Marijuana Business Magazine - February 2018

Instagram and others have not released a specific list of banned content. But plenty of trial and error has led to a general under- standing of how to fly under the radar. It helps to know, for example, that these social media services don’t want to be seen as helping promote the sale and distribution of a federally illegal substance. Karl Riedel, vice president of mar- keting for VMR Products – a Miami company that supplies vaporizers and electronic cigarettes – has learned the hard way that Facebook doesn’t like images of cannabis smoking mechanisms. “They have shut down our ads for showcasing the actual device,” he said. Natalie Cupps DiBlasi – co-founder and executive director of Laced Agency, a Redondo Beach, Califor- nia, advertising firm – tells MJ clients to ensure their brand looks and feels appropriate. In other words, make sure it doesn’t appear as though you’re tar- geting minors. And go out of your way to ensure you don’t use methods that could trigger red flags for these sites. For example, she advises clients against using pictures of marijuana plants to promote their business. “I’ve noticed a lot of dispensaries use plant-specific imagery, which is a big no-no,” she said. Certain words should be avoided, too, including buy, discount, free or promotion – buzzwords that main- stream social media companies might view as promoting cannabis consump- tion or sales. Also, avoid stereotypical words. You want to give your brand an air of professionalism. Instead of bud, for example, say flower. Instead of hits, say doses. Similarly, stay away from words like cannabis, marijuana, bong, vape – anything that’s industry-specific. And don’t talk about getting high or make unproven medical claims. At the same time, know that you’ll be operating in a gray zone without clear-cut rules or guidelines. “To be perfectly frank, our social media platforms tend to pick and choose who they decide to turn off and who they don’t for very arbitrary reasons,” Cupps DiBlasi said. To avoid potential problems, Reed suggested companies draw up a check- list when creating an ad to ensure it doesn’t violate the known policies of a particular social media platform. Focus on Your Values While the known restrictions on con- tent might seem burdensome, there are avenues you can take to boost your brand and steer clear of social media regulators. To begin, highlight your business’ values, such as your mission statement. In particular, play up your strengths and communicate to your followers what your brand stands for. You can build your following around the com- pany’s philosophy and ethics without promoting your products directly. Also, understand your audience and the value you bring to the mar- ket. Do market research by surveying your customers to find out what you’re doing right, and then build on those strengths.That will help you know what your customers want from you so you can highlight that on social media. Cupps DiBlasi said you should emphasize that your product is compli- ant with state regulations and is avail- able only to customers 21 and older. Mentioning compliance puts Face- book and Instagram in a position to say your company is making an effort at legitimacy and following the law. “It’s important to stress that stuff,” Cupps DiBlasi said. “Even though it’s not the sexiest thing to do, it makes it harder for them to pull you down.” Before advertising, she added, ensure “your house is in order.” For instance, don’t offer any promotions or special sales. If Facebook’s modera- tors check your home page and deem it promotional, they’re less apt to approve your ad. “When you advertise you’re invit- ing the social media platform to put a spotlight on everything you’re doing,” Cupps DiBlasi said. Natalie Cupps DiBlasi Karl Riedel Kyra Reed 64 • Marijuana Business Magazine • February 2018