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  • Finn Hodgins

Finn's Personal Experience with Censorship

This is Finn, Co-founder of Grouped, and I want to share a story about my personal experience with censorship and big tech.

Previously, I worked in e-commerce for a hemp brand selling hemp food products. For context, hemp has no CBD or THC. It’s a superfood, loaded with nutrients such as omega-3's, fiber, plant-based protein, and tons of minerals like magnesium. Nutritionally, it’s basically the same thing as a chia seed.

Part of our sales strategy was to use paid social media advertising to grow our social media accounts. We tried running paid advertising across three of the biggest platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube) because these are the platforms everyone is on, and brands make a killing marketing on them.

However, our ads got rejected every time. The reason from Facebook was “No selling illegal drugs.” Ok - easy. There was a disconnect and we just have to explain to them that hemp isn’t marijuana. Once they get that, they’ll allow it to be promoted because of how beneficial it is for the health of people…

We got in touch with tons of people who worked for Facebook. Pretty high level people too. My boss even had government connections who still couldn’t solve the problem (kind of scary). Fast forward three years, nothing has changed. You still cannot market hemp through paid advertising.

Tons of small businesses have suffered, while competitors selling potato chips have taken off using paid advertisements (during a national health crisis too - but that is a song for another time…)

The plan shifted to growing our social media accounts organically. We invested time and money in creating incredible content, and we saw our follower count climb. (BTW - growing an Instagram account without the help of paid ads is not easy.) As the months went by and our followers went up, our engagement slowly started to go down. Then quickly started to go down. Then the followers stalled. We’d post content that barely got any views, which didn’t make sense because we had tons of followers.

Our content wasn't being shown because the algorithms had changed. These people choose to follow us, yet we couldn’t get our content in front of them. Huh?

We had no control...

This is happening to thousands of brands, public figures, and content creators in all types of niches. Yes, it goes far far beyond politics, most of it in fact, are things you would have no idea about - like a small business selling healthy snacks.

For me, this experience was a blessing because it taught me A LOT, the two main things being:

#1 Direct response marketing (email) and word of mouth marketing (recommendations from friends, family, and the top 1% of “leaders") are by far the strongest forms of marketing.

#2: Any brand, whether it be a public figure, politician, health food brand, solar company, or business, their number one goal is to build a stronger community. If they do this effectively, they will build trust and loyalty, which results in sales and lifetime customers. To do this effectively, they need their content seen, and the full attention of their community.

There is a huge need for a platform that allows leaders to create their OWN private social network, where they are in complete control. No need to worry about algorithms, censorship, advertising, and all the other fluff. A platform that gives a direct touch point to communities, where followers actually get to see content and leaders know what they create is seen.

Sort of like a hybrid between email and social media, where you own your community, are in control, and have direct touch, but it looks and feels like social media.

Grouped is launching at the end of April. To sign up for beta access, click here.


- Finn




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