Ask five people to define the term “influencers” and you’re sure to get six answers. Lately it seems that almost everyone is ready to harness the powers of influencers and yet struggles to harness their own understanding of them.
Influencers are seen as the latest marketing panacea – and their power can be remarkable – so the question becomes: how do brands, especially cannabis brands, engage influencers successfully?
First: What Are Influencers?
At their core, influencers are simply individuals with a strong social following who can effectively guide their followers’ opinions or purchasing decisions. Most often this is performed through social media posts. Some influencers become experts in a certain field and gain a large following while others become influential through their lifestyles or “personal brand.”
Defining exactly who is and is not an influencer can be nebulous. In fact, the line between celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing post can be quite blurry, with some celebrities now calling themselves influencers, when this term a few years was almost considered a step down in status. However, when influencers post, their audiences listen, engage, react, and often take action. Just like traditional celebrities, influencers have thousands of followers who trust them and their opinions.
Second: How Do Influencers Work With Brands?
If you think of the traditional celebrity endorsement, it’s transactional. A celebrity is engaged, they do an ad or post about the product, they’re paid, and often more people buy the product at hand.
Influencer marketing is a bit more nuanced. Influencer campaigns typically aim to be partnerships. They also often need to be in their wheelhouse, so their posts about the brand seem more organic and trustworthy. Bloggers and social media influencers are all required to disclose paid partnerships, but finding influencers who would promote a product if they had found it on their own (or, even better, who did so before the brand engagement) will have the biggest impact.
Influencers have worked hard cultivating online presences that tell followers they can be trusted, and the products are on brand for them. Finding influencer partners who can reach audiences with authenticity is a brand’s best bet for successful influencer campaigns.
Finally: How Can Cannabis Brands Benefit?
For cannabis brands, there is good news and bad news.
Let’s start with the good news. The good news is that the world of influencers has not yet been saturated in the cannabis industry. Cannabis brands can be smart about with whom and how they engage, and build their influencer network with the knowledge built on other brands’ successful and less-than-successful ventures. Cannabis brands can partner with influencers more strategically and optimize these types of campaigns. This level of control and knowledge from the get-go is an asset many brands wish they had, after running less-than-stellar influencer campaigns in the past.
Now for the bad news. The bad news is that because of cannabis’s federal legal restrictions in the U.S., utilizing influencers can be tricky. Tech companies such as Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Twitter, and Snapchat bar users from actively advertising illegal substances, and that includes cannabis, regardless of state-by-state legality. Because influencers build followers of tens-and-hundreds of thousands, partnering with cannabis companies can be risky because these influencers can potentially lose their accounts and followings.
However, this has not stopped a burgeoning market for cannabis influencers, and many cannabis influencers are using their clout to get the terms of service agreements changed on tech platforms. Cannabis brands who partner with influencers can be assured the partnership is one they believe in and will fight for. The power of influencer marketing is in partnerships, and the cannabis brands that find the right influencers will find a passionate group ready to help their followers to the right products.