Digital platforms are essential to engage today’s cannabis consumers. E-commerce sales soared 600% at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 43% now preferring to purchase cannabis online. As industry regulations prohibit traditional marketing, no Canadian producer has been able to secure more than 41% brand recognition. In the face of these restrictions, growers are instead competing for exposure through social media.
Instagram is the most widely used social network by cannabis businesses, due to its popularity with 18 – 34 year olds and the ability to showcase products. The hashtag #cannabis has been used nearly 25 million times, with 81% using the platform to research products. As nearly half of those go on to make a purchase, investing in a channel that resonates with customers can yield huge dividends. Instagram is an image centric platform, which places flower aesthetics above all else. Although cannabinoid and terpene profiles are impossible to distinguish through pictures alone, trichome density indicates cannabis potency. As a result, online aficionados crave expertly manicured flowers that sparkle with sticky resin glands.
INSTAGRAM FAMOUS FLOWER
To cultivate cannabis that achieves adoration online for its glittering appearance, growers need to amplify trichome development. This starts with investing in genotypes bred for resin production and harnessing the best light source possible. As cannabis develops trichomes to defend against UV radiation, the more light plants receive the more trichomes they create. The size of cannabis flowers can also demonstrate the care with which it has been grown, with large top colas particularly prized. Small buds are habitually shunned by connoisseurs, with high-end producers selling ‘smalls’ as a secondary product. To produce giant flowers that achieve the highest price point, growers need to accentuate genetic potential through plant training and proper fertilization.
To complement the visual of colossal colas laden with trichomes, cannabis needs to be trimmed by technologies that augment this aesthetic. The vast majority strive to apply as tight a trim as possible, removing all the sugar leaves to flaunt flowers to the fullest extent. This is incredibly difficult to achieve efficiently, without damaging the buds underneath. While hand-trimming cannabis is romanticized, it is exceptionally expensive and rarely commercially viable. If cultivators hand-trim cannabis for promotional purposes, but not for consumers, the product advertised will not reflect the product customers receive.
As most consumers have called out a company on social media, digital platforms can be a double-edged sword for producers, who must ensure the flower plugged online represents the flower sold. This means applying the same cultivation and harvesting techniques to the promoted flower as the rest of the crop. To create this consistency and uphold cannabis standards, growers need to invest in solutions that secure uniformity across the entire harvest. This means foregoing hand bucking and trimming, as results vary between employees and from batch to batch, in favour of specialist innovations that enhance cannabis aesthetics at scale.
Elite cannabis harvesting solutions benefit from non-stick coatings, which prevent trichome damage so flowers retain their sparkle. Divertors also empower growers to refine trim length, so they can incrementally tighten the cut to clip ever sugar leaf without shredding precious flower. As sugar leaves are still caked in trichomes, growers need to be able to save and process any removed to maximize the harvest’s value. This can be nearly impossible to do effectively without kief and trim collection devices connected to trimming machines.
Technologies with the power to process wet and dry cannabis affords growers greater versatility when producing Instagrammable flower. As plants are most robust when freshly cut, bucking machines with the ability to remove wet flowers better keep larger colas intact. Gentle cut buckers have been developed to delicately slice buds from stems, but the risk of buds breaking apart still significantly increases alongside dehydration. Similarly, cannabis trimming machines with the capacity to trim wet and dry flowers affords growers the opportunity to apply a wet trim to accelerate drying, prior to a dry trim to perfect their cosmetic appearance. The best integrate with quality control conveyors, so growers can monitor and perfect individual flowers, to guarantee each bud sold reflects that advertised online.
A WORD OF WARNING
When advertising cannabis online, producers need to reduce the risk of social accounts being suspended for breaking community guidelines. Instagram has a disconcerting history of suspending cannabis-related accounts without warning, with growers risking a crucial marketing tool whenever cannabis is promoted. To mitigate this danger social channels must be age-gated and never explicitly offer cannabis for sale. Despite the dangers of promoting cannabis through social media, the potential rewards often make the gamble worth taking. As over 1 billion consumers use Instagram every month, those that shy away from social media engagement miss a crucial marketing opportunity, especially in the face of restrictive industry regulations.