Both cannabis brands and fans often experience their account being deleted, suspended, or suppressed in some way. With cannabis-specific platforms still not gaining any significant memberships, the industry has to climb from platform to platform to connect with enthusiasts, buyers, investors, the media, and other key members.
Most sources say that one option today seems to be the best for cannabis. However, alternative platforms and methods for building permanent connections can be beneficial.
RELATED: 10 Best LinkedIn Cannabis Groups For Networking In The Weed Industry
While metrics or methods for determining the most cannabis-friendly platform are not readily available, according to anecdotal feedback from various sources, LinkedIn appears to be the most cannabis-friendly platform right now.
Cannabis PR and social media expert Alice Moon said LinkedIn is a great way to connect industry experts. “It’s more for people than brands, but it’s a great place for brands to share their latest press coverage and news,” said Moon.
She also highlighted that Twitter tolerates cannabis content, but said that its search feature links the term cannabis to substance abuse news.
Others agreed. Karina Karassev, co-founder and COO of cannabis packaging brand Stori, said LinkedIn does a good job recognizing professionals in the cannabis industry.
“Linkedin is doing an excellent job removing negative stigma around the cannabis industry,” added Karassev.
Brooke Benavides, CMW Media’s director of marketing, said the cannabis conversation is growing on LinkedIn. She reported that customers told her the platform is still a taboo for non-industry members – with those connections rarely interacting with posts.
Despite its shortcomings, she believes that the job-oriented platform is the best today.
“LinkedIn remains one of the few platforms that enables organic reach in terms of cannabis content and groups, and industry professionals and businesses don’t have to worry about the potential for penalties or ‘shadow bans’ from their networks,” said Benavides .
Liz Gottbrecht, director of delivery brand Lantern, said Reddit is helping connect with fans by hosting AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions on certain subreddits. She added that the audio-based Clubhouse platform appeared to be another viable option, although its popularity didn’t go beyond industry leaders and makers. “It hasn’t really found the mainstream pull needed to scale and maintain relevance over the long term.”
Lantern also focuses on platforms like Alphabet Inc Class C, YouTube, Twitch, and Pinterest.
“They have strong cannabis-related communities where we can explore and share relevant content within the guidelines – food, guides, games,” noted Gottbrecht.
Instead of focusing on the mainstream, some target smaller audiences and cannabis-specific platforms. Both Gab and Mastodon have proven to be viable options.
While social media giants like YouTube seem to have eased restrictions on cannabis recently, plant-specific platforms like TheWeedTube, Leafwire, and MJLink are just a few startups looking to provide a solution for the cannabis community and their businesses.
RELATED: Social Media Closed My Cannabis Business Account. What now?
Branding executives say community building is essential regardless of the methodology used.
Companies with advertising budgets may want to dedicate part of a PR campaign. CMW’s Benavides said posting press releases and offering quotes to the media adds credibility.
“Posting corporate news and providing quotes on trending stories is a way for brands to build editorial credibility while also being remembered – and staying at the top of a Google search,” she said of the power of search engine optimization ( SEO).
However, in this author’s experience, companies must exercise caution or risk devaluing their credibility in order to analyze every news story. Instead of being perceived as a trustworthy expert, the brand may appear media hungry and considered an unreliable source.
Moon said merch giveaways are worth considering, with winners often receiving branded items that are used as word of mouth.
“If the cannabis brand is able to make DTC sales, they can offer referral commissions that would encourage people to tell their friends about the brand,” added Moon.
Gottbrecht also spoke about word of mouth, namely through staff, referral programs, and building local communities. Most of the methods can be done online or in person.
She explained, “For us, the focus on social building is building communities – by partnering with local businesses, creators, cannabis brands and pharmacies, and by expanding our own audiences as much as possible through email.”