Marijuana Business Magazine October 2019

Moreover, for every dollar spent on in- fluencer marketing, the average company earns $5.20 worth of publicity, or “earned media value,” according to Influencer Marketing Hub, which helps link influ- encers with brands. A SPECTRUM OF INFLUENCERS There’s a range of different types of in- fluencers, and it’s important for cannabis companies planning social media cam- paigns to choose the type that will best achieve their business goals. At one end of the spectrum are house- hold-name “macro” influencers with massive numbers of followers—think singer Selena Gomez or rapper Snoop Dogg—who promote hundreds of prod- ucts to the general public and have tens of millions of followers. At the other end are relatively unknown influencers who have a smaller audience, numbering up to 10,000, but those followers are focused on specific interests. These micro-influ- encers can offer personal experiences with a product and educate their follow- ers about it. DiBlasi said cannabis executives mull- ing the use of influencers need to ask themselves the following questions: “Is influence a large group of followers? Or is influence the ability to persuade people to buy product that’s relevant to your target audience?” CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS While celebrity influencers can reach millions of consumers, experts say their audiences are too general to have high “conversion” potential—in other words, although they reach massive audiences, they’re less likely to convince followers to become customers of your product. Additionally, because celebrities aren’t experts on your brand or on anything related to your brand, they’re not considered to be credible sources of information. Further, they may promote competitors’ products, aren’t seen as be- ing “authentic” and are more expensive. According to Social Media Today, which tracks the social media industry, a single celebrity post can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $500,000, compared with about $180 for a micro-influencer post. “The whole value of influencer mar- keting is getting (consumers) to change their minds, and there’s ample research that shows celebrities in marketing don’t change people’s minds, because everyone knows they’re just paid to recite a line given to them,” explained Jim Tobin, president of Carusele, a North Caroli- na-based social media company. MICRO-INFLUENCERS The most effective type of influencers for cannabis companies, experts agreed, are micro-influencers. Rather than being promoters, they’re educators: They use your products and may have expertise in areas affiliated with them. “You want to be gravitating toward people who actually speak about a lifestyle or a particular subject matter that’s related to what your product does,” DiBlasi said. “So, if your product relates to the medical industry, you’re going to want a medical practitioner or holistic practitioner.” However, micro-influencers should not make claims about products. It’s not advisable, for instance, to have medical practitioners or influencers with medical expertise educate followers on how to use cannabis to treat medical conditions, DiBlasi noted. “That would be considered a ‘claim’ by the (U.S. Food and Drug Adminis- tration) and is considered a more risky approach to marketing,” she said. Influencers, therefore, should share only their personal experiences with products and disclose that the information they offer is solely their own opinion, rather than a claim made by the company itself. Instead of claiming, “‘This cannabis product heals joint pain,’” for example, an influencer should say, “‘I experienced great pain relief from this cannabis remedy for my joints,’” DiBlasi said. Taking an educational approach is important to cannabis companies because a large part of their potential customer pool is made up of what DiBlasi calls the “canna-curious”— consumers who want to know more about cannabis but are too intimidated to visit a dispensary and speak with budtenders. “Until it feels completely friendly and educational for the regular mainstream customer who’s canna-curious, they’re going to be looking for that education in social media,” she said. MEASURING IMPACT Micro-influencers are also more effective at raising brand awareness than influencers with larger follower counts because they have higher-quality “engagement metrics.” Engagement metrics measure several aspects of influencer/follower interac- tion, such as how often influencers post content, how often followers respond and how many likes, comments, shares and clicks their posts generate. It’s crucial to consider engagement metrics when selecting influencers, experts say. For cannabis retailers, for instance, micro-influencers’ engagement metrics Natalie Cupps DiBlasi Courtesy Photo Hiring a Social Media Influencer Marijuana Business Magazine | October 2019 100