it be to post an image, right?

Well, it might not be as easy as you would think. Your audience processes images faster than texts, and according to a Google study, online users take about 17 to 50 milliseconds (yes, that’s 0.017 to 0.05 seconds) to have a first impression about your brand.

The images you post tell a story about your brand, so you should be the one who controls that narrative. Share a variety of photos to engage with different types of followers and try to create an atmosphere that matches your brand identity.

Another thing you should be aware of is that Instagram users expect to see genuine posts from the brands they follow, and they will quickly hit the ‘Unfollow’ button if all your posts are, in fact, self-promoting ads.

Use images to capture your company’s culture and brand identity. Post lifestyle shots and behind-the-scenes photos. Don’t focus on your products (because that might also get your account suspended), but focus on the people making your cannabis business possible, whether they’re customers, partners or employees.

Repost images from your customers’ or employees’ accounts whenever possible (remember to tag and/or credit the original poster) to make your business feel authentic.


Find your voice to create a bond

Instagram is usually a lighthearted social platform, so authentic posts tend to perform best. However, you can experiment with different tones, emojis, filters and other tools to create a distinctive brand voice.

It might take you a while to come up with a voice you’re satisfied with, but finding it could increase your audience engagement.


Educate your audience

Educational posts can be very important for cannabis businesses. A survey showed that 51 percent of Instagram users want brands to post informational content. And that is especially important for cannabis businesses because people are still searching for information about cannabis online.

One of the great things about educational content is that it attracts all kinds of cannabis enthusiasts, so they can boost your following.


Motivate your audience

Motivational posts combine minimalist visuals with uplifting messages. You can use these posts to encourage your audience and showcase your brand values.

Now, cannabis businesses should tread carefully around motivational posts and share them sparingly. Otherwise, you might end up looking cheesy.

You should also use third-party apps to create motivational posts that follow the same templates and align with your brand visuals and identity.


Influencer posts can increase your following

Influencer posts use the Instagram reputation of a well-known public figure to promote your brand. This type of post can include a visual of the influencer using your products (not recommended for cannabis businesses), visiting your physical location, wearing your branded swag or using your branded hashtag. The main benefit of influencer posts is reaching a new audience that might be difficult to target otherwise.

One of the difficulties of using influencer posts for cannabis businesses is finding the right influencer. There are tons of influencers who would gladly take your money, but you should try to find an influencer whose values and posts align with your company values.

Having an Instagram influencer post messages like ‘Wake and bake every day’ and then tag your cannabis waste disposal company might not do you any favours, even if the influencer has a massive following.

However, finding the right influencer can boost your following and lead to a mutually beneficial collaboration.


Use hashtags to stay relevant

Hashtags help your posts stay relevant in an online environment where users share more than 80 million photos every day. Hashtags create collections of posts from a variety of users under a single word or phrase that is spelled without spaces.

If you want to find the best hashtag for your post, you can use Instagram’s ‘Explore’ tab to see what’s trending in your community. Hashtags like #cannabiscommunity, #cannabis or #cannabisculture might be good options to start with. However, you can always find more hashtags for your specific niche or products.

You should also try to come up with a branded hashtag. Having your own hashtag helps you to manage your marketing campaign, collect user-generated content, promote events and more.


Engage with your audience

If you want to increase your Instagram user engagement, you should reply to your audience’s comments and interact with their profiles.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to follow every user that follows your business, but it’s important to answer customer questions and to respond to comments users might post on your feed.

Again, you can make your business feel authentic by following the profiles of your employees, partners and other popular accounts in your niche.

If one of the people or businesses who follow you tags your business in a post, look for opportunities to engage. Could you share their post in your feed to somehow promote your business?

Engaging with other Instagram accounts makes your business visible in a non-promotional way, which is always a good idea.


Attracting an Instagram following can help your cannabis business grow

Instagram is a powerful marketing tool you could use to boost your cannabis business. Create and share high-quality content to attract a following. Instagram users love authenticity, so stay true to your company’s values to win over your target audience.

Related: Top 25 Cannabis Marketing Agencies in 2020

Using these tips should help your cannabis business attract potential customers, despite Instagram’s restrictions on cannabis content.

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