This is part one of a three-part blog series.
What is an Influencer?
Influencers are people who influence. Sounds easy, right? Chrissy Tegan and cooking. Kim Kardashian and fashion. Jonathan Van Ness and ice skating, political participation, and Lipton Tea. But they’re not just famous people with time to burn on passion projects. Influencers have built a reputation for their expertise on specific topics. These topics range from certain brands to lifestyles. They post about their particular topic on social media, generate a large number of followers, and thereby push their followers to pay attention to the brands and causes that they care about. Influencers have an audience to present different brands to showcase certain products to, and the power to tell their followers to follow a particular brand or lifestyle. This power is incredibly important to small and large brands alike because a lot of business is done through social media.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing has grown from a $1.7 billion industry in 2016 to around $6.5 billion in 2019. The speed at which this market has grown is incredible; Google searches for influencer marketing grew 1,500% from 2015 to 2018.
Why Your Brand Can Benefit from Influencer Marketing
Have you ever been scrolling down Instagram at the end of the day, and suddenly you spot a photo of a juicy cheeseburger with your favorite toppings sitting on a sunny patio next to a frozen margarita, the condensation seductively dripping down the glass? And you’re reminded that it’s 95 degrees out and you forgot to eat lunch? Don’t lie to me and say you weren’t intrigued enough to at least find out what restaurant is serving that grub, if you didn’t already make happy hour plans with your coworker (after checking the social distancing guidelines at that restaurant, of course.)
I have found out and gone to incredible restaurants from flattering pictures of their dishes on Instagram. This is known as earned media. Earned media is the revenue a brand or company gains from promotional efforts other than paid advertising. Businesses that truly understand this concept and influencer marketing can do really well. Still, it all comes down to the influencer. Choosing an influencer for your brand or company can be difficult. It is critical to research your targeted market and creating a marketing persona will lead you to find the best influencer for your brand or company.
How Can you Become a Cannabis Influencer?
Getting into the cannabis influencer scene may seem intimidating, but putting yourself out there and posting content that feels true to yourself is a great start. A popular cannabis influencer, Bess Byers (@imcannabess), says that if you are looking to get into the industry,
“take that step and put yourself out there. Start by trying to get into the cannabis industry by creating a great resume and cover letter and start firing it out to everyone. If you live in a state where cannabis is not legal, save up and move to a state where cannabis is legal. This industry is still growing, so apply to as many places as you can.”
Before packing your bags and leaving town, network. Join Meetup groups centered around cannabis, try and attend cannabis conferences, and — I cannot stress this enough — put yourself out there. Follow successful cannabis influencers like Bess to get inspiration as to what you want your page to look like and go with it.
Find What Makes You Unique
With so many cannabis influencer accounts, it’s hard to make a new account stand out. Lauren Mims (@currentlycolorado), says her best advice is to find what makes you unique. “There are loads of cannabis influencers out there, but the ones that really make it big have some unique content or character traits that make people want to tune in. Having trouble figuring out what makes you unique to the space? Then start with unique products instead.”
Lauren brings up an interesting point. You can start by reviewing some of your favorite products. Once your account gets some attention from that, reach out to those brands and see if you can become an official influencer for those brands. There are so many different ways to get attention on social media – be creative! If you stay true to yourself, potential followers will see that and hopefully like your page.
Ashley G (@wowashwow) couldn’t agree more. Find out what makes you unique, and do your thing!
“Don’t be afraid to try new things! Allow yourself a level of vulnerability with your followers. Do not worry about your following count! Focus on the people who decided to stop by your page, give it a follow, and give you consistent love. Don’t worry about the people that haven’t come to you yet. If you keep doing your thing and finding your niche, they will find you.”
How Did These Three Cannabis Influencers Get Their Start?
Bess never set out to become a cannabis influencer; it just happened. She got a job offer and moved to Washington State from Los Angeles about five years ago. Bess was hired for marketing and sales, and a huge part of the brand was the cannabis lifestyle. She started doing lifestyle content for this company. Bess realized that she wanted to differentiate her cannabis photography from everything else. In February 2016 she created @imcannabess and has been influencing ever since. As of this writing, she is closing in on 100,000 followers.
In 2014, Lauren was a Public Relations major at the University of Texas at Arlington and traveling the United States as a photographer. She recognized her photography talents are an asset in Public Relations and saw an excellent opportunity to dive into social media marketing and hone her skills. After moving to Colorado, she began slowly introducing cannabis content to her followers as it became a more significant focus in her life. Now, she focuses primarily on the outdoors and cannabis advocacy.
Ashley was involved in a lot of cannabis community activism programs in her home city of Philadelphia. That gave her the courage to start pushing her love of cannabis on a social media platform.
Being an Influencer Has its Perks
Becoming an influencer is by no means easy. But, with so many brands looking for influencers and so many unique perspectives, it is absolutely possible. Some of the best things about being an influencer are the people and companies you meet and encounter. Lauren’s favorite thing about being an influencer is the connections she has made with her followers. “Having a platform that shows off who I am has given others the empowerment to reach out,” she said.
Ashley couldn’t agree more. She says, “connecting with amazing people all over the world gives me so much encouragement.” For example, when someone from a different part of the country says that they “appreciate me for being herself because they can’t express themselves the way I can,” it makes the long hours worth it.
Cannabis influencers are a new niche within the influencer marketing world, so put yourself out there and join the cannabis influencer community bravely. Open your mind to the world of possibilities in influencer marketing, the craziest ideas can come to you in the most obscure, unexpected ways.
Read Part 2 —> How to Become A Weed Influencer on Instagram