Cannabis & Main: 'People Want to Smoke What Other People Are Smoking'

Civilized's podcast 'Cannabis & Main' is back again this week with a brand new episode. This time, host Ricardo Baca sits down to chat with one of the biggest names in cannabis influencing, trippy.treez, to talk about the growing importance of social media influencers in the cannabis space.

This season 'Cannabis & Main' is brought to you in part by Fluent Cannabis.

You can check out the latest episode of 'Cannabis & Main' below or download it for free from podcast providers like iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.

Ricardo: Hello, hello. Welcome to Cannabis & Main, a Civilized podcast where we extract one element from today's cannabis scape and go deep.

I'm your host Ricardo Baca, Founder of Grasslands, a journalism-minded agency, and it is so great to be with you today. You can learn more about this podcast, along with the marijuana news and cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave from Civilized, found on the world wide web at civilized.life.

Now, this week we're going to dive deep into cannabis and the increasing importance of Instagram influencers, with a guest who is a marketer and influencer with more than 200,000 fans on Instagram. Cannabis marketing is obviously something that's near and dear to my heart. Of course, I write columns and host podcasts about this industry, but my day job, as CEO and Founder of a PR firm that works with a lot of top marijuana and hemp brands, means that I'm constantly thinking about the inner workings of how we market these products and these services, and these executives.

Sure enough, influencer campaigns are gaining traction alongside the more traditional public relations, content marketing, and thought leadership work we do at my agency, Grasslands. Yet it's a tricky line to walk in these still early days, both for the brands and the influencers who make up these partnerships. How do you reach your target audience? How do you measure ROI? And how do you make sure you're getting the most out of your marketing spend with something so ephemeral as social media?

Michelle Carigma (clip): I believe that everyone can be an influencer, but I feel like a lot of people don't understand the work behind it, and it's not just snapping pictures of your food, it's all about your aesthetic and your niche, and what you really want to portray on social media.

Ricardo: So, cannabis and the increasing importance of Instagram influencers, let's talk about it right now, right here on Cannabis & Main.

Trippy.treez is a cannabis influencer and brand marketer.

Trippy, thanks for coming on the show.

trippy.treez: Hey, what's up? Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Ricardo: I'm so excited to talk to you. First of all, congratulations on your success, you're killing it.

trippy.treez: Thank you, thank you. Appreciate it. No, seriously, it means a lot.

Ricardo: Let's talk about the craft and art of influencing, because my God, this requires tact, this requires style, this requires thoughtfulness. So, can you maybe get into a little bit how you got into this? But also how you have really honed this craft of influencing in a way that is tactful?

trippy.treez: Right, okay. So, I guess I'll start with where I started from, because at first, maybe about three years ago, social media influencing wasn't really a thing back then. So, it was still starting off new, and you were just kind of seeing YouTubers, a lot of beauty bloggers, or fashion bloggers. Then Instagram, at the time, was kind of more of just posting a photo with a filter, there wasn't much to it like there is now, it's stories, IGTV.

But when I first started, I basically was just taking photos, and I actually had an accounting background. So I was in accounting, and I was working corporate job, and I, on the side, just helped out some friends with trimming and then I was taking photos while I was doing that, and then putting my face to it and posting it online. At the time it was still very illegal to do all of that too, even just trimming in a back house. Everyone's like, 'Oh my gosh, what are you going, Teresa?' You know? It was before even trippy.treez was a thing.

So, it kind of just developed over time, and at the time there wasn't a lot of brand name products, so it was really rare to even have a big brand as a label. Pre-packaging wasn't a thing back then either. So, any kind of reputable brands that I did know were really top quality or kind of almost craft. I would be buying those products from a well-known dispensary, and it was a well-known brand, I would be posting myself with it, just to show that I'm smoking something of quality.

But then the brand started seeing that and picking it up, a lot of my content got re-posted a lot of times. Brands wanted content, creative content, and then it just kind of picked up. In the beginning, I would just be posting, let's say I tried a vape pen, I would do a quick little review like, 'Love this vape pen, here's why.' I would just literally give my two cents on it, and the brand would come back to me with feedback like, 'Wow, we got thousands of followers from that, or we got conversions from it.'

So, after that, I started realizing there's actually something to this.

Ricardo: You're like, 'Wait a minute, I'm providing a value, a service.'

trippy.treez: Yeah. Analytics, data, you know, even my audience, or even just reach, this is how many women saw the product, this is how many people liked it. Now there's polls on stories, so there's a lot of data, which is kind of the future of everything now. So, yeah, there's a lot you can provide with just Instagram as an influencer, but it also kind of, I feel like, takes the right person to see that too, more than just somebody in community. You have fans, or even just people that are interested, or learning, and they come back to you, like, 'Wow, you made me want to try this product,' and it's actual medicine to some people.

Ricardo: I love the aesthetic too of accountant by day, trimmer by night.

trippy.treez: Funny enough, my whole family and people that are on the real life side of things don't really know what I do. To this day, they think I still do corporate accounting jobs, and I'm still at the office for something.

Ricardo: Oh, sure. So let's get back to this part of influencing tactfully and tastefully, because, you know, not all influencers are alike. I really believe there's an art to it, and I think you're really talented at making sure that you're incorporating a brand, but never losing your personality, your aesthetic, your standards.

trippy.treez: That means a lot, first of all, to hear that, because that's kind of been the goal since the beginning. Because even back then, 'influencer' wasn't really a great career choice, you know, or 'YouTuber,' no one looked up to that. Now it's almost like every kid coming out of high school wants to become a YouTuber, or influencer, but before it was kind of negative stigma, so I didn't even want to be called an influencer.

But I always focused on the brand. For example, at the time, RAW paper cones, you know, those are really big, they're well-known. They have one of the first brands that had a million followers on Instagram. So I went to their page, it seemed like they had more natural lifestyle photos, so I went, did exactly what matched with their brand, and got re-posted. Then was directly contacted, 'We love this photo, we saw it everywhere, it got re-posted. We need it, we need the rights to this,' you know?

So, that was immediate, I knew what I was doing with that, you know? Then that kind of goes with every brand that I work with.

Ricardo: Purely as an outsider, you and I are just meeting for the first time today. We've been talking for a week now setting this up. But I think what you bring to a cannabis brand is a certain steeze, confidence, and femininity. When I look through your page and see you interacting with these various products or brands, that's really what I see. I see this flavor that doesn't exist on any of the other pages.

Granted, that's not to say that other influencers aren't bringing something else, but I think that confidence is something that you bring to the mix. Have you always had that self-assuredness in the rest of your life?

trippy.treez: Funny enough, I don't. I feel like social media kind of helped with all of that. Maybe for some people it might be negative, some people it might be positive feedback, but I feel like because I've always kind of stayed away from kind of being too show-offy, or too like, 'I'm this and that.' You know, like you said, stayed genuine and authentic. Any kind of struggles I had I made it open to the public.

I had a big joint, and I was smoking it for a video, of course to show off, flex on the 'Gram, you know? Then I dropped the cherry, and it just ruined the entire joint and party, but it was all on video.

So, everyone recorded it, but I was the one that was like, 'You know what? I'm going to post that video.' It just went viral, and it was hilarious, but it was also me being genuine. I messed up, I was red in the face, I was trying not to cry, really, in the video, because I was so embarrassed. But, posting it made it relevant to a lot of people, and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, this girl is cool, famous, you know, online, but she messes up just like me.'

Ricardo: It's fun. I'm 42 years old, and so I must say, when Instagram influencers first started becoming more ubiquitous, I didn't get it. I got why brands wanted to be affiliated, and I got why these individuals were doing it. What I didn't get was I was not programmed to put my all out there. What is it that drew you to 'do it for the 'Gram?'

trippy.treez: I get that. I joke about this, I feel like I have a split personality in my mind of being an influencer, because it's so cringy, I hate doing all of it, like, 'Hey, here's me grocery shopping, here's me, like you said, taking an edible. Okay, here's me high now.' I don't know, it's a weird societal game, I feel like people are just interested in people at the end of the day.

But I can also relate to it, in the sense of sometimes you'll see someone that you want to be, or you aspire, that you're like, 'Oh, I love her outfit.' Then all of a sudden you find one thing, and then you become almost obsessed where you're just like, 'Oh, I like their hair, where did they get their hair done? Oh, where did they get that outfit? Where did they get that?" You know? So, then you just become almost familiar with the person, and then you just almost, anything that they'll post, you'll want to follow or you'll want to try too. It's really weird.

Ricardo: Hold that thought. We're going to take a very quick break. But in the meantime, hit that subscribe button, and if you'd be so kind to leave us a review, we'd really appreciate it. Thanks.

Hi, it's Derek Riedle, publisher of Civilized. Today's episode of Cannabis & Main is brought to you, again, by our friends at Fluent Cannabis Care. At Fluent, they have a full line of CO2 extracted full spectrum products that have been praised by customers and experts alike. Now they're welcoming premium whole flour and pre-rolls to their product line.

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Ricardo: So, from your perspective, and it's a valuable perspective, because you're in touch with so many of these brands and businesses that want you repping them. What is the power of this—it's known in the industry as UGC—user generated content? What is the power of that, when we're talking about marketing?

Is it simply that you're like one of us? And when you use this particular vape pen, it's like, 'Oh, I want to try that. If Trippy likes it, I want to try it.'

trippy.treez: Yeah, that's kind of the goal, at least for me personally. That's exactly what I wanted to be, I just wanted to be the average person. I even thought about putting that on my bio, like, 'Just an average stoner girl living a non-average life.' I am just like any other person, I'm just smoking, I'm not trying to claim anything.

But at the same time, I think, from a marketing standpoint, or from a brand-business standpoint, what I've heard from a lot of brands, is people want to smoke what other people are smoking. Or they want to buy what other people are buying or using. And that kind of goes for usually influencers, because they have the bigger following, the bigger audience and outreach, so more people are going to be seeing that product of them trying it. And it depends on the campaign too.

So I feel like a very strong campaign, from a brand standpoint, would be utilizing micro and macro influencers in specifically cannabis targeted space. Not just using an influencer who has a million followers, because how many of those followers really care about cannabis or CBD, or any of that really? Whereas a targeted audience that's following specifically this girl who smokes every single day, they're obviously into it. So, they're probably going to be more likely the consumer than another influencer.

So that's one step. Then another is just, with the micro, macro, you're seeing a bunch of people using that product, so it doesn't have to necessarily be the biggest person. But it's multiple people, or someone reputable, or someone that you trust that you maybe have bought a product from, or tried it. Then you go back, because you see that it was good.

So another thing I think, is that with YouTube, or even just Instagram, I'll mess up in the video, I'll keep it in the video. Or I'll genuinely show me struggling opening the packaging, and say like, 'Well, that was a little difficult, but, you know...' Of course, not everything is sponsored, but especially when they are, I'm always going to try to keep it positive, not be like, 'Oh my God, this was trash, can you believe it?'

Of course I'm always going to make it look good, but at the same time, I'm going to be genuine and say my honest opinion and people are going to see if it's smoked well, or if it didn't. They're going to see it for themselves, and that's a way for them to almost try it virtually without even trying it themselves. Then once they see it, they're like, "I want to try it.' Or they want to get it because they see it.

Ricardo: It makes a lot of sense. So it sounds like it comes down to elevating brand awareness through a personal recommendation. In January, I organized, programmed and moderated this event at the Denver Press Club called the Complicated Future of Cannabis Media. The big panel was the editor of the Denver Post and the Denver Business Journal, MJBizDaily. It was really compelling, we had one of the cannabis beat writers from the Associate Press, the world's largest wire service.

The first panel though was all about social media influencers. We had Whitney on there, Sunny Days, and I really felt like we couldn't talk about the complicated future of cannabis media and cannabis journalism without talking about influencers, because in 2019 influencers are cannabis marketing, they are cannabis media, and I'd love your take on that. How did this sneak in through the back door to become this essential part of a media campaign or marketing campaign?

trippy.treez: I definitely think it was kind of brought on from the beauty industry, if I'll be honest, because that's at least where I was brought on from it.

Kylie Jenner, she started posting those flat tummy tea, that was really what started it all. Then it was kind of a running joke, like, 'Oh, haha.' But then I heard one time, I was like, 'Oh, you know those flat tummy teas, they'll pay $20,000 a post for some of these girls.' I was like, 'What?' I even got an email from them, but then the funny part is, that was my goal, you know? 'Okay, $20,000 a post.'

That sounds crazy. That's another thing, I feel like when people think influencers, they hear the $20,000, they're like, 'I have to pay her that much?' It's not that costly sometimes, you can work with some people. Especially in the cannabis space, it's really easy to be like, 'Hey, I'm going to give you this much product.' You know, and they're willing to work with you. So, always reach out, if you're a brand listening to this, and you're thinking, 'Oh, influencers are just going to take me for my money. They're not going to be worth it.'

It's definitely going to be worth it, I think, no matter what you put into it, you're definitely going to get something out of it, no matter who you pick. I honestly believe so. But it also depends on your strategy, your campaign, the deliverables you ask for and stuff.

So the flat tummy tea, that was kind of the goal, and then funny enough, once I actually got the email and offer for a flat tummy tea ad, I turned it down because I didn't think it aligned with my audience at that time. It's kind of a joke, it doesn't really work. But also from a business standpoint it's like, they made a lot of money off that, you know? So you can laugh all you want, but they're laughing their way to the bank.

Ever since Google bought YouTube, and then Facebook bought Instagram, it's really become really stronger. So those are the big two platforms that you really want to be big on. It does convert, I feel like, to ROI. It converts to pretty good conversions, it just depends on the person, I feel like.

Ricardo: And that person's audience too. I kind of skipped ahead, but why don't we jump into this basics question, because I think a lot of the brands that you're speaking directly to have some of these questions. Because I run a PR agency, so I know how all this process works with some influencers, but why don't you tell us how it works with you.

I'm a brand, I want to work with you. How does that conversation go? What does that look like? What are the spends arranged from?

trippy.treez: Right. So, I guess step one would be obviously contacting, getting in contact. It depends on the person. For me, I have a direct email. I have it linked on my bio, I have it right on the button that you click email, so it's very easy to contact me. That goes straight to my assistant, or if I have a manager, whoever. Different people have different managers, or they do it themselves, or you might just DM them.

At this point, at least for me personally, I don't look at DM's anymore, I don't respond to DM business inquiries, only because what I've noticed, as far as just getting bigger and getting more clients, I've stuck to the people who take that extra step of emailing me, or sending me a full proposal. In the beginning I would get certain emails like, 'Hey girl, what's up? Want to promote for us?' I'd be like, 'No.'

I'd be like, 'Hello, thank you so much for contacting me.' Because I also come from the business side of things, the corporate world where I would never send an email like that as a business. So I was kind of shocked, because, again, maybe they see me on Instagram, they're like, 'Oh, she's young, she's cool. Let's just contact her in this way.' Whoever takes that extra step of emailing me, that's when they'll usually get a response. I highly recommend any influencers who are listening to this to get a media kit or create one. Super easy to do, you can just Google how to create a media kit.

But, I feel like that was number one in kind of differentiating me, and making me a selling point to brands. I think what goes into the budget play is engagement. So, even if they have a million followers, if they're only getting a couple hundred or a thousand likes, that's not the same as someone like me who has 200,000 followers, and then I'm getting 10,000 likes on average. Or even sometimes 20,000. It ranges a lot.

Ricardo: That's about the percentage of engagement versus followers.

trippy.treez:  Yeah, and comments and everything, and just even reading the comments, and making sure it's positive? So, at this point now, it just depends on the rate of the brands, because I have taken on certain clients that are kind of bigger, like Tender Greens, for example, they're a big chain restaurant, they did a 4/20 campaign, that was obviously really high budget.

So, that was kind of different compared to just a cannabis brand, a pre-roll company.

Ricardo: Totally makes sense. I remember one of those shots, you're in front of a table of a bunch of beautifully designed plates. So what I'm gathering is that it differs for different clients. Especially in these still early days, it might be this for this client, this for this client. But regardless, people should reach out if they like you, and maybe they can make it happen.

trippy.treez: Yeah, I agree. Because at the end of the day, I don't think any budget, as far as nowadays in the present time with cannabis influence, there's no one really that big yet, no one with that many numbers or conversion rates to be charging, I would say more than $3000 for a post, or even just a full campaign with a couple post.

So, if you're thinking, 'Oh wow, how high could this go?' I don't think it'll go as high as any kind of other ad placement you would have in any other platform, other than social media. For example, a billboard is going to run you a couple thousand, and I know so many companies that want to do that. Whereas you don't really know the conversion rate that you're going to get, you don't know the actual reach of that certain location and all that. Whereas these are actual analytics, you're getting the numbers, you're getting all of that instantly.

Ricardo: In addition to doing this, you also are a social media consultant. Give me a little bit on what that means.

trippy.treez: I don't really talk about that publicly, I feel like I should be open about it more. But on the backend of things, I do do social media, but then also I've helped a lot of brands start up with either business development, social media strategy, consulting. So, if they're a new brand, a lot of times they'll be a startup, and they just want to get the ball rolling with social media, they want to know how to get the followers, how to use hashtags, certain activity.

But it's very simple too. Normally when I start off certain things that people don't know is  when someone comments, reply back to that comment, like the comment, go follow the person and engage with their activity, or kind of even just click on their name, find out their name from the bio and respond back, 'Thanks, Eric,' or, 'Check us out.' Always some kind of activity. That extra step is always going to be seen, even just following people, that starts activity on your page. Certain things like that that people don't really know and need to be told. But also, they don't know, you know, it's just different.

Ricardo: It's meaningful.

trippy.treez: There's no instruction manual that comes with Instagram.

Ricardo: That kind of closes the loop on the engagement process too. You need them writing you, but you need to write them back to keep them engaged, keep them involved.

trippy.treez: Basically.

Ricardo: Well, trippy, Teresa, this has been so fun getting to know you and your business better, and hopefully telling a lot more people about it. I can definitely say that I'm looking forward to you introducing cannabis products, skincare products, whatever it is you have next. I don't doubt it's going to be big, but regardless, thanks for joining us on the show today.

trippy.treez: Thank you. I appreciate that. I had a good time.

Ricardo: And everybody else, we will be back next week with another episode of Cannabis & Main. So, thanks so much for joining us, and we'll talk to you then.

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