On the Digital Marketing Horizon – Cannabis Influencers

We have all watched one of the fastest growing industries pick up steam in recent years. In the United States numerous states have legalised recreational use of cannabis and the trend continues. Although Australia trails behind the US in terms of timeline – we will likely see this transition in perception of cannabis in a legal and societal sense, in our lifetime.  

So let’s look at it. Unlike traditional wellness and health brands, there are some new challenges facing cannabis companies with regard to advertising. 

What we are seeing now is cannabis brands taking the influencer route to promote their business and get around advertising bans.  The major players in the advertising space, such as Google and Facebook have very strict policy about posts related to cannabis. Instagram and Snapchat also don’t allow cannabis product advertisements. Cannabis companies are getting around these restrictions via cannabis influencers.

Facebook Involvement

While platforms such as Facebook have many bans against advertisements relating to cannabis there isn’t exactly much clarity around what types of content they will allow. For instance Facebook states “Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.” 

Although this Facebook’s policy, the platform allows advocacy and educational content. The cannabis movement is a billion dollar industry, yet any sort of promotion on Facebook is considered prohibited content.  Unsurprisingly this causes a lot of frustration amongst cannabis businesses as they struggle to get exposure in an ever more competitive landscape.

Instagram Involvement

Instagram also has tight policies on cannabis content and advertisement but has not yet outlined rules to specifically inform brands and influencers what is permitted and what isn’t. This naturally makes it more challenging to create content and strategy around brand exposure in its entirety. 

Companies are currently struggling to be successful and gain momentum in this space as it appears that Instagram arbitrarily applies rules meaning that any business could potentially get their competitors accounts shut down by reporting them.

Influencers

Enter using influencers for brand promotion! Many cannabis businesses are utilizing influencers to spread the word of their brand and promote their products. However, many influencers themselves are proceeding with caution to avoid any blow back from their respective platforms. 

There are certain circumstances where cannabis influencers have had their accounts shut down due to Instagram claiming they were violating their marijuana policy. While, some influencers petition Instagram to revise the terms of service as this industry becomes more legal across the board, others are refraining from posting anything relating to cannabis with fear of being shut down. 

Although society as a whole is accepting cannabis more and more regularly, businesses and influencers are still watching what they post. This industry is naturally more risky and one misstep with the wording of a post can trigger the algorithm and result in the posts deletion. Ads are also being blocked, and cannabis influencers marketing is providing a work around this issue via promoting individually.

On the ground – Cannabis Marketing

These major platforms have been incredibly vague about what can be said and what can’t be, while hosting thousands of influencers, some with millions of followers, who are willing to promote cannabis products. 

What we see currently is influencers posting anything they want such as reviews, funny videos, and images to endorse cannabis related products. Some of these target recreational use while others focus on the educational end of the spectrum, and others still are just playing around for fun. Across the spectrum the goal is the same, to entice people to look at a particular brand and purchase products. 

The reason influencer marketing works is that customers trust reviews. Many studies show that people will trust a word of mouth recommendation over an advertisement. However it can get expensive to ask Kylie Jenner to promote a company’s products across her social media accounts. The thing to look for is a cannabis influencer that aligns with the company’s values and brand. Ideally an influencer who legitimately uses cannabis products and can share them with an engaged audience. 

Cannabis influencers are providing a vital role in the evolution of the cannabis industry, helping businesses connect with their customers while avoiding restrictions. Witnessing people actuallying using the products creates a desire to try them as well. Storytelling is influencers’ currency, and telling a fantastic brand story that resonates with your target audience takes us to the ultimate goal, followers, engagement, and sales.