Promoting Your Cannabis Brand: Building User-Generated Content
By Stu Waters
Some of the nation’s craftiest cannabis entrepreneurs have come up with great ways to address these challenges and promote their brands. One of the most effective—and inexpensive—ways they do this is by harnessing the power of user-generated content.
6.5 min read
What Is User-Generated Content and How Does It Work?
User-generated content refers to any images, videos, text, or audio posted by users on web platforms and social media. From a marketing perspective, it means branded content that customers and visitors post on their own behalf.
The most important part of this definition for cannabis dispensary owners is the fact that the user generates the content. This means that the user is responsible for the content—not you.
It’s no secret that Facebook and Instagram have been targeting cannabis dispensaries and crippling their social media strategies. However, neither Instagram nor Facebook has placed specific restrictions on users broadcasting support for local cannabis brands. This means that while you can’t promote your strain-of-the-week variety sale online, your customerscan.
Word-of-mouth and social media advertising remain the most important marketing vehicles for marijuana dispensary brands. Focusing on user-generated content allows dispensaries to concentrate their efforts on the strategies that work best without breaking any rules in the process.
How Can Dispensaries Encourage User-Generated Content?
As a dispensary owner, there is one obstacle you can expect to run into when encouraging user-generated content—it’s out of your control. There is no way to coerce customers into posting about the dispensary, but you can encourage them to do it.
Many cannabis dispensaries around the country are already doing this. For example, the Las Vegas-based marijuana dispensary ReLeaf has a photo booth in its reception area and encourages visitors to take a photo and share it directly to social media.
Outside the cannabis industry, Whole Foods is notable for leveraging user-generated content as part of its highly successful social media strategy.
This is an ingenious way brands get the word out among customers’ social circles without broadcasting their own messaging. There are plenty of ways to achieve similar results:
Establish Memorable Moments. Set up a prop or display panel background that visitors can take pictures with. A branded prop or company mascot can easily get the word out about your dispensary without offering explicit sales to social media users.
Establish a Social Media Loyalty Program. If you want to turbocharge your social media presence, offer loyalty points to visitors who show they’ve shared branded material on social media.
Leverage Budtender Knowledge. Your budtenders aren’t just glorified retail cashiers. They are knowledgeable experts in the world of cannabis cultivation and consumption. That expertise can translate into user-generated content and word-of-mouth advertising easily. All your budtenders have to do is reach out and offer to answer visitors’ questions.
Be a Part of the Community. Not everything has to be strictly business. If your dispensary sponsors events, works with NGOs, or cultivates corporate social responsibility, you can encourage user-generated content while advancing a cause secondary to the business itself. Give to the community, and the community will give back.
Attend Conferences and Meetups. Your local cannabis industry involves a large number of individuals and organizations—not just dispensaries and their customers. Forge relationships with stakeholders, service vendors, political advocates, and other people throughout your area, and the content will gradually come in.
Customer Lifetime Loyalty Is Your Most Important Metric
There is a chance that even though you’ve done everything suggested in this article, you still aren’t seeing reams of user-generated content flowing in daily. It’s not the end of the world. This process takes patience and a long-term outlook.
Think about content generation and branded broadcasting from the customer’s point of view. Your customers are not going to immediately become lifetime brand advocates after one visit to your dispensary because you put a giant inflatable cactus in the reception lobby. It takes time.
If you want your brand to become important enough to your customers that they feel comfortable becoming implicit brand ambassadors, you need to offer stellar customer service from day one. You need to exceed customer expectations time and time again.
If you start thinking about customer retention in terms of years, it’s easy to see how customer loyalty translates to user-generated content and word-of-mouth referrals. It would be strange for any customer to visit a shop every week for years and not tell anyone about it.
Excellent customer service will pay for itself over time. Dispensary owners who want to keep their business on customers’ minds long-term benefit from extensively training budtenders, mapping out customer interactions, and responding to all feedback, whether positive or negative.
Start the Conversation Today
The decision to focus on user-generated content is a move towards establishing a local community. This community is united by its participation in the larger national conversation about cannabis culture and its future. Dispensary owners who position their brands to be a positive force in the local community have the most to gain from accepting that responsibility.