For a cannabis brand, life on Instagram is urban warfare. Algorithms don’t like you, competition plays dirty and selling is the third rail. Touch that rail—even go near it—and your account, with all its hard-earned followers, can be toast.
And yet the platform is a kick-ass marketing tool and despite its limitations, has always been more weed-friendly than other social media. “In such a fragmented and regulated industry,” says consultant Ben Walters, “Instagram is the lifeblood of brand bonding with customers.”
Walters knows what he’s talking about. The guy practically lives on a spreadsheet, where every waking minute he takes the digital pulse of more than 500 cannabis brands. The company he founded, Pioneer Intelligence, publishes a weekly Index ranking companies in terms of marketing performance on social media along with earned media and other web-related activities. “Our scoring prioritizes heat over strength,” Walters says, explaining that it’s based on nearly 150 factors—from audience growth and quality of engagement to buying fake followers. “We’re not just interested in saying who has the biggest account. We want to know who’s hot.”
Green Entrepreneur, ever curious, wanted to know too and asked Walters to slice his data for us. He agreed to analyze which brands are specifically crushing it on Instagram.
The top five
After much back and forth discussing the various nuances of hotness, Walters selected five brands: PlugPlay, Alien Labs, Melting Point Extracts, Old Pal, and Clout King. All but the last were among the 20 top Index brands for the previous 26-weeks, and each stands out on Instagram for a different reason. Old Pal uses the grid to create eye-grabbing posters. Alien Labs has an otherworldly engagement with its followers. PlugPlay keeps its young fans plugged in with a fast-changing mix of reality TV and news bits. And Melting Points Extracts (MPX), pops endorphins with closeups of its terpene-dripping concentrates—budders, shatter, diamonds and sauce.
The fifth brand, Clout King, has made its account private so Walters can’t pull as much data on it by way of comparison, but it has caught his attention as a brand on fire. Offbeat and irreverent, its page is filled with satirical memes that poke at competitors and skewer the modern legalized industry at large. “They predated legal status,” says Walters. “And if you look at their feed, there are some intense conversations about the industry as a whole and what OG guys think about the new school and the quality of product. They’ve got engagement for sure.”
So what are all these brands doing right? Here are some rules they follow.
Published: April 23, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News