Scientists analyzing Tweets of medical cannabis patients

Fellow medical cannabis patients, your Tweets are being monitored by scientists.

At least they were once, so far, in California.

I ran across a study yesterday, “Patterns of Twitter Behavior Among Networks of Cannabis Dispensaries in California.” The Journal of Medical Internet Research published the study by scientists at RTI International.

RTI International describes itself on its website as, “An independent, nonprofit institute that provides research, development, and technical services to government and commercial clients worldwide. Our mission is to improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.”

To a journalist, that’s an incredibly obscure definition. A sub-sector of RTI is RTI Health, and their website says, “Generating knowledge and providing greater understanding so that you—and those who regulate, pay for, prescribe, and use your products—can make better decisions.”

For this research, RTI analyzed medical cannabis Tweet networks in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The idea was to determine which dispensaries out of the 119 examined were enjoying the strongest networks among patients.

Dispensaries should Tweet regularly with engaging content

The abstract of the research concluded, “The most centralized and strongly connected dispensaries in both cities had newer accounts, higher daily activity, more frequent user engagement, and increased usage of embedded media, keywords, and hyperlinks.”

The researchers added, “Measures derived from both network structure and cyberbehavioral dimensions can serve as key contextual indicators for the online surveillance of cannabis dispensaries and consumer markets over time.”

I’m not going to pretend to know what all this means, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I know a good story when I smell one!

It certainly sounds like the “science of marketing” is coming into play. I don’t know a whole lot about content marketing beyond the writing part (oh, I’m lying, I understand the social media part, too) but I do know that science comes into play in terms of things like SEO and data analytics.

In fact, Contently, the content marketing platform from which until recently I derived about 80 to 90 percent of my income, is a huge success for this very reason. They pair up solid data and science with great writers (like me!) to get their customers results.

Twitter gives dispensaries an open platform

“As a popular social network platform that enables rapid information exchange about controversial social phenomena, Twitter represents an unregulated domain where cannabis dispensaries can form communities through regular communication and engagement with large audiences,” the authors declared under “Principal findings.”

Now, I can’t help but address something that someone is sure to raise. The company that did this research takes on projects for government as well as industry. With cannabis still illegal at the federal level, it’s natural for people to scratch their heads about this research. Especially with the word “surveillance” all over the place.

“The most strongly connected dispensaries in both cities had newer accounts, higher daily activity, more frequent user engagement, and increased usage of embedded media, keywords, and hyperlinks,” the authors went on to report. “As such, both network structure and cyberbehaviors significantly distinguished between the communities in each city, which provides evidence for contextual indicators that can be utilized for surveillance of information exchange among dispensaries on Twitter.”

I suspect this study is much more about marketing and making money than it is about finding out who has a medical cannabis card, so I wouldn’t be too worried.

“Considering the well-documented impacts of social networks on consumer preferences and behaviors, an explicit focus on the exchange of cannabis-related information may provide valuable insights into how networks of cannabis consumers form around dispensaries on Twitter,” the researchers concluded. “For instance, some dispensaries regularly use Twitter to share their menus, inform their followers about new products, offer coupons and promotions, promote retail services, post industry trends and events, and mention findings from scientific studies.

“Other dispensaries, however, may engage in these practices less frequently or have more sporadic Twitter usage, which could influence their ability to form strong and sustained networks of followers.”

Proud to write for the king of content, but need a client!

Back to Contently. I’m sure my editors there know what all of this means. Contently has not yet landed a medical cannabis client, at least not so far as I know, but I sure would like to see them do so. If content is king, as they say in marketing, Contently is the king of content.

Contently’s clients include GE, IBM, Walmart and Facebook. I have been hired by Foundations Recovery Network, GreatCall, Seniorlink and NaviHealth off the platform.

I also can be, and have been many times, hired by clients via Upwork or Ebyline.

Contently no doubt is ready for a cannabis client when one proves smart enough to sign. Its strategists already are fiercely monitoring the business of cannabis marketing. The challenge, of course, is that it is forever changing, and laws vary state to state.

Of course, there also is a certain excitement that comes with the “Wild West” feeling of a new industry.

That’s why, for the most part, I’m sticking to medical cannabis as my area of expertise. The demand for content in this sector is only going to grow.

Like a weed.

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