With the explosive growth of social media, working with influencers is no longer an option for consumer products marketers, but rather an essential component of any modern-day marketing strategy.
Building word of mouth by collaborating with influencers on such social media sites as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook is particularly important for sellers of natural, organic, nutritional, eco-friendly and wellness brands where storytelling, education and product recommendations from a trusted source helps build trial, sales, and loyalty among consumers.
PRESENCE interviewed a few brand leaders about their social media strategies. Here, in their own words, they share some helpful tips and insights for small and large brands alike on how to build your brand with social media influencers.
Rebecca Morgan, Marketing Director, Fresh Hemp Foods Ltd. / Tilray Wellness / Manitoba Harvest:
Influencers and content creators are an integral part of our community at Manitoba Harvest. They embody our commitment to hemp education through their recipe creation, engaging content and nutritional awareness. The most meaningful partner relationships are built over time, and Manitoba Harvest is proud to have a thriving ambassador program with 100+ creators, most of whom we’ve worked with for years.
As a Manitoba Harvest ambassador, creators receive bi-annual gifts of our everyday favorites and new products, and can count on our support content shares and paid investments. Whether they’re blending, baking or imagining innovative new uses for nutritious hemp, we’re inspired every day by the creativity of our ambassador community and value the engagement of the creators behind it.
In addition to our ambassador program, we partner with select influencers for larger content partners. Recently, we partnered with food blogger, @foodbymaria, for a five part “Can You Hemp It?” series, designed to show the incredible versatility of Hemp.
In the series, Maria celebrates the use of Hemp outside of traditional breakfast occasions by blending it into a Pina Colada smoothie, mixing it into a vegan Caesar Salad dressing, baking it into a strawberry shortcake, and more. These entertaining, engaging recipe videos are perfect for our organic social media, and allow us to run targeted digital ads to drive traffic to our retail partners.
Rosa Compean, VP of Marketing, Gimme Seaweed:
Developing an influencer strategy was new for us but now we feel we’ve gotten to a place where we’ve fine-tuned the consumer through our social media. We show up where our audience is, and for now, that is TikTok and Instagram. Even though we have more followers on Facebook, it’s not a channel where we are seeing the most engagement these days, so we shifted our content strategy to focus on Instagram and TikTok, including videos and Reels. It’s an age-related thing – we have what we refer to as the “OG” parents who may still be on Facebook, but the core target for us is on the newer channels. We’ve also started looking at other channels such as Discord (a gamer community), Twitch and others. We want to be where our audience is.
Our consumer is very health minded, gender neutral, 30-39 years old, diverse, and open to trying new things, with some disposable income where they can afford to buy organic snacks for themselves and their families. As such, we have to create content every month. As an organic, non-GMO brand, we create content about food, recipes, lifestyles, sustainability practices and to educate about our seaweed farms and commitment to the environment. For content creation, we use a combination of in-house create and a kind of agency partner who helps us create fun, relevant content that we apply to a variety of platforms.
gimMe Seaweed just marked its 10-year anniversary as a company. We have a lot happening and we’ll have an active influencer campaign to accompany the launch of new products this fall, including new flavors including Spicy Chili Lime and Vegan White Cheddar, and “slim packs” that fit in pockets, backpacks or more.
For big campaigns and when we want to work with influencers with 100,000 to 1 million or more followers, we often use the GRIN tool (www.grin.co) – it’s an all-in-one influencer platform that allows you to find the right influencers and affiliate marketers. It’s turnkey; all the legal paperwork is there, and the best part is that all your data is stored on GRIN – at the end of each campaign, I can see all the metrics. It’s a very nice tool to have. The influencer world is an imperfect marketplace, and we are always testing, learning, and optimizing.
Katrina Picon, Director of Communications, Califia Farms:
At Califia Farms we love working with authentic brand fans, individuals who have mentioned or tagged us on social media. We actively seek them out. We work with many different types of creators, including people who are what we call “plant curious” and enjoy experimenting with plant-based products. For example, they might add oat milk to their morning latte, make a dessert with coconut milk or blend almond milk in their daily smoothie. Authenticity both as a Califia fan and in the plant-based category is key.
Traditionally, we’ve seen a lot of success on Instagram with influencers who like to share their daily coffee or smoothie routine as well as those who love showing off high-production images of food recipes using our products. These types of partnerships on Instagram allow us to show delicious, mouthwatering visuals of dairy-free creations that are possible with our brand and help encourage plant-based experimentation. Our iconic, curvy bottle also lends itself well to the platform and has allowed us to build a visual presence there with both organic and paid social mentions. Influencers and Instagram users alike love showing off Califia’s gorgeous bottle!
With the incredible rise of TikTok, we’ve naturally looked to engage there with influencers. It’s an ideal way to forge relationships with younger millennials and GenZ, a demographic that has helped drive excitement around plant-based eating and is often the first to try a new fun food hack or zany drink. TikTok is a great vehicle for us to engage with this younger segment and test some fun, out-of-the-box ideas.
We do have internal staff and external partners who work together to develop our integrated social and influencer campaigns. We always have our eye on the cultural and social landscape, ensuring that we’re on top of trends and staying engaged with our existing and new followers. All of this is certainly a team effort and requires a lot of internal communication, planning, and creative brainstorming sessions. We look for ongoing, seasonal opportunities to tell our story, but we also stay nimble and pivot when needed and where it makes sense for the brand. Planning ahead while remaining flexible are absolutely critical to our integrated communications programs.
Our influencer marketing efforts must always ladder up to our overall marketing plan, and that begins with clear marketing objectives and advance planning. If it’s a fun idea but doesn’t link back to our marketing objectives, we don’t execute on it. Regular, weekly check-ins with our brand team as well as campaign recaps where we break down what did and didn’t work are essential to campaign success. There is always room for improvement.
Regarding Affiliate Marketing, it can work well when you’ve established a relationship with an influencer, and their followers truly see the authenticity of the partnership shine through. The reason: it often takes a handful of brand social mentions on the influencer’s page before some of those affiliate sales convert. New, exciting product launches and limited-edition items are great candidates for these campaigns as they naturally generate a lot of social interest and there’s a sense of urgency to scoop them up. An affiliate code is often just what a consumer needs to try a new, untested product.
It’s important to remember that every influencer is different and has different levels of experience when it comes to working with brands on paid collaborations. Some influencers appreciate explicit instructions while others prefer minimal guidelines that allow them the freedom to stretch their creative muscles. There’s not a one-size fits all. I’ve also learned that it’s absolutely critical to hold kick-off calls with your influencer partners to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the objectives of the campaign. This helps cut down on misunderstandings or delays down the road.
Finally, don’t overlook the value of working with micro influencers, these are typically influencers with less than 100K followers. They might not have the higher follower counts, but their audiences are often more engaged and take a creator’s product recommendations quite seriously.
Learn more about how to build your brand with social media influencers at a free virtual Zoom workshop on September 8th, 2022, presented by Compass Natural and featuring special guest Ari Adams, CEO of ShiftCon, the nation’s largest community of “Eco-Wellness” influencers. Register here. Also, learn more about how your brand can get involved in the ShiftCon Eco-Wellness Influencer community and its upcoming annual conference, October 13th to 15th, in Westlake Village, California.
For market research statistics on the growing importance of influencer marketing, visit Key Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know for 2022, and the 2022 Influencer Marketing Report. Also, MAVRCK published an informative, free downloadable guide, An Integrated Approach to Influencer Marketing for Food and Beverage Brands.
To learn more about Affiliate Marketing, visit Affiliate Marketing 101: What It Is and How to Get Started and The Ultimate Business Guide to Influencer Affiliate Marketing. Another helpful guide is Affiliate Marketing for Social Media – How Can Your Business Benefit? Also, check out the organic food brands that have been reported to have the most successful affiliate programs here. To see what other healthy lifestyle brands are doing, visit 52 Health Brands with Influencer Programs.
Instagram’s affiliate program lets creators share shoppable feed posts and stories, as well as host a “shop” on their account where influencers can earn a commission on any sales from their page. Instagram is planning to expand its affiliate tools to more video content in 2022; visit here for more information.
To help identify top wellness influencers, visit Top Inspirational Eco Influencers Brands Should Follow, 10 of the Best Health Instagram Accounts and Influencers, 25 Best Organic Food Blogs and Websites, Top 38 Vegan Influencers Making a Big Impact on Social Media, and Top 50+ Wellness Influencers (2022, Non-celebrity).
Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing public relations, brand marketing, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic, sustainable and hemp/CBD products businesses. Compass Natural serves in PR and programming for NoCo Hemp Expo and Southern Hemp Expo, and Hoffman serves as Editor of the weekly Let’s Talk Hemp Newsletter, published by We are for Better Alternatives. Contact email@example.com.