In past years it may have made sense for cannabis business social networks – social networks just for cannabis businesses to connect with consumers and other cannabis businesses, due to mainstream social networks’ restrictions on cannabis and the stigma associated with cannabis in some communities. And there are a lot of social media startups that have tried.
But as far as we can tell, none of these social networks have really panned out. Active communities haven’t really developed on any of them. Whether you’re looking to advertise to consumers, network, or establish partnerships with other companies, most cannabis businesses are better off trying to use mainstream networks like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, skirting the rules as necessary.
What’s the Point of Cannabis Business Social Networks?
Selling products or services to other businesses in the cannabis industry.
An additional avenue to develop partnerships with other cannabis companies.
Building connections with other people in the cannabis industry for the possibility of deals and partnerships later on.
Hiring and Careers
Fill or find positions in the cannabis industry, depending on which side of the equation you’re on.
News & Discussion
MJBiz and other publications do a good job of keeping everyone informed, but you may be able to find their content syndicated here along with potentially interesting company news and blogs and community discussion.
What About B2C Sales?
You’re not going to make many B2C sales on a cannabis-specific social network, since they aren’t for consumers (and even though a lot of people in the cannabis industry are consumers as well, they’re not going to be looking at a cannabis business social network for new products to buy for themselves).
Who Cannabis Business Social Networks Can Be Useful For
- Cultivators and manufacturers looking to sell their products to distributors and dispensaries
- Distributors looking for new dispensaries to work with, and vice versa
- Cannabis businesses looking for products and services
- Ancillary products and service providers looking for customers
- People looking to get into the industry
The Best Cannabis Business Social Network: Leafwire
Leafwire is probably the best specialty cannabis business social network. We’re not too active on there ourselves, but it seems like it could be a good place to network on a B2B basis, especially for ancillary service providers like consultants, lawyers, and accountants.
If you’re a plant-touching business like a dispensary or something like that, Leafwire might not be the place for you, unless you’re in the market for business services. You’re probably going to get pretty aggressively spammed, and there aren’t any consumers on the site.
In our opinion the content on Leafwire isn’t that appealing; there’s a lot of spam and self-promotion.
What About the Other Cannabis Business Social Networks?
Leafwire is the only cannabis business social network that people actually use that we’re aware of. All the other sites we see listed on “Best Cannabis Social Networks” seem pretty dead, have an interface that looks like it’s from the early 2000s, have a lot of spam, and/or are more a dispensary and product directly like Weedmaps. If you disagree, and maybe have some success stories on other cannabis business social networks, feel free to let us know in the comments.
Of course, social media is less about the site and more about all the people, groups, and content on them. It’s possible one of these sites could develop into something more useful later on and people start building communities and connections on them. Right now it just doesn’t seem like there’s enough of an advantage to move off other social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram; they’re not that restrictive when it comes to B2B cannabis content, and most consumers aren’t going to move off their other networks just to post or view cannabis content.
So Are Cannabis Business Social Networks Worth It?
For the most part, not really, unless you’re very eager to network with other business people in the industry, or have a strong urge to post pictures of cannabis products that might get you banned on the mainstream social media sites.
Feel free to go to every cannabis business social network in existence and create a profile for yourself and your company, but keep in mind that most social networks are only actually useful if you’re regularly using them and interacting with other people, so they involve at least some time investment to deliver results.
If you’re looking to network with other cannabis businesses, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter should work fine.
If you’re looking to market directly to consumers, sites like Weedmaps and Leafly are a better bet, and you can try to get away with marketing on Instagram and Facebook.
Alternatives to Specialty Cannabis Business Social Networks
Mainstream Social Networks
LinkedIn – Great for B2B
LinkedIn is the best social network by far for B2B sales, partnerships, and networking. At the same time, keep in mind that decision-makers get a ton of spam on LinkedIn so it can be tough to break through to people. You might not have much more success here than with cold calling or cold email, and certainly not as much success as approaching someone at a cannabis industry event. You can increase your odds of getting through to people by being active on the platform, and perhaps by commenting on a few of the prospect’s posts before sending an invite so they’re already familiar with you.
As with in-person interactions, unless you’re privately messaging a friend, make sure to keep it somewhat professional on LinkedIn.
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are better if you’re after B2C sales.
- Instagram – younger audience, image, and video-centric
- Facebook – older audience, more text-heavy
- Twitter – more text-heavy, less personal than Facebook
Facebook and Twitter can also be good places to keep an eye on industry news and see what both consumers and industry insiders are talking about.
General Tips for Success on Social Media
Here is how a social media account can be turned into a reliable marketing and customer engagement tool without infringing any social media regulations or violating any legal obligations.
The strategy of “please buy my stuff” isn’t going to work in an increasingly saturated market. However, instead of “hard-selling,” a smart rule of thumb is to keep your social media presence focused on providing useful information.
To run and manage a successful cannabis social media account, targeted content plays a big role to engage people. The idea is to develop content that encourages people to subscribe to newsletters and visit a brick-and-mortar store. Because cannabis businesses are unable to offer e-commerce transactions on social media, they are unable to use these platforms in the same way that many other businesses can. The content creation must be so amazing that it will entice consumers to visit a physical location rather than simply click a link.
Avoiding Bans and Shadow Bans
The mainstream social media networks (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) are all pretty similar in that they:
- Prohibit any kind of content that could be considered selling cannabis products, including anything that mentions buying, menus, prices, or encourages you to go to a cannabis dispensary location or website
- Generally discourage images of cannabis products, especially of using or buying cannabis products
- Will often ban, shadowban, or delete cannabis business accounts without any notice or opportunity to appeal, often in a way that seems random (you’ll get banned for posting one sort of content but not another kind, even though they both seem to follow the rules)
- Are much more strict when it comes to advertising cannabis content rather than organically posting content to your own page
Most social media experts advise that cannabis companies approach social media as cautiously as possible, limiting their use of words like “cannabis”, “marijuana”, and “weed”, and of cannabis imagery, and focusing more on education (a blog comparing different strains, for example) or advocacy content (a blog or video arguing for looser regulations or increased social equity in the industry, for example).
Will Federal Legalization End Restrictions on Cannabis Content on Mainstream Social Media Networks?
Probably not. Most of these networks don’t allow you directly advertise any other recreational or medical drugs that have long been federally legal.
Other Social Networks
Some people swear by Clubhouse as a networking opportunity. It’s a buzzy, audio-only social network that until recently was iOS and invite-only. It finally opened up to Android users in May 2021 and the public in July 2021.
Checking it out on a recent August 2021 afternoon, there seemed to be a number of cannabis clubs with lots of members, though not many active rooms or events. Presumably, the activity picks up at night and on weekends when people aren’t at work. It’s certainly an interesting concept and one worth exploring for industry networking and education.
Reddit, if you’re not familiar with it, is more like an old-school message board than a modern social network.
You don’t want to try to advertise your products or services here except in designated threads; you’ll probably get banned if you do. Make sure any content you post is genuinely educational and not just self-promotion.
It can be a good place to answer other users’ questions and show your value, as well as head off any criticism of your business that you might come across. It’s also a good place to get a sense of what small cannabis business owners and consumers are talking about, what their top concerns are and what they like or don’t like about the industry.
r/weedbiz is a decent place for smaller cannabis business operators and individuals looking to get into the industry to come together, complain, discuss common problems, complain some more, and ask for help.
Local Cannabis Subreddits
Some areas have pretty active subreddits where consumers go to talk about their favorite (and least favorite) dispensaries and products. A good place for businesses to gauge consumer opinion and monitor mentions of their brand.
New Jersey: https://www.reddit.com/r/NewJerseyMarijuana/
As far as we can tell, a cannabis business social network with actual value hasn’t really developed yet, though that doesn’t mean that a platform like Leafwire won’t eventually develop into more a vibrant online community, or that it’s impossible to have success on platforms like these. We recommend sticking to mainstream social networks like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Reddit, and just trying to abide by their vague and inconsistently enforced rules as best you can.