For Damsel W. Dank (aka Brittany), working in the cannabis industry has been a rough go at times, but her candidness about her journey and just about everything else in her life has turned her into a major social media influencer. With more than 230,000 Instagram followers (@dudeitsdamsel), she’s obviously doing something right. Here, she answers our questions about building your brand.
What were you hoping to achieve when you launched your Instagram account?
I started it as a way to further my modeling career back in 2010 or 2011. I branded myself with cannabis at a time other people my age were living with their parents and couldn’t be as open about it.
How do you describe yourself, as it relates to cannabis?
I’ve definitely been a user for a long time. And an enthusiast. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, I did some work collecting signatures for Ohio Rights Group in 2013 or 2014. Then I became general manager of a dispensary in Colorado Springs. I did a bunch of filming for a cannabis-themed webisode series. For the past 10 years I’ve kind of branded myself as The Weed Girl. I’ve got dreads, and it really just became a part of my identity.
How did you end up in Northwest Wisconsin?
I got arsenic poisoning from bad cannabis out in Colorado Springs. I was seeing a bunch of doctors, and nobody could figure out what was wrong. My family is here, my sister flew me out, and my doctor diagnosed me right away. It’s been almost two years, and I’m finally kind of feeling normal.
Whoa. What did you learn from that experience?
I moved to Colorado with the best of intentions. I feel like I was set up to succeed, I had a personal brand and a show, and I’d made connections there. I was running a medical dispensary. I wanted to help people. I’m a huge proponent of proper testing, making everything safe, not cutting corners. Unfortunately, not every place in the industry has the same idea. There are people that put profits over patients. That’s what I experienced. The heavy metal content of the flower I was smoking was destroying my immune system.
Has it soured you on the industry as a whole?
No, but I wouldn’t go into it so naïve and doe-eyed. Being from a state where it was illegal, I thought I’d move to Colorado and it would be magical and everyone would have the best intentions. But I did meet a lot of people who did care. There are definitely people who are doing it right. I would do more research if I were to get back into it. If you have a lot of turnover, there’s probably a reason.
In the meantime, you’ve built a huge social following. How did you attract so many engaged followers?
Definitely by not doing too many advertisements and posting things that feel organic. It’s really the quality of the content. Now that I’m not really in the industry and I’m a person just living her life, I try not to post too much. If I post a selfie one day or a pic of my dogs, I don’t do it again the next day. I really think about what people would want to see.
Any advice for businesses trying to build their social footprints?
I am a bleeding heart progressive. I occasionally post things that are polarizing, but if you’re a business, that might not be the best strategy, unless you don’t care if the comments get out of hand or you lose followers. I’m an individual, so I do it, but I don’t like it when my posts get hijacked [by trolls].
Was there a milestone you hit that made you realize you were really good at connecting with people?
It’s actually a photo of me on my wedding day that’s my most-liked photo of all time. And I remember being really excited but also surprised that it was just a genuine moment from my life. This isn’t Damsel. This is just Brittany. The fact that people want to support this says a lot about the kind of people I think that you attract to your page when you’re just genuine. It’s a picture of me in the mirror in a little white bodysuit thing that I wore under my wedding dress. And yeah, it’s my most-liked post of all time.
What are a few of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
@fopopps: She’s half black and half Mexican, she has this face full of beautiful freckles, and she was on America’s Next Top Model when she was younger. And now it’s like 10 years later and she’s still doing her modeling, but her body has changed and she talks a lot about what it is to accept your body as you get older. It’s really inspiring to somebody like me. I’m going through that. I just turned 30 this month. I modeled in my early 20s, and I got sick, and all of these things happened and my body changed so much. It’s nice to see another account where someone’s like, “Hey this is [what I looked like] when I started getting attention. And this is what I look like now. And thanks to those of you that came along for the journey.” I think she’s just really genuine in her posts and she looks happy. And so I really enjoy following her.
I follow a lot of tattoo artists. There’s one that I love. Her name is Alex Strangler (@alexstrangler) from California. I’d love to get work by her someday.
And Pendleton (@pendletonwm). Their high-quality photos make me want whatever product they are featuring. Definitely.
Anything else we need to know?
One really interesting thing about being a social media influencer, before the Instagram algorithm changed and after, is that in the past I could be very calculated. I could track when I was getting the most activity on my posts, what day and time of day. If I was going to post a certain kind of pic I knew I could get a lot of traffic on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. or Monday evening at 6 p.m. Now that the algorithm has changed, that’s really gone out the window. It’s all about the quality of your content. The more people are liking your content and interacting with it, the more they’re going to see it.