What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is the process by which brands leverage well-known figures who have influence over their target markets to promote their brands.
This doesn’t mean you need to be able to afford to pay Lil Wayne to promote your concentrate line.
In fact, many of the most successful influencer marketers are not extremely famous.
Finding influencers isn’t about finding the most famous person.
Instead, it’s about finding a person your audience trusts and leveraging that influence to promote your brand.
Influencer Analysis defines an influencer as a normal person who maintains connections with media outlets and other public entities and who uses those connections to help brands promote their products and services.
More simply, an influencer is a person who may or may not use your products and who has your target audience’s attention. They have spent time building a relationship with a specific demographic.
Influencer marketing seeks to leverage that relationship to promote your brand in an authentic way. This is, in fact, what the cannabis space NEEDS.
How to find the right influencers
The expanse of the internet can make narrowing down an influencer search intimidating. By using existing networks first, an influencer search becomes more focused and relevant.
Start with what you know
First, ask coworkers at your business which influencers they follow in the cannabis industry. Look for content creators who don’t just have large followings, but whose followings are engaged. That means you seek out influencers with lots of comments on their stories and social media posts, as well as social shares of their content.
A celebrity influencer whose posts may reach thousands of followers is less effective than one whose post gets more comments and shares, and thus more organic reach.
Browse your own followings
Within the social network followings for your brand, identify your most fervent followers. Since they’re already passionate about your business, these people may also be willing to act as brand advocates for you.
Use tools and search engines
Don’t discount the power of Google when you’re looking for influencers. Search for “influencer” and the topic related to your business. While the top results may command too high a paycheck for your brand, you can still get an idea of those in their communities who might be able to help.
Also, influencer marketing tools like BuzzSumo or Klout can clue you into top influencers. You may also get great influencer ideas by actively participating in online communities such as Reddit or forums, where you can connect with users and ask them who they follow in your industry.
How to approach influencers
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, it’s time to approach influencers about potential partnerships. Keep in mind that many of these people get approached often. Your cannabis product or brand must stand out and provide value to the influencer to motivate them to participate in a campaign or support your brand. Remember, to some this is still (ugh) a sensitive industry.
Use these techniques when approaching influencers.
Establish a connection
You know how many people find cold calling annoying? They often feel the same way about a cold email where you dive into what you want from someone without giving them context. The influencer might be a stranger who lives thousands of miles away but think about commonalities you have and why you approached them.
Have you been an avid fan of their blog for years? Have they recently written a review that you enjoyed reading? Is their video channel one of the most-watched ones among your coworkers? Let them know immediately why you’re a fan of their content to keep their attention. Give a clear and concrete example of how their work relates to your brand’s goals.
State what’s in it for them
Influencers want to provide valuable content to their followers. If your cannabis brand is off-message for their own personal brand, or if there’s no motivation in sharing, they won’t put forth the effort.
Also, given how precious the influencer’s time is, they won’t want to waste it if your offer isn’t great. Even if you’re doing influencer marketing on a budget, you should still provide them with something of worth in return for their work with your brand. This can include:
- Social shares from your own channels.
- A link to their content in your next email newsletter.
- The ability to get a free product and test it out before anyone else.
- The opportunity to provide an interview or testimonial which links back to their website.
- A link to their content on your website.
Ultimately, influencers want their own reach and engagement to increase so they can keep working with brands like yours in this emerging space. If you can share their content and help to build their followings, that’s valuable to them.
What to Be Wary Of
Influencer marketing may be all the hype right now, but it’s still a little like the wild West. Here’s a cautionary tale to explain that. Remember the popular YouTube creator PewDiePie? He was one of the biggest influencers in the video world (he has over 54 million subscribers), and he also found himself at the center of a major controversy when Disney’s Maker Studios and Google’s Preferred advertising program cut ties after he posted videos people felt were anti-Semitic.
This is a good example of how ultimately, you don’t have any real control over influencers. They can still post whatever content they deem appropriate, even if that definition of what is appropriate baffles you. They aren’t bound to any behavioral guidelines other than the ones set up by the social media platform, and unless you put certain stipulations in your contract with them, it’s difficult to exert influence over their content.
Be sure also to take the necessary steps to ensure the influencer campaign complies with FTC guidelines for full disclosure. Transparency is key.
How to Evaluate an Influencer
When it comes to determining whether an influencer is a good brand fit for your cannabis company, there are the obvious metrics you can apply.
First, scope out their audience. The goal is to reach a more targeted demographic. But if you are an extraction company working with an influencer whose audience consists of teens and women, you’re missing the mark. That is why it’s key to develop your user personas, then go out and hunt down an influencer that speaks to that audience, so you can tap into a wealth of customers that will actually be interested in what you have to offer.
Next, check out the number of followers. If they only have a few thousand, that doesn’t exactly make them a thought leader. But similarly, even if they have hundreds of thousands, if the followers aren’t actively engaged (liking, commenting, sharing, retweeting) then it’s still a moot point. Remember, it’s quality, not quantity.
Then it’s on to the quality of content. Conduct an exhaustive evaluation of the posts or videos they put up. What messages do they seem to convey? What’s their voice? Are they consistently putting out high-quality content? And would they make a good spokesperson for your brand? For example, if you are a CBD company, you probably don’t want someone who is often seen smoking huge blunts. Catch my drift? Make sure your values are aligned and that you would feel proud to have this person represent your brand.
So do I think there’s a space in the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries for influencer marketing? Yes. But there’s a caveat… it’s early in the game. We will see this portion of marketing evolve quite a bit as consumers and businesses embark on figuring out brands, trends and leaders.