Why Our Word Choices Matter When Talking About Cannabis

I regularly write for Oaksterdam University’s blog Cannabis Industry Today. This post was originally published on that blog on March 17, 2016.  

NOWe all look forward to the day when cannabis is legal across the United States. As advocates, we work to promote change. But have you ever considered the power words hold, especially surrounding cannabis?

I sat down with Oaksterdam University’s Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones to talk about this subject; it is one she discusses in lectures and is mindful of every day.

“The truth is that our words carry enormous weight,” said Jones. “Words shape our thoughts, feelings and attitudes, which dictate our actions. That’s why how we talk about cannabis is so important today.”

FMarhuanaLots of words in the English language are used to refer to cannabis: locoweed, weed, grass, dope, pot, marijuana, ganja, maryjane, and others. At one time in America ‘cannabis’ referred to the plant and was used by pharmaceutical companies in medicine to treat insomnia, migraines and rheumatism. Not until the early 1900s—when Mexicans legally immigrated to America to escape the Mexican Revolution—that we learned the word ‘marihuana,’ which in-and-of itself is not a bad word.  However, the stigma associated with ‘marijuana’ took hold in the early 1930s when Harry Anslinger specifically used the term in propaganda and linked its use to minorities in an effort to racialize the plant.

The War on Drugs was declared by former president Nixon in 1971, soon after the Controlled Substances Act became law and classified cannabis as a schedule I controlled substance illegal federally. At this time in history, America was experiencing youthful rebellion, social upheaval, political dissent and an elevated presence of federal drug control agencies. Generations of children learned about the dangers of drugs including marijuana through programs like D.A.R.E., which perpetuated negative information and attitudes related to cannabis.

Today, even as cannabis is more accepted by the general public, Jones maintains that the cannabis industry is still a movement. “No other industry in America produces and trades a product that is federally illegal,” said Jones. “Until this changes the cannabis industry is a movement.”

Dale Sky Jones - Oaksterdam University
Dale Sky Jones

Movement implies work-in-progress and that’s exactly how Jones sees it. “Some of the obstacles still in our way are mental, perceived, and emotional. These are all very real and the words we use must be specific to change perceptions and stigma.”

So, what words do we need to drop from our vocabulary as cannabis advocates? “Stop using the word ‘recreational,’” said Jones. “It’s a dangerous word because it conjures up images of stereotypes or images of children playing, both of which don’t help us move forward.”

Other words to consider include:

  • Adult, Commercial, Retail … instead of Recreational
  • Cannabis, Medicine … instead of Pot, Weed, Marijuana
  • Consume and Consumer … instead of Use and User
  • Overmedicate … instead of Overdose
  • De-schedule … instead of Reschedule

“Advocacy requires education and responsibility,” said Jones. “Choosing our words wisely advances our goal.”

Have You Made the Switch? 5 Reasons to HTTPS Encrypt Your Website Now

Secured connection link web browser detail

Have you secured your website with HTTPS encryption yet? We first published a post about securing your website in September 2014. That’s when Google announced it’s indexing priority for HTTPS websites and gave websites a window of two years to migrate to HTTPS encryption.

According to MozCast–which looks at changes in major Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features over time–there’s a slow steady increase in HTTPS page-1 results. the graph below shows activity over the past 30 days.

httpstrend_MozCast

Now’s the time to make the switch. Here are 5 reasons that will impact your business:

  1. More secure. HTTP website traffic is unencrypted and a bit like putting out a welcome mat for hackers. If your website uses HTTPS, the data is encrypted, meaning that only the users of your site and you can see what users are doing on your website.
  2. Protect your data. The data on your site can not be corrupted or modified during transfer without being detected.
  3. Users peace of mind. If at any time users are asked to input their personal data on your site, they’ll be more comfortable doing so after being assured that the connection and their data are safe and secure.
  4. More referral data. When a user from another secure website travels to your secure website, their browser will tell your website where they came from. This will allow you to track where your traffic is coming from and to further exploit those sources.
  5. Google priority when indexing. Google made a point in announcing that security is a priority to them and that they will use HTTPS encryption as a ranking signal. This means that by switching your site to HTTPS, your site will rank higher in Google searches.

Switching from HTTP to HTTPS encryption isn’t the only thing you should do to protect your site or to improve your rankings, but it is definitely a good place to start. Be sure to check the security of your website before and after making the switch to see the difference it makes. For more tips on how to improve your ranking signal or how to protect your site from hackers, contact a digital marketing professional.

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

 

5 Things We Learned From Viral Media About Marketing In 2015

starwars

More than ever before, there are tools available to marketers that allow them to understand who their customers are and what they’re interested in. Marketers are learning how to tailor their approaches to what their customers want using email, digital advertising, and endless other methods. How can we keep all of this in mind moving forward while also learning where to go from here? The answer can be found by looking where our consumers look: at viral media posts on social media.

In past years, memes dominated the viral media space that reaches millions of users. Viral media in 2015 was more about activism, entertainment, news, and politics. Here are 5 things we learned from viral media about the inner workings of digital commerce:

  1. Big name influencer marketing can weaken the merits of a practice to the point of harm. Taylor Swift’s public disagreement with Apple Music and Spotify was a huge detriment to both services.
  2. “Nerd” culture has completed its transition into the mainstream. The vast success release of Fallout 4 and the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are prime examples of this.
  3. Social media puts consumers directly in touch with companies and organizations. Regular people candidly share their opinions about products, services, and even political candidates.
  4. Buy buttons are starting to pop up everywhere. They are now directly on Pinterest pins, Twitter ads, Facebook ads, and beyond.
  5. Personalization is key. Consumers are watching, retweeting, and sharing heart-wrenching videos of people’s personal accounts. They’re looking at other individuals in a sea of people and considering themselves individuals. Treat them that way.

By watching consumer trends, we can become more aware of what works and what doesn’t. As the new year moves forward, watch viral trends to become more aware of what’s happening in consumer spaces and you’ll likely be on top of your game when it comes to knowing what your consumers want.

What viral media did you notice making a marketing impact in 2015? We’d love to hear from you!

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

 

 

How to Target Your Audience in 5 Simple Steps

target group

Every good marketing plan starts with a target audience. This is the segment of consumers you want to target to see the highest return on your investment into a marketing plan. To define a target audience and channel your marketing efforts towards them, follow these five steps:

  1. What is Your Product or Service? Analyze it to find out what problem it solves for the consumer who buys it. Is it a cleaning product for messy houses? Is it a medication to relieve extreme aches and pains?
  2. Who Has the Problem Your Product Solves? If you’re offering a cleaning product you will want to target the head of the household, maybe a mother or a father with children. If your product relaxes the body and mind, you may decide to target individuals by age group or ailment.
  3. Where Does Your Audience Get Their Information? The parents with a messy house who need your cleaning product might receive a daily or weekly email newsletter. Baby Boomers may look to Facebook to learn what others in their age group are doing to relieve arthritis or chronic pain, while college students may turn to Instagram or Twitter. Consider advertising in the email newsletter, create and use the appropriate social media platform, or simply be present wherever your audience tends to get their information.
  4. How to Engage Your Audience? Pay special attention to sources your audience trusts and begin to associate your brand with these sources. For example: parents may rely heavily on Parenting Magazine and people with physical ailments might frequent WebMd looking for relief ideas. Also be sure to explain why your product or service will solve their problem more successfully than all other products.
  5. What Does Your Audience Profile Look Like? Create an audience profile. This way, your sales team, writers, and designers can refer to the profiles to ensure the product is being represented to the correct audience in a constructive way every step of the marketing process.

Forming a relationship with your customers takes time, but once you do, you can be sure that you’ll have a marketing plan that is sure to have a solid return on investment. Bring on a marketing expert to help create your target audience and expose your product to those who need it most!

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

6 Tips to Ensure You Get Most Out of Social Media

Social Media

Presenting your business in a bright light on social media is a daunting, but important task. Using social media can be very time consuming, but when managed correctly, can be invaluable to a small business (especially with a tight marketing budget).

Here are six tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of social media for your business:

  1. Choose the Right Social Media Platform(s). Begin by determining your target audience. Once you have a concrete target audience, you can focus your efforts on the specific social media sites that cater closest to them. For example: Jimmy John’s markets heavily to younger people who like things “freaky fast” and want instant gratification. For this reason, they have chosen to have a strong presence on Twitter.
  1. Avoid Brand Confusion Across Sites. Your brand is one of the most important tools in your marketing kit. The way your business is presented on social media must be coordinated across platforms so as not to cause brand confusion. The message and language used may be tweaked slightly across sites to target the specific audience who uses each site most.
  1. Handle Negative Remarks Appropriately. Just about every business owner I’ve worked with has been concerned about controlling negative comments. No matter what social media platform you choose, unpleasant remarks can occur. Respond to negative posts and apologize for whatever inconvenience the consumer may have experienced, but do not solve the problem on a public forum. Directly contacting the customer if possible—use direct messaging, texting, or calling them on the phone—will provide you with more information about their complaint and let you better solve the problem.
  1. Manage Your Time on Social Media. Don’t get distracted by trying to be in too many places at once. Focus your time and efforts where they will be most effective. This means sticking to the one or two platforms that you’ve chosen and working to only create profiles that will be active. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to manage your social media accounts.
  1. Up Your Engagement Game. Try to focus on more than just your number of followers or likes on a platform. Get to know the flow of the platforms and when your targeted audience may be viewing them. Pay attention to what users say about your business and industry, and work toward an engaging experience with them. Provide relevant and regular posts to keep readers engaged. If using Facebook, be sure to read Facebook’s tips on how their new Newsfeed algorithm works to make sure that your posts are reaching your audience.
  1. Measure Your Results. Measuring the success of social media interactions can’t be done with traditional ROI metrics. Pay attention to analytics provided by a social media platform. For example, boosted/paid Facebook posts can provide a great deal of information. The number of views might reflect an increase in awareness and the number of click thrus could indicate interest in a product or service. You also want to watch the impressions frequency and reach. At the end of the day, true success will come when social media visitors convert into customers. (that’s a topic for another full post!)

Social media is here to stay and is a wonderful way to share your expertise, services and products as well as learn about your targeted audience. Roll up your sleeves and have fun! But, be sure to bring on an expert when you’re not sure of what to do next.

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

8 Digital Marketing Recommendations to Promote Your Business in 2015

Digital marketing recommendations

Now that the holidays are over and 2015 is underway, I thought it appropriate to look at what clients will want to consider going forward for the year. These aren’t so much predictions for 2015, but recommendations for boosting your small or medium sized business visibility and sales.

  1. Optimize Your Local Listings. Thanks to Google’s new local-focused update Pigeon, local search has evolved to be even more important to businesses with brick-and-mortar locations locally. Well-optimized directory listings are a winner for getting the first page for local queries and often appear above the Local Pack of organic results. What does that mean to you? Optimizing your directory listings—Yahoo, Yellow Pages, White Pages, Chamber, etc—is a must for this year.
  2. Secure Your Website. Why? Hackers are increasingly cracking code to get inside websites (i.e. the great Sony email scandal). Google introduced a proposal in 2014 indicting that the Chrome browser, which is used by 50% of internet traffic, will identify sites that are unsecure. To avoid having visitors to your website see this warning, you’ll want to want to upgrade your website from HTTP to HTTPS. There’s time to take of this—Google will implement the warnings beginning in about two years—but there’s no reason to wait.
  3. Optimize For Mobile Devices. Because of the increase in mobile device use, mobile optimization continues to be very important. If you haven’t upgraded to mobile or responsive designed website, now is the time to do it. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use Google’s Analytic Tool to test it.
  4. Step Up Your PPC Advertising. This means better vs. more. Pay-Per-Click advertising users are getting savvy. Good PPC ads require appropriate keyword selection, compelling copywriting, and optimized website landing pages. If you haven’t tipped your toe into PPC advertising, this could be a good year to try it. When PPC is well-managed, you don’t have to over spend to get qualified traffic to your website.
  5. Create and Share Videos. YouTube is owned by Google and videos hosted on the site continue to rank high in search engines. Know how to leverage YouTube videos to drive traffic to your website. That means optimization, engagement and cross promotion.
  6. Don’t Overlook SEO Basics. Google’s search algorithm is as sophisticated as ever, but that doesn’t mean you overlook keywords, meta titles and meta descriptions. Review these to ensure they are still appropriate for your website. Also be smart with your header tags, URL structures, internal and external linking. Update your XML sitemap and test your website.
  7. Pay Attention To Your Digital Content. As a writer by training, I’ve always been drawn to words. Turns out so are search engines. So, pay attention to your digital content so it drives quantifiable leads, sales and branding.
  8. Wearable Technology Is Around the Corner. If you’ve seen news from this year’s International CES conference in Las Vegas, wearable technology is huge. They are being touted as the next great consumer frontier and its projected that 1 in 5 people will have some kind of wearable technology in 2015. These innovations will lead to the need to optimize them…we’ll soon see voice search, real world query optimization and more microdata optimization.

Ok. So that last recommendation is really a prediction.

What are your digital marketing needs for 2015?