Raising the professionalism of social media

Cannabis companies must be mindful of the tone and message of what they post

A quick perusal of several social media sites for licensed cannabis dispensaries shows a disconnect between the tone of what is being posted online and the level of professional fluency by which medical cannabis businesses seek to be defined.

With the present reality in mind — including the current administration in the White House, the various regulatory frameworks, business expansion objectives, risk mitigation and longer-term strategies — the following considerations may be helpful for any individuals posting on behalf of a company.

Three Guidelines

  1. Remember, you are posting on behalf of your company.
  2. Define the intention of your post. If you are not able to articulate the intent of your post, it could be viewed as merely a random thought or an opinion. Consider whether or not that thought or opinion supports the company’s core business objectives.
  3. Once you have articulated your intention, it should meet one of three objectives: to inform; to educate; or to engage.

– Inform: A post that intends to inform provides information about your medical cannabis dispensary, educational events, product offerings, location, operational hours, changes, etc.

– Educate: A post that intends to educate provides content about the dispensary’s core purpose for existing. At Bloom Medicinals and Midwest Compassion Center, we include education on the science of medical cannabis, cannabis research, medical conditions, how medical cannabis benefits patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions, typical responses to certain products, etc.

– Engage:  A post that intends to engage positions itself to solicit feedback in order to accomplish specific, identifiable objectives.

 

Engagement

Social media posts with the intent to engage generally accomplish three objectives:

– Engagement guides the target audience to arrive at a conclusion on their own. An example would be: A question posed about selecting a medical cannabis product that does not have an intoxicating effect to treat a qualifying medical condition for patients with active lifestyles. The community interacts with one another, engagement ensues and your social media page has gone from a digital placeholder to an interactive forum.

– Engagement gathers intel on the needs of a stakeholder, or products and services the company may wish to offer, etc. This is accomplished with thoughtfully crafted questions, surveys and the ability to act upon the information received and execute on the opportunities gleaned.

– Engagement invites discussion on recent developments in the field of medical cannabis, such as changes in state laws, the progress of reform, the addition of a new medical diagnosis to the list of qualifying conditions and so on. Appropriate social engagement invites discussion and considers everyone’s opinion as valid. Rather than seek to assert opinion, engagement seeks to expand the conversational boundaries into critical thought that may not have been previously considered.

In sum, engagement offers an opportunity to develop customer/brand loyalty. If, after thoughtful consideration, you find that the content you are about to share does not inform, educate or engage in a manner that will further your company’s business objectives, consider moving in another direction.

 

The Post

Once you have identified your intention and purpose for the post, craft your verbiage around that purpose as follows:

– Use proper terms and consider avoiding the use of slang (weed, joint, grass, etc.). It is unnecessary and may lead a customer to believe your company lacks the dignity and professionalism required to assist a patient in the treatment of their medical condition.

– Position your post in terms of how your dispensary serves patients who have been diagnosed with qualifying medical conditions; in other words, do not assume that the reader of the post knows who you are and what you do just because they are on your page. Treat every post as an opportunity to further your brand.

– Consider associating your post with how your cannabis products relieve the suffering associated with the symptoms of qualifying medical conditions. Speak like an adult and allow compassion to inform the terminology you choose in your speech.

– Before sharing content from another website, consider the following idea: perhaps the company or individual whose content you are sharing has a past that, with association, could potentially harm the reputation of your company. Guilt by association is a prejudice from which it is not easy to recover. Make sure the content comes from a well-vetted, professional, longstanding source.

– If you are sharing content, do not share blindly. Summarize the content of the share using the guidelines above, describe your dispensary’s market differentiation and how you are uniquely situated to support your audience’s needs in delivering the products and services described.

– If you have to think it about twice, or you have to question whether or not it is appropriate, it probably is not.

– Ask if the content you are about to post will engender goodwill, loyalty and further your dispensary’s core business objectives. If not, consider another topic.

 

Final Thoughts

Rather than being an extension of an individual’s personality, remember that your dispensary’s social media assets are expressions of its business objectives, personality and the expertise it presents to its community members. Keeping these considerations in mind will protect your company’s reputation, defend against unanticipated legal, regulatory or security risks, create consistency in theme and tone across all digital channels, assert a level of professional etiquette and guard against unintentional disclosures and breaches of confidentiality.

Setting a professional tone from the start will set your company apart from the rest, making it a highly attractive option for a variety of business objectives.

 

R.J. Starr is an operations professional with more than 25 years’ experience in managed care, pharmaceuticals and regulatory compliance. He is the head of regulatory affairs for Bloom Medicinals and Midwest Compassion Center, creating business process architecture for medical cannabis programs to ensure compliance with the requirements of state boards of medicine, pharmacy, health, commerce and revenue, as well as state laws and jurisdictional law enforcement agencies. Bloom Medicinals is a licensed medical cannabis dispensary located in Germantown, Maryland. Midwest Compassion Center is a licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the greater Chicago area.

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