In a series called “Green Economics,” the Green Market Report and Consumer Research Around Cannabis reviewed the online behavior habits of about 2.4 million cannabis consumers over the age of 21.
Among that group, Google was the most popular site, visited by 85 percent of respondents, followed closely by Facebook, garnering 83 percent of respondents. The next most popular online activity was streaming videos and TV shows, which 74 percent of respondents admitted to. That was closely tied with Amazon, which 73 percent of respondents logged onto (though only 29 percent used Amazon Prime), and then Netflix, which 58 percent used.
Other social media sites lagged behind. Despite a very large cannabis community on Instagram, only 56 percent of respondents logged on, while 52 percent used Twitter, 48 percent used Snapchat, and 41 percent used LinkedIn.
As far as music listening, 54 percent used Pandora, while 50 percent used Spotify, and 45 percent used I Heart Radio. Only 19 percent chose Google Play Music, and even fewer (eight percent) listened to Slacker Radio, the least popular site in general.
Hulu was used by 27 percent of respondents, while only 18 percent used iTunes.
“There is a huge disconnect between how cannabis consumers use social media sites like Facebook and how social media sites treat cannabis users,” the study authors wrote. Facebook has been resistant to allowing cannabis companies to have pages on the site, fearing that they would promote illegal drug use — this fear even applies to companies that don’t technically touch the plant. Hence, many companies’ pages have been shut down without warning.
Instagram hasn’t been much better. Owned by Facebook, Instagram allows cannabis companies to have pages and post regularly, but they too risk shut down if someone reports them or if Instagram decides to close the account.
How Instagram and Facebook each treat cannabis companies has been variable. “Instagram has been more aggressive in policing cannabis. Facebook doesn’t seem to shut down pages even if they don’t allow ads,” said Mike Coleman, director of marketing at Medical Marijuana Inc. (MJNA). “I’ve heard of companies building a following on Instagram only to wake up and have it shut down. It’s a tough place for a marketer to go.” According to eMarketer, businesses spend an estimated $36 billion on social media advertising, so sites like Instagram and Facebook are significant tools to reach target audiences.
Twitter has shown to be a 420-friendlier social media channel, giving cannabis companies no trouble for having profiles or sending out messages.
“Cannabis consumers prefer the social site of Facebook over the professional leaning site of LinkedIn,” says Debra Borchardt, CEO of Green Market Report. “Surprisingly, Instagram and Twitter aren’t as popular as one would think it would be among the cannabis buying crowd. You would think that Snapchat, with its disappearing posts, would be a big crowd favorite, but it isn’t.”
Like most everyone else, cannabis consumers largely use their cell phones. A whopping 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and 77 percent own a smartphone. That means, for cannabis companies, reaching someone via a mobile campaign is one of the best ways to get their attention. Some companies have loyalty programs that push out promotional notices to customers through text messages. This works for dispensaries, too. In fact, according to Coleman, that’s one of the best ways to market and build a contact list.