For about a decade now, Instagram has been riddled with weed dealers. So much so, that it sometimes feels like you’re wading through a maelstrom of people offering a mixed grill of #SourDiesel, #LemonHaze, #WhiteWidow and so on.
Meta (the corporation that runs Instagram) have been trying to do something about this for a while, but they are doggy paddling against a gigantic swell of dealers lingering above the thirst traps offering weed. Some are scammers, waiting in the digital shadows to rip you off, some are selling the genuine product.
According to a report by drugs think tank VolteFace, 55 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 have seen drugs being advertised on Instagram. The most popular drug that the participants saw advertised there, the report concluded, was weed.
I wanted to look into the digital strategy of some of Instagram’s weed dealers, so I enlisted the help of the best social media strategist I know, James Parker. He’s worked as Head of Editorial at plenty of publishers in the UK, creating more than his share of viral moments.
When he was running the socials for Burger King, he posted the most-liked branded tweet of all-time. It was a three-word burn of Kanye West which was liked 878.8k times earning him a trophy from Twitter. He obliged, in exchange for a pint, to help me rank the social media strategy of five Instagram weed dealers – whose accounts we can’t embed below, for obvious reasons.
Dealer one: 0/5
[You can’t initially tell this account sells weed, until you click through to their Telegram and they have loads of videos of the product.]
James: It’s not really an Instagram account; they have enough followers to produce some content, but instead they just post a Snapchat link every day. It looks like the worst NFT gallery I’ve ever seen.
There’s not a single like or comment on any post. They have stories and by that I mean they have two. Two stories! One is a jacket picture and the other is a packet of flavours. Again, clicking through to their Telegram, they have much more content, videos of the warehouses, the stashes and how many stacks they are making. All this would do great on Reels. Tthey really need to think about their content pillars.
Dealer two: 1/5
James: It’s a terrible *name, and they shouldn’t really include their age because nobody feels good picking up from someone younger than them.
They’ve got quite the following for someone that posts the same image multiple times a day. Though checking the posts, you can see there’s no engagement at all. They could improve by changing up their content output, making some original assets and utilising more of Instagram’s features.
If you check their Telegram link, they’ve got pictures and videos of their products – a much more diverse feed. It looks like a Pinterest for potheads! Some crossposting onto Instagram is needed. Their page, much like their service apparently, has a “fast drop-off”.
*We have censored the name so as not to get anyone in trouble, but it was a very common name, followed by “buds” and a year in the late-’90s. Like TerryBuds1999, but not that.
Dealer three: 1/5
James: This one has gone for a more threatening bio because of course that’s what you want before you exchange money for goods. With only 17 followers, it’s safe to say that this Instagram outreach isn’t going too well for the dealer. However, they are using hashtags in their post captions, which means their content will feature in people’s “Explore” tabs – that will earn them a few more likes and followers if they keep it up.
There’s only five posts on the page, though, three of which are close-ups of buds. I think a photoshoot day is needed to stock this account with a more visually entertaining content calendar. They still allow tagging in posts which makes me laugh; next time I’m high, I’m going to tag my dealer in a selfie to thank them.
Dealer four: 3/5
James: This is a massive upgrade, and by that I mean this page has more than one image. The pharisaical bio almost makes up for the fact that no posts on their page have any captions.
They’re just giving the audience what they want: pictures of narcotics and occasional motivational quotes from Wiz Khalifa. They use Stories, which means they will be moving up people’s feeds. They have a story category for different flavours, which is good.
The page only got started a few weeks ago. I can’t wait to see it grow. If the owner starts producing Reel content, this could become a decent page.
Dealer five: 4/5
James: This is by far my favourite of the bunch. It’s direct and to the point. And the weird cat as their profile picture lets you know they mean business. The range of pictures on this page are the best; from close-ups of skunk to bag shots – you know what you’re getting if you order.
There’s no external link, though, so he could be dealing straight out of his DMs which is risky because of keyword searching from ban bots. But at least you can speak directly to the weed man himself, a personal touch. I would suggest posting more frequently, creating video content and also using captions and hashtags when uploading.
Overall, though, these pages are terrible. There’s a massive gap in the market to teach dealers how to run their social media – that might be my next project.
We contacted Meta for comment on this article, and a spokesperson told THE FACE: “The buying and selling of drugs is strictly against our rules and we don’t want it on Instagram. Our teams use a mix of technology and human review to remove this content from our platforms as quickly as possible.”