Compliance on Instagram: The Little Things to Look Out For

October 19, 2021

Written by Highlyte

Devil’s in the Details

Nothing sours a campaign quite as quickly as an Instagram account shutdown. It prevents your content from being seen, it ruins relationships with influencers, and it generates bad publicity for your brand. Navigating the ever-changing guidelines on social media can be a real challenge for cannabis brands, but fortunately, AMNESIA has some quick tips that can help keep your content on the right side of regulations.

Keep in mind, these quick tips and tricks are by no means a substitute for legal or regulatory advice. Before launching a social media campaign, be sure to consult experts in the field who are up-to-date on the latest compliance protocols.

First up: avoid images of anything that resembles cigarette packaging. Cannabis that resembles cigarettes could easily be mistaken for one another and violate laws about promoting tobacco to minors. This is also a smart content decision in general given the potentially negative associations with tobacco products.

Another good rule of thumb: if a compliance issue applies to alcohol or cigarettes, it almost certainly applies to cannabis as well. Anything evoking party vibes like cocktails (or even non-alcoholic drinks that look like cocktails) should be considered a no-fly zone. Again, booze faces strict regulations, just like cannabis, and it is very easy to be flagged for alcohol violations, even if your cannabis content is kosher.

Product launches are another thing to avoid - even if you aren’t actively selling anything. Even though influencers are showcasing your product, it is crucial to avoid appearing like you are attempting to make a sale. Product launches, by definition, announce new products, detail their cost, showcase their features, and demonstrate a clear value proposition. On Instagram, anything that could be misconstrued as a direct attempt to make a sale will result in complications including potential account shutdowns.

Along similar lines, it is best to avoid discussing money—in any format. When displaying a product, don’t list prices, even if you are not actively selling anything. Furthermore, do not use any kind of money-based expressions or slang, like “money talks,” “nickle and dime,” “bang for your buck,” or even the word “free.” These phrases can all be flagged by Instagram’s backend.

The next tip is counter-intuitive, but crucial: avoid calling unnecessary attention to your accounts. Paid Partnership tags have the potential to pull a lot of undesired attention to your content. Disgruntled users may believe that Instagram itself is promoting cannabis, leading them to report your ads for violations they are not guilty of. These complaints can result in temporary account strikes, warnings, or other adverse complications. To make it clear that you are promoting a product, use the #sponsored, or #ad tags instead.

Again, these quick tips are no substitute for thorough legal research on compliance, and collaboration with experts in the field. But hopefully these common pitfalls and sticking points give you an idea of how tricky and unintuitive compliance can be. Common sense is a crucial aspect of running any marketing campaign, but in the case of cannabis, best guesses and experience aren’t enough to keep your accounts safe by themselves.

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