Monday September 14, 2020
By Andrew Ward
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental rule to cannabis networking was "show up." That meant going to a variety of events to offer yourself the chance to interact with like-minded enthusiasts as well as the people helping shape the burgeoning market.
That has all gone away, for now, thanks to the pandemic. A virtual replacement fills the market, offering a solution of some sort, to a community that thrived off interaction more than most others. With a new normal in place, what is to come in a post-COVID-19 cannabis community?
To get a grip on the present and a forecast for the future, PotGuide spoke to several professionals in cannabis staffing, marketing and public relations to gauge how a person can get their name out in the space while void of its in-person community.
Cannabis Networking Before COVID-19
The marijuana industry offered a plethora of networking opportunities prior to the pandemic. Virtually all the standard networking avenues were available, as were some that only an in-demand market like cannabis has to offer.
Jess Moran, founder and principal of PR firm JessCo, detailed how conferences and events often incorporated social media into the fold. Beyond the typical networking opportunities at dinners, expos and conferences lie even more industry-specific opportunities. "Joining well-known organizations and attending their meetings and events to network was also a great networking tactic," explained Moran.
More unique events existed as well. "Infused networking dinners pre-COVID were also very popular and a great way to network with the cannabis community," Moran noted. Despite its ample opportunities, cannabis events were forced to shutter like all others.
“The normal routes for networking pre-COVID included in-person meetings and networking events,” said FlowerHire CEO David Belsky. He explained that the particular sector was quick to feel the effects of the pandemic. “With the push for safe distancing, these have since vanished. Conferences have either been canceled entirely or have been moved to a virtual setting.”
Marijuana Industry Networking in an All-Digital Environment
A community that turned into an industry founded upon close quarters connections and sharing is now digital. How does it respond? According to most cannabis professionals, there are two rather broad avenues to explore.
"We were already living in a digital world prior to COVID," said Mike Mejer, founder and CEO of Green Lane Communication. He added, "Now with COVID, it's more important...to start working on your online presence and personal brand."
Mejer elaborated on the importance of having an online profile. "I encourage all of us to fine tune our social media profiles so that when someone sees our profiles for the very first time, they know exactly who we are, what we do, and why we do it."
Like Flip Croft-Caderao, co-founder of CBD brand Goodekind, others are doubling down on the importance of social media. “An effective strategy would be to give yourself a daily goal of comments and DMs and try to hit it every day,” said Croft-Caderao, who prioritizes LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook in that order.
Mejer added how social media helps promote a person’s work in other areas, like published articles, podcast appearances and others. “Share these achievements with your social media networks, and it'll position you as more of an authority figure or industry-expert, making you more desirable to connect and network with.”
Both marijuana professionals agree that while social media is their prime driver, people should explore online events too. "Virtual conferences are a relatively new concept, and the platforms hosting these events have embedded software and tools that boost collaboration and engagement among attendees," explained FlowerHire's Belsky, who encourages attendees to use the chat features to connect with speakers and attendees.
Don't stop when the event ends either, according to Belsky. "It’s critical to follow-up with those you interacted with after a virtual conference to further market yourself and establish a long-lasting professional relationship."
JessCo's Moran expanded on the types of events and chats someone should look for when connecting with the cannabis space. "There are still panels, and networking sessions through zoom, just virtual," said Moran.
She added, "Joining well-known virtual conferences can be a great way to get your name out there." Moran highlighted the series headed up by Cannabis At Work in particular. "I've been able to participate in a few, and some have even amounted into being able to work with different individuals that I hadn't previously met."
What Might Networking Be Like in the Future?
>Many in the space appear to have a loose prediction for what events will look like in a post-COVID-19 world. For some, the future could look more spaced out. “Handshakes are out. Smoking will no longer be a shared activity,” said Goodekind’s Croft-Caderao. “I don’t think it can still occur in the same close quarter environments that events were once in, but I do think we will create a new normal where we can still do networking in bigger spaces while wearing masks.”
Others, like FlowerHire’s Belsky, don’t see virtual meet-ups fading anytime soon. “We don’t anticipate virtual events going away any time soon, even after things return to ‘normal,’” said the CEO, whose company is already planning online events for this fall.
PR executive Moran believes virtual events will remain, but human interaction won't be gone forever. "Nothing can replace human connection," said Moran. The company founder added, "With the world slightly opening back up, there are conferences that will start to do smaller, regional events with less people.” Moran believes this extends to dinner parties, where guest lists for infused events are likely to be shortened.
Professionals agree that it is vital for people to connect via social media and online events. However, what happens after seeing the same faces at these events? Croft-Caderao offered tips on how to source new contacts. “Listen to cannabis-related podcasts to discover new people that they may want to connect with. Once they figure out who they’d like to connect with, they can use social media and Zoom to grow that connection.”
How do you plan to stay connected and network with the cannabis world going forwards? Share your tips and troubles in the comments section!