Authenticity, (the) Facebook & Cannabis

Warning: Potentially unpopular opinion to follow, proceed with appropriate amounts of caution & good humor.

I’ve recently had several conversations with experienced, successful marketing professionals who have repeatedly stressed the importance of authenticity. I’d like to say that being transparent and authentic has always been my strategy, but that’s not entirely true. It’s just my personality. A former COO I worked with for many years once called me “honest to a fault”. This is certainly not a humble brag; my authentic self is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m told it doesn’t matter, I’ll win some people, I’ll lose others. So, here goes nothing…

I don’t like Facebook. I never have. Why? I find the site itself confusing and slow. I believe it erases necessary societal boundaries, fosters FOMO and provides a platform to antagonize your friends, family, colleagues, etc. with your polarizing political/dietary/social views. Yes, I know it brings people together, lets relationships flourish across vast distances and has millions of fans. I signed up for an account in the early 2000’s, got caught up in the drama and promptly deleted my account. This March, while setting up my social media channels for Alice & Fran I decided I would be at a disadvantage if I didn’t have a FB page. I created a personal page with an additional business page for A&F. I immediately got tons of friend requests which I responded to via email, telling friends and family “No, I’m not on FB now. Just setting up a page for my business”. Eye rolls and sighs were the most common reply.

I met these responses the same way I always do, by saying “join me on (the) Insta! Instagram is owned by FB and is also known for rejecting sponsored posts and shutting down accounts, but has been claimed by the industry as “the” platform and seems to be a more cannabis friendly app. I prefer Instagram for the same reasons I don’t like FB; it’s primarily visual, concise, easy-to-use and relatively drama free. There’s fewer users, less political commentary and overall feels more “friendly” to me. Regrettably, I sometimes find I must stray into FB land to join industry groups, find information or something I’m reading mentions the social media behemoth and I can’t help myself.

Today I came across this article on Marijuana Moment, “Facebook Uses Marijuana And Broccoli To Show Off Its AI Tech”. I know FB, like Google and Instagram , ban cannabis advertising and will shut down accounts they feel are posting “policy violating content” so I was curious as to why FB was using two of my favorite things to make a point about AI. Turns out the crazy smart people that work at FB have used their skills to build a tool that can differentiate between cannabis flower and tempura broccoli. Yep. Good to know there aren’t other things on FB that could be policy violating or offensive such as antisemitism, misogyny, animal abuse, child pornography, etc. Oh wait, those things get posted too. Probably a bit more controversial to address those topics at an annual developers conference. Cannabis was, IMO, the low hanging fruit and most entertaining/engaging policy violation.

The article says “most” attendees could tell the difference. That’s concerning within itself, no? Pages and posts being censored or taken down, potentially, by people who don’t even know what cannabis looks like. Many noncommercial cannabis business, aka ancillary business, have been impacted as well, just being associated with the plant means no sponsored posts, constant worry about having all the time, money and effort invested in your social media suspended or taken away in an instant. Or, I have heard, the incredible frustration of waiting to resolve the issue and having your account restored.

Cannabis businesses are at a distinct disadvantage at the moment, not being able to use the most established, popular and cost effective advertising platforms. We use Instagram (carefully), LinkedIn, networking events, conferences, mailings and cannabis industry specific sites (Leafly, Leafwire, DCN, MJBiz, Ganjapreneur, etc.) to sell our products and services, to find fellow industry professionals and try to build one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It’s ridiculous. A similar situation is happening in the cannabis accounting space. QuickBooks Online has shut down services for cannabis and cannabis related businesses. They have no official policy on cannabis and what they tell you regarding your account depends on who you get on the phone. They’ve also recently raised their prices. What’s happening? We’re all looking at AccountingSuite and Xero as QB replacements. I wonder (hope) that there’s something brewing in the social media sphere that might be cannabis friendly and as robust as FB. We could move en mass to this new platform and leave FB with their broccoli vs. weed dilemma.. My thought is that cannabis has been around long before Facebook and will be around long after Facebook has gone the way of MySpace.