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Online Cannabis 101: The Next Digital Frontier

Cannabis online. It is here. Even if the regulators are not happy about it. What’s new in an environment where Europe is becoming the next frontier?

In some ways, the entire conversation exists on a slippery slope. There is a good and a bad side to this entire conversation no matter where you choose to pick it up, engage, or proceed.

Cannabis Online 101
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Online activism and consumer engagement is a big reason that cannabis reform itself has moved forward over the last decade in particular. In others, it is why substandard product (particularly on the prosumer CBD front but also on the THC one) has made its way to end consumers so fast. And in the case of the vape scandals, particularly in the U.S., this has an international reach.

However, here is the reality. CBD and in some places THC are becoming more available by online purchase. And certainly online presence, even if in the form of “free” press or other social media interaction is now a common practice within the industry. Many of even the German side cannabis companies are now considering their digital strategies carefully (see also our CannaList.EU Job Board where more and more of these jobs are turning up).

But where are the lines drawn and for whom?

Is a medical-only cannabis distributor in Germany allowed to post an interview online with a doctor talking about medical cannabis (the answer is yes). In fact, it is a good idea.

Is an LP (cannabis production company) allowed to discuss its newest products online? There are certainly many who are, and not always indirectly. See Twitter for starters.

So where the lines are drawn, and by whom, is very much in flux right now, and also likely to be for quite some time into the future. Namely (although this is a gross overgeneralization) this is a scenario that will prevail until Google, for one, agrees to let people buy the keyword “cannabis” or anything associated with the same.

In the meantime, get out your long tail SEO keyword skills, or work with those people who understand the term.

What To Do From a Digital Cannabis Perspective?

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It is a huge and looming issue. There are several looming trends in the cannabis industry right now that intersect with the issue of cannabis sativa online as much as off it (namely how people recieve information and learn about the drug and or the plant in both professional and consumer scenarios) as much as where they buy it. And in what language. That said, there are some basic ideas that appear to be highly visible in the public vocabulary at least in terms of their search activity in many languages. Namely, is cannabis (and its different forms) good for one’s health, or as a way to ward off illness (starting with Covid-19).

These trends are also driven by regulation, lack thereof, and large and looming loopholes in all at a time when the majority of the global population searches for their information via mobile devices. And when companies in the cannabis space, in every country and every vertical, are trying to reach new consumers. Not to mention when the laws and regulations themselves are also changing, and fairly radically about who is allowed to do or say what and to whom.

So what is a cannabis company, particularly one with an international or even global footprint to do?

Cannabis Advertising And Branding

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This is a huge discussion that cannabis companies have engaged less than optimally so far, although there are just as clearly, the successful outliers. That said, it has been a rough road so far, for just about everyone.

At a time when the word “cannabis” cannot be bought and sold by search engines, starting with Google, the industry needs smart ways to get their products if not THE product in front of as many consumers as possible.

Hiring an SEO expert, however, is only the beginning of the story. Constructing smartly optimized blogs about hemp seed oil will only take one so far, even if you are selling product.

The highly identified branding required not only for websites but all social media strategy and presence within the industry itself is one of the reasons that cannabis companies should be actively looking to cooperate as much as produce their own media, especially when it comes to certain kinds of issues and for certain kinds of products and information associated or related to the same.

The revolution, in other words, can sort of be commoditized, if not certainly helped along the way.

So far, there has been no public relations campaign, digitally, across Europe at least for that matter, discussing the many problems the industry is having in getting legitimate product to consumers. There is also an increasing search online by consumers looking for sources for legitimate product.

It is entirely possible in other words, for companies to produce enough online content as well as related, and reflected chat online, to make an impact when it comes to SEO rankings for certain kinds of “keywords” associated with cannabis.

The companies as of the last month most effective in implementing such strategies globally? Aurora Cannabis and Prohibition Partners in the UK.

But remember, if they can do it, so can you. In this world, the field is remarkably open. Today’s top ranked keyword, particularly with branded keywords, is tomorrow’s digital nowhere land without constant maintenance. No matter what, however, strategic planning and eyeballs are absolutely critical. This is about a longer term commitment to a huge and complicated ball of wax, is bigger than any one company or media outlet, and takes creative thinking to master if not implement in the first place.

If consumers do not know about you, or the benefits of the plant, or on the B2B side, do not know where to begin to find a job, or find out more about the industry itself, they do not know how to look for such information.

Part of your role in this industry, if you are engaged in the digital part of it certainly, is to teach people how to look for certain kinds of information. And that is never an easy task.

Prescribing And Selling Cannabis Online

clear glass bottles on white table
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There are several avenues this is going, and this largely depends on jurisdiction. In the United States and in Canada, online sales of cannabis are already here, even if people cannot advertise the same in a direct way. Including digitally.

In Europe and indeed probably globally after December, the word cannabis is also going to be designated as “medical.” Nobody can advertise pharmaceutical products in Europe to begin with. How countries will block American advertising now that hemp is federally recognized is another matter. Or whether they will. Indeed, advertising, including of a B2B kind, to a European medical market via American or Canadian cannabis sites or produced media is a discussion that is about to bloom, and in several different countries.

But on the CBD front? The horse has already left the barn, including in Germany. See, for starters.

The EU and EC if not WHO can split hairs all they want over different kinds of cannabinoids. Online, however, it is an entirely different story.

Affiliate Sales Or Online Education?

woman in black and yellow shirt sitting on chair
Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini, Unsplash

This is an area that has clearly already blossomed in several jurisdictions and Europe just as clearly is one of those places. CannaList.EU will be evaluating Affiliate programs that are legitimate for European users in another blog. Regardless, there is also a place for especially CBD companies, particularly those in compliance with the rules around production of the product they sell, for an expanded affiliate marketing presence, across Europe and in multiple languages.

Again, though, just “selling” product is not enough. If you are getting paid by an affiliate program to sell their products, think about ways you can bring cannabis education generally into the discussion.

Companies should also look for influencers who do.

It may be a “poor man’s” doctor referral, but there is also no reason why doctors themselves, particularly who are advocates, should not be supported by cannabis companies to talk, generally, about prescribing or the medical impact of the drug (see AMC’s upcoming interview with Dr. Grotenherman as one great example of this).

It Is A Whole New World

The industry has gone global, and the rules of digital interaction are still being written, not to mention defined and redefined.

However, one thing is for sure. Cannabis itself has been unleashed (including as a keyword). The horse has now left the barn.

Online Cannabis 101: The Next Digital Frontier

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