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Learn | 09.28.2022

Video Killed The Radio Ad: How To Market Cannabis On YouTube & WeedTube

Here’s how to spread the word about your brand without crossing community guidelines.

With the rules around weed in a constant state of flux, figuring out how to market cannabis effectively can be a challenge for even the most astute marketers.

However, this does not mean it is impossible to market cannabis. It is just a bit more complicated than marketing most other products. It will require you to use different sites and different modes of attack.

YouTube

The second most visited website on the internet, trailing only Google, YouTube is a natural place to start a marketing campaign. Unlike many other sites and apps like TikTok, YouTube is still ‘dumb.”

For the most part, it displays videos that match the keywords people search for, and not necessarily the intent of that search. That means that the basics of successful YouTube marketing are still quite simple.

The Rule Of Three

In order to successfully market a product, whether it be cannabis or cars, you need people who are searching for your product to come across your product. On YouTube, this can be accomplished fairly easily. When deciding which videos to show as search results, YouTube is simply looking to see if your video matches the content that people wrote in the search bar.

How does YouTube do this, you ask? Well, they look to what we call the “Rule of Three.” YouTube is a keyword-, not a semantic-based program. All it is looking for is whether the keywords of your video match the keywords of the search–and there are three places you can state the keywords of your video: the title, description, and tags.

So if people are searching for educational videos on how weed works, your video will not appear in the results if your video is titled “ How Pizza is made”, with a description detailing how pizza is made and tags of ‘pizza”, “pizzeria” and “New York water.”

Your video needs to follow the rule of three; its title, description, and tags all need to contain the words that people are searching for. YouTube is not using semantic analysis. Your videos’ discoverability to your target audience is based on your keywords matching their searches.

Your title should be something like “How weed works”; your description should mention the educational aspects of weed; and your tags should be something like “weed,” “education,” and “THC.” You are given three places to tell YouTube what your video is about; use them.

While the “rule of three” is quite simple, that doesn’t mean that marketing weed on YouTube requires no effort whatsoever. First off, the “rule of three” is only useful if you know what your customers are searching for. You could have all the best video titles, descriptions, and tags in the world, but if they don’t match what your desired audience base is searching for, they will never see your videos.

So, before you even use the “rule of three”, you first need to do audience research. You need to be able to answer the basic question, “what type of weed content is your audience searching for.” Once you know this, you can then use the “rule of three” to help connect your videos to your audience on YouTube.

YouTube Features - Is YouTube A Social Network?

While the central part of YouTube is still the equivalent of an early search engine, YouTube has been rolling out many new features.

These have transformed YouTube into a search engine that is also–in some important senses–a social media network. Or at least a search engine that resembles social media.

As such, to get the most out of YouTube, it is important to use the social media features of YouTube to your advantage.

Shorts

This first, and probably most ubiquitous of the new features, is YouTube Shorts. These under-one-minute vertical videos, made in the style that is popularized by TikTok, are searchable on YouTube. Any engagement you receive on shorts boosts your standing in the algorithm, helping your channel and other videos.

So, using shorts is a great way to get more eyeballs on your content. And it is incredibly easy to use as well. You can just cut out a clip from one of your videos and make it into a short. Or you can film them from scratch, using the vertical orientation on your phone. Look at your video comments or Google reviews and answer a few quick questions from your customers to get a short up today. Just make sure they are less than a minute long and add a hashtag (see below) of #short to the video.

Either way–by taking the main points of your video or answering some questions from customers–shorts are a great and easy way to improve your cannabis marketing.

Don’t worry about your regular video cadence. Just upload shorts whenever you can.

Community Posts

A feature that might seem more at home on Facebook, Community Posts allow you to stay in touch with your audience and viewers directly.

In posts that only appear to subscribers or those determined as interested viewers by the algorithm, community posts appear inline on the YouTube feed, and any engagement they get boosts your channel and its standing in the algorithm.

This just raises the importance of extensively using community posts as part of your marketing strategy, as community posts’ recent introduction means they are less used than other features, and any posts you make will have greater engagement, thus boosting your channel.

One easy way to get this engagement is to post polls, as people love answering polls, and no matter what they answer, they are boosting your channel. Posts can also be text paragraphs, videos, images, and GIFs.

Stories

Another feature seemingly native to another social media platform, YouTube stories work just like Instagram stories. So any Instagram stories content you have is perfect for YouTube stories as well. They get great engagement due to their lack of overall use, so, like community posts, they should be used as often as possible as an easy way to drive traffic to your channel.

Hashtags

A recent feature, despite what many people think, YouTube hashtags exist in a separate ecosystem from the standard YouTube search engine.

Whereas if, in the past, you put a hashtag before your text in the search box, you would just get the standard keyword-based search results for the text you put after the hash. Now hashtags exist off of the search grid.

When clicking a hashtag, you are taken to a hashtag page with all videos with that same hashtag. Basically, they are a way for YouTube to group similar content and for the viewer to find similar content to that which they already like.

This, however, provides great opportunities for you, the savvy cannabis marketer, to take advantage of. Because while you might not be the biggest channel in the weed field (though we certainly hope you are), you can take advantage of the bigger brands by aping your competitors’ hashtags. That way, when people are looking for a video from some big brand on a certain topic, if you have the same hashtag, they will also see your video.

You should also use internal hashtags to increase internal traffic on your channel from one video to the next. All in all, using hashtags provides a real way for you to expand your audience and increase channel engagement.

Chapters

While chapters may now seem ubiquitous across the website, chapters are also a fairly recent addition to YouTube.

On any video over one minute long, you can create chapters by simply adding timestamps and descriptions to your videos. While they may seem like purely a nice feature to help users navigate YouTube better, the benefits of using chapters extend beyond that to content production as well.

Research has shown that videos with chapters have an average engagement rate of 6.5%, which is over 15% better than the average YouTube video. So if you want people to see your excellent content and buy your weed products, you should use chapters on all your videos longer than one minute.

An important note first, though: for chapters to appear on the published video, you need to start your video with a timestamp of 00:00.

Chapters also help sections of your videos appear in regular search results since Google considers each chapter a “passage” and can rank it individually.

Thumbnails

While not a new feature by any measure, nor a classical marketing strategy, thumbnails are nevertheless important for marketing your weed on YouTube.

Though they don’t have any impact on your video search ranking, they have a noticeable impact on getting people to click on your videos.

I mean, would you rather click on a video with no thumbnail or one with a cool picture and a catchy text? I know which one I would rather click on. And the average viewer is no different.

Use bright pictures with heavy contrast and ensure that the text is visible on mobile but doesn’t take up more than 30% of the thumbnail. Faces or people in thumbnails help them perform best.

Not Every Feature Is For You

In summing up our discussion of basic YouTube marketing, it is worth it to acknowledge that not every new feature might seem like the right feature for your channel, brand, or product. However, YouTube heavily favors channels and features that use them. So it is well worth your effort to use all the new features you can.

WeedTube

Founded in 2018 by a group of cannabis content creators, WeedTube is the first video-sharing site dedicated exclusively to cannabis. All the content–whether educational, humorous, or professional–is about weed.

It is a site for weed enthusiasts, and these enthusiasts can make money off of their videos. Just like other platforms, WeedTube is monetized. Creators upload videos, and if their channel is monetized, what WeedTube calls “ Partnered Creators,” they will get a portion of WeedTube’s advertising profit based on their total monthly views.

However, while monetization is possible on WeedTube, the site has a significantly lower reach than YouTube. While YouTube gets 35 billion user impressions per month, WeedTube gets slightly under 100,000.

Why Use WeedTube over YouTube

After reading the previous section, I can see the question racing through your mind. If WeedTube has such little traffic, how is it relevant to my cannabis marketing? Why would I market my weed products on a site with less traffic, when I can maximize my marketing potential on YouTube with simple steps and reach a massive audience? Well, the simple answer is that when it comes to marketing your weed on YouTube, you often can’t. In fact, this is actually the entire reason that WeedTube exists.

To understand the precarious existence of online cannabis marketing, it is important to realize that while it has been legalized, both for medical and recreational use, in many states, marijuana is still a federally controlled class one banned substance.

In other words, under U.S. federal law, weed is illegal. Now, in states where the substance is legalized under state law, this federal statute poses complications to the industry, but it isn’t an existential threat. In the vacuous world of the internet, which exists in no one state, weed’s illegality under federal law is a big problem. So, to protect themselves from potential liability and legal risks, big websites such as YouTube have historically taken strong stances against hosting cannabis content on their website.

This is where WeedTube comes into the picture. In 2018, many big weed YouTubers were kicked off the platform, shadowbanned, or demonetized all at once. While unverifiable, this was almost certainly due to their weed content. While YouTube has since loosened its policies to allow purely educational cannabis content to be posted on its site, in 2018, all cannabis content was–in theory–a violation of YouTube’s rules.

Banned from YouTube and without a way to get weed content to their audience, the weed community had its casus belli. And a few months later, WeedTube was founded with the express purpose of providing a safe and welcoming platform for weed enthusiasts, both content creators and viewers, to interact on the web. As such, WeedTube now offers cannabis creators an alternative marketing option to YouTube.

A site where they can talk about their product in any way they want and still reach their audience. What is the audience?

So Which Should I Use

With two different sites to market weed on, it is fair to wonder which one is the best to market on. The Answer: both. To successfully market your weed product to your audience, you really need to take advantage of the unique benefits offered by both YouTube and WeedTube.

With its massive reach, YouTube should be the place where you put all your educational and less intense content. Under the new community guidelines, anything that isn’t directly promoting weed or cannabis usage is fine to be posted on their website. So make videos talking about how weed is grown. Or talk about the medical benefits of THC. Or anything else. But make sure to make educational videos, with the rule of three in mind, and post them on YouTube. Just because you can’t post everything you want on it doesn’t mean the site can’t be immensely valuable to your marketing campaign.

Now, since you can’t put the real hard-core weed content that your audience of cannabis consumers might desire, you should also be sure to utilize WeedTube. There you can put all your content that can’t be on YouTube. It could be videos ranking different strains of weed, videos documenting someone getting high and talking about their experience, or just you expressing how a certain product is awesome, and you think everyone should try it.

While fewer people may see these videos than those you post on YouTube, people will see them–and they will often be the most targeted and in-market audience you can hope for. By reaching them, you may actually go further for your business than reaching more people who may be less engaged on YouTube.

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