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Instagram Targets Cannabis-Related Social Media Accounts

terry roston

Photo-based social media giant Instagram regularly takes action against cannabis-related accounts for violating the terms of service (TOS). Often enough, the reason behind a ban is often unclear to the accounts that are affected—which leads to detrimental loss in engagement for up-and-coming cannabis businesses. 

Instagram has an estimated 1 billion monthly active users since its initial release back in 2010. Any disruption to a thriving Instagram account, especially for cannabis-related accounts, can have devastating effects from a marketing perspective. In most cases, a violation of the TOS can be walked back through a series of steps, as detailed by marketing expert Colin Bambury. Bambury has encountered Instagram suspensions numerous times and wrote up a guide on his website Adcann to help others get their accounts reinstated.

“Social media is an important tool for marketers in any space. It allows brands to create connections and communicate with current and potential consumers anytime, anywhere,” Bambury writes. “With COVID-era lockdowns, consumers are staying inside and scrolling through social platforms more than ever, increasing the importance of digital advertising and native content creation. The cannabis industry is no exception—with many brands, retailers, producers, and accessory purveyors utilizing platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.”

Bambury lists that Instagram and Facebook’s policies around “drugs and drug-related products” include ads that don’t promote the sale or use of “illegal, prescription or recreational drugs,” avoiding the use of images related images such as bongs or rolling papers, avoiding any use of images of a recreational drug itself, and avoiding images specifically showcasing recreational or medical cannabis. 

“Although Facebook acknowledges that cannabis can be both ‘recreational’ and ‘medical,’ implying that the substance is regulated and has medicinal value, their official website continues to communicate a zero-tolerance policy on ‘marijuana,’” he wrote in regard to the company’s image policies. “This poses a large problem for cannabis producers, brands, retailers, accessory producers, and marketing agencies looking to connect with consumers.”

On Instagram specifically, same-topic competition can also prove to be a nuisance. “Instagram will frequently prioritize removing content that is reported—which means that ‘haters’ and unethical competitors can, unfortunately, conspire to potentially have your page taken down,” he added.

“Up until recently, that was the main cause of content and account removal. However, in late 2020, Instagram and Facebook made an observable change to their AI restricted content detection, as cannabis accounts and photos were targeted to the extreme. If you rack up enough posts that violate IG’s community guidelines, your account will likely be disabled,” Bambury concluded.

Unfortunately, even adhering to these rules and policies has resulted in banned accounts on Instagram and Facebook. In June, Cannaclusive’s Instagram account was banned for the first time since the creation of those accounts in 2017—with Director of National Projects and Social Media Kassia Graham expressing her confusion about why the account was banned in the first place. She told Yahoo! Finance that it might have been because of a post that garnered a large amount of popularity, or that maybe it was because they tagged other Instagram accounts that had recently run into issues with Instagram violations.

Maria Brasco, social media manager at MATTIO Communications shared that even implementing her own strict rules on what to avoid posting, there doesn’t seem to be any logic behind Instagram’s banning rules. “Accounts that err on the side of caution are being penalized, while their industry colleagues are blatantly ignoring the rules, and nothing happens,” she told High Times

There isn’t a clear solution in how to 100 percent protect a cannabis-related Instagram account right now. Until federal legalization opens up new doors for issues like this, bans will remain commonplace—but in the meantime, those who manage cannabis accounts will benefit from becoming familiar with the account recovery process.

The post Instagram Targets Cannabis-Related Social Media Accounts appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Nicole Potter

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Cannabis Companies Walk A Fine Line on Social Media

terry roston

Cannabis reform may be progressing in America, but access on social media remains an uncertain landscape. While brands have thrived, reaching millions of followers and verified status, many others have been cut short, suspended and deleted along the way.

Even those succeeding appear only to have a glimmer of an idea about what’s right and wrong when marketing cannabis. With so much uncertainty, brands proceed cautiously in a direction that may or may not be the correct path. 

The Three Outcomes To Avoid: Deletions, Suspensions and Shadowbans

Whether violating the rules or innocently caught up in the review system, accounts face severe punishments if accused of violating the terms of services. They include: 

  1. Total account deletion
  2. Suspension, lasting one to 90 days depending on the platform and violation
  3. Shadowbanning 

Each result is devastating, especially to a brand or company spending countless hours building up a following. The first two consequences are straightforward. Shadowbanning, on the other hand, is a bit more unclear. Much like how Yu-Gi-Oh!’s Shadow Realm is an alleged place of suffering, so is social media’s apparent shadowban realm. Instead of anime-purple smoke and monsters, social media accounts face a near-complete banishment from the site without losing their posting privileges. 

In short, shadowbanned accounts remain in working order but essentially get removed from communal activity and engagement. While banned, few if any people will be able to see the offending account’s new posts, stories or other activity. 

Brittany Hallett, VP of marketing at cannabis CPG brand SLANG Worldwide, elaborated, saying bans are a means of suppressing organic, unpaid-for reach. “Essentially, rather than turn an account off, the content posted on a page is suppressed, limiting the number of impressions you receive on that content,” she explained.

Not confirmed by social media platforms, the existence of shadowbans has broadly been accepted, with most reporting that bans last two to six weeks.

Harrison Baum, CEO of Daily High Club, said shadowbans are an engagement killer, ultimately stunting follower growth and brand bottom lines. “People also won’t find your brand unless they type the whole name into the search bar,” said Baum, who also oversees all social media initiatives for cannabis brand High Tide.

He believes his account has experienced shadowbans several times but cannot confirm if that is the case. 

Hallett said some possible solutions to a ban include creating a post asking followers to like, share, comment and save posts. “Instagram wants to show valuable content to the platform’s users, so if you can show that your page is offering value, it will improve your reach,” she said. 

Cannabis Brands Try to Stay Compliant

Cannabis is still not welcomed on social media, Google AdWords and other major outlets where people and brands converge. U.S.-based social media companies adhere to federal guidelines, which continue to prohibit cannabis. Therefore, they don’t want cannabis’s money or the consequences if they did.

Instead of outright bans, social media platforms have allowed cannabis brands to develop, with several becoming verified, racking up millions of followers in the process. A few in the space have remained fully or largely compliant by sticking to a few crucial rules they believe social media giants operate by. 

Much like the rationale for bans, there is some understanding of what cannabis compliance means on social media. Broadly summarizing the steps, companies should avoid selling products, consuming pot or using imagery they don’t own. However, the ambiguity and potential for unanticipated consequences leave many to form their conclusions and hope they remain online. 

Several sources said keeping sales out of content is essential. Unlike many other industries, cannabis brands are recommended to use social media as a lifestyle brand, using their channels to start the conversation with followers rather than generate sales. 

“If you’re directly selling a product or linking to your website, don’t show cannabis,” advised Baum. He added, “If you do show cannabis, don’t act like you’re selling it.” 

Adam Greenblatt is a Canadian advocate and cannabis brand manager working for Canopy Growth. He creates content regularly on his accounts, amassing nearly 6,000 followers on Twitter and 80,000 on TikTok. He has only had content flagged during his early TikTok days. He was never deterred by the warnings. 

“Even when they did, I could submit a written appeal, which worked nine out of 10 times,” Greenblatt said. 

Despite cannabis being legalized in Canada, brands and people like Greenblatt must adhere to social media’s U.S.-focused rules. He believes he’s remained relatively unscathed because he does not show or consume cannabis. Instead, he keeps the tone educational or sarcastic. 

“That said, other science-focused creators have been banned from TikTok for no apparent reason,” he recalled. 

Maria Brasco is the social media manager at MATTIO Communications, managing numerous cannabis clients in the space. She reports that, so far, little has proven effective across the board. She delved into specific tactics, including prohibiting content from reaching underage users via an age-gate, but that has not worked entirely.

Instagram’s current rules have no rhyme or reason, according to Brasco. “Accounts that err on the side of caution are being penalized, while their industry colleagues are blatantly ignoring the rules, and nothing happens,” she said, calling the situation the Wild West. 

While frustrating, adhering to the rules is essential. Allison Krongard, co-founder and co-CEO of female-centric cannabis and sexual wellness brand Her Highness, said posting or communicating about any illegal activity is never wise. 

“I don’t respond to plugs or people asking me to send them weed,” said Krongard. She said people reach out daily. 

Overall, compliance is key for a brand. Courtney Wu is the co-founder of Amnesia, an digital agency devoted to cannabis brand compliance using its social media monitoring tool Highlyte

“We are always trying to educate people that you have to think about compliance from the very beginning,” said Wu. Amnesia, which boasts zero shutdown accounts as of July 2021, tells brands to consider compliance in the forefront, not as an afterthought. 

How to Stay Creative While Walking the Social Media Line

Social media rules limit cannabis content creators. Still, operators have found ways to create compelling content without losing their accounts. 

Wu emphasized the importance of compelling content. They noted that companies, cannabis or otherwise, succeed when considering how their brand provides better value than the competition. “Those kind of individual value propositions that may not be necessarily unique to you,” still work, said Wu. She said brands can also excel by showing consumers how their product fits into a person’s life. 

The Her Highness co-founders said that reading the rules helps, while being provocative without overdoing it is critical. 

“There have been times when we couldn’t show smoke coming out of a joint for text ads, but we could show our gold pre-roll box and a grinder,” said Krongard, calling the issue a design obstacle. 

Jim Higdon, co-founder of Cornbread Hemp, went so far as to create alternative phrasing and imagery in YouTube videos promoting a new flower-only extraction process. The company used oranges and juice as slang and a visual aid for CBD and relied on fresh-cut flowers to replace nugs.

“By being creative in these ways, we hope that YouTube’s mods and bots are more friendly to our content and that we remain compliant to their standards,” said Higdon. 

The post Cannabis Companies Walk A Fine Line on Social Media appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Andrew Ward

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Social Media Ban Included in Montana Cannabis Draft Rules

terry roston

The Montana Department of Revenue, which is tasked with overseeing both the adult-use and medical cannabis industry in the state, has proposed draft rules for industry advertising, including a ban on social media ads, KPAX reports. The rules are not final, and the agency will be taking public comments for the next several weeks.

In addition to the ban on advertising on social media, cannabis companies would not be allowed to advertise on TV, radio, or in newspapers. Companies would be allowed to have websites but would have to take “appropriate measures” to ensure people under 21-years-old could not access them.

Cannabis companies would also be prohibited from offering promotional items or sponsoring charitable events or sports, or advertising on billboards, or use banners or flags as outdoor signs, which would have to be attached to a building or permanent structure.

Businesses would be allowed just two outdoor signslimited to 11 square feet or smallerwhich would be required to include disclaimers about the risk of cannabis use.

J.J. Thomas, owner of the dispensary chain the Higher Standard, told KPAX that the state’s advertising rules for the industrywhich is currently only medical“already makes it really hard on businesses to succeed in general.”

“We’re already limited on things we can say, images that we can use, the way websites are accessed, signage on your buildings, and all this stuff. … It sounds like they’re basically taking it down another level to make it even harder than it already isto the point where we don’t really know, is there anything you can do?” Thomas to KPAX

If approved, the new Montana advertising rules won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2022, which is the date that adult-use sales are expected to commence in the state after voters approved the reforms during the 2020 General Election.

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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