On 4/20, otherwise known as international cannabis day, social media will light up with marijuana videos. But this subject hooks viewers well beyond the “high” holiday.
More than 150K cannabis-related videos were uploaded to social media platforms over the past year, garnering substantial views and engagements. This poses an opportunity for brands and publishers to explore.
Some quick insights:
- Media companies and influencers generated 3B views of weed-related content on Facebook in the past 12 months and 701M views on YouTube.
- Facebook is where the cannabis conversation is most potent, with 43.2K video uploads in the past year and 80.3M engagements in the past 12 months.
- Media publishers generated 1.6B views on Facebook in the past year. This includes global publishers such as NowThis Media (which accounts for 270M views) and Business Insider (139M views).
- One of the top influencers in the space includes Herb. This community of cannabis enthusiasts produced videos that garnered 190M views and 5.6M engagements in the past year.
Media Publishers Find Home for Marijuana Videos on Facebook
Facebook and YouTube have strict rules against the advertising or selling of marijuana on their platforms.
In February 2018, YouTube pulled a number of influential cannabis channels off its platform that were allegedly violating the platform’s policies. Many of these creators (including Loaded Up Entertainment, a cannabis-education portal which had more than 200,000 subscribers) have found new homes on alternative platforms including Vimeo and WeedTube, an online video portal which launched more than a year ago as a response to YouTube’s actions. (Coincidentally, WeedTube is releasing a WeedTube app this 4/20.)
Meanwhile, Facebook is currently home to the highest-performing marijuana-centric content. And organic conversations about the drug, on topics ranging from cannabis-themed cuisine to weed legalization, are driving billions of views.
Top 10 Most-Watched Marijuana Videos
Videos that marry marijuana with food (another social video darling) seem to get the most hits. Dominating this year’s top 10 cannabis videos on Facebook by views is Los Angeles Insider’s “Edible Marijuana Leaves,” generating 77M views and 1.1M engagements. The video features an LA-based restaurant that serves deep-fried pot leaves.
Coming in next is a single-shot video of “Weed Ice Cream Rolls” being made by VTRND. This garnered 60.6M views and 1.2M engagements for this specific video overall. The video was initially uploaded in late April 2018, scoring 16.6M views and 244k engagements (#5 above).
The same video was uploaded again in July 2018, at which point it garnered more than double the views (44.2M) and quadruple the engagements (1M).
This type of double-dipping is the perfect example of an effective media strategy when covering the cannabis beat (which weaves in and out of the news cycle). In the case of “Weed Ice Cream Rolls,” July 2018 was the month recreational marijuana first became legal in Vermont, so viewers were likely searching for cannabis-themed content.
And #3 is a Business Insider news video out of Colorado showing “How Marijuana Gummies are Made”:
In this case, the video explored the economics of recreational marijuana, sure to be a topical issue for years to come.
Videos celebrating marijuana gummies is a definite shift from the tone of Reefer Madness, the 1936 American propaganda film that once demonized the drug. Over the ensuing decades, marijuana has become more accepted in public discourse. Gone are the days of President Clinton who claimed he smoked marijuana but “did not inhale.” In fact, things had already clearly shifted by 2008 when President Obama said to a group of magazine editors, ”When I was a kid, I inhaled. That was the point.”
As of April 2019, recreational marijuana is legal in 10 U.S. States and the District of Columbia. Video content featuring open debates about cannabis legalization and safety is also charting on Facebook. A heated exchange about legalization with Damian Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, on a British news program came in at #9 with 12.4M views and 89.3k engagements over the past year on Facebook.
Established media companies may benefit from creating specialized playlists or social media channels to cover marijuana videos. Consider NowThis Weed, an offshoot of NowThis Media, which is generating millions of video views around issues such as how to obtain a medical marijuana card, how to identify different marijuana strains, how to create edibles, and how CBD affects any long-term health issues.
How Brands and Publishers Can Ride the High
Cannabis is a hallmark of alternative culture. Like or loathe the drug, it’s clear there is a budding opportunity for weed-related videos in the online ecosystem.
Brands that aren’t opposed could benefit from covering the topic, especially considering the growing acceptance of cannabis in the U.S. For example, Bloomberg just reported young consumers are twice as likely to use weed compared to the national average.
When planning a strategy involving marijuana videos, consider digging into arguments for or against cannabis legalization, featuring marijuana industries cropping up, showing the potential medical benefits of the drug on diseases (consider video #6 above, “Woman With Parkinsons Takes Cannabis Oil”), cooking with cannabis, and highlighting the quirks of the subculture.
Brands can also partner with publishers to sponsor content related to marijuana. This poses a particular opportunity for food brands (in States where recreational use is currently legal) to partner with influencers to make custom recipes, for example. No doubt, the viewer appetite is there.