Marijuana Business Magazine October 2019

Influencers are individuals who engage with potential customers on behalf of a company via Facebook, Instagram, Twit- ter and other online platforms. “Cannabis brands cannot utilize social advertising currently—meaning no Face- book ads, no Instagram ads, no LinkedIn ads, no Pinterest ads, etc.,” said Natalie Cupps DiBlasi, co-founder of Laced, a Redondo, California-based strategic digital agency that specializes in cannabis marketing. “The No. 1 way (brands can get their) message out there is through influencers.” Influencers can be valuable because they have established a level of trust with their followers and can affect purchasing decisions. Unlike actors who promote products via TV and other forms of conven- tional media, social media influencers participate in an online dialogue with their followers. Each time an influencer posts content—be it a written post or video—followers may respond to it with questions or comments, to which the influencer can then reply. NO NEED TO SPEND BIG Cannabis companies don’t need to spend millions to hire celebrities to pitch their products, however. Instead of hiring, say, a Kardashian, they can get more bang per buck by hiring a “micro- influencer,” someone who isn’t well known and whose audience is smaller but who can reach a more customized group, engage more frequently and personally with followers and, therefore, be more effective in terms of persuading them to purchase a product. Hiring influencers to promote your brand can expose your company to a wider social media audience. A 2019 Pew Research Center report found that a ma- jority of U.S. consumers visit social media platforms, with the most popular being YouTube (73%), Facebook (69%) and Instagram (37%). (See chart on page 102.) Cannabis companies can work around the many restrictions to advertising online by hiring social media influencers to promote their products and educate consumers. Here’s what you need to know: • Hiring micro-influencers who have far fewer followers than celebrity influencers is more effective for cannabis companies. • Authenticity and expertise in an area relevant to a product are key to micro-influencers’ success, as consumers look to them to provide both personal experience with—and education about—the product. • Educating consumers is more effective and less risky than simply promoting a product. • Use influencer databases to find in- fluencers suitable for your company. • Assessing “engagement metrics” is key to selecting an influencer. Among other things, engagement metrics measure frequency, volume and type of interaction between influencer and followers. S ome cannabis companies are circumventing obstacles that make it harder for them to advertise on social media platforms by hiring social media influencers to pitch their products online and sway consumer behavior. Marijuana Business Magazine | October 2019 98