As those of you following Free Range Kings on any of the social media platforms know, we are significantly more active on Instagram than Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Don’t even ask about Tik Tok, even though Gary Vee says I am a fool for being so late to the game. As I’m engaging our broad target market groups – those that love food, cannabis, or both – I notice a curious thing going on with the 420-friendly crowd. Many use the #Mmemberville after posts and in their bios.
What the f*** is #Mmemberville?
At first, I thought it was a millennial thing. But that wasn’t it, because I saw a Willie Nelsonesque gentleman tweet a video of him smoking a bowl with “#Mmemberville” in the caption. Females. Males. Caucasians. African Americans. Latinos. Asians. Pacific Islanders. Young. Old. Conservatives. Liberals. Believers (pick the religion). Atheists. These are the many faces of #Mmemberville. Their common bond is cannabis, and the love among this vast and diverse group is as real as you’ll witness anywhere.
It reminds of being a fan of a football team. You are cheering, jeering, high-fiving, and having the time of your life with people that you may not get along with outside of that stadium. You are connected through your shared love for the team. Seeing #Mmemberville for another “Mmember” is like seeing a stranger wearing the jersey of your beloved sports team. Instant acceptance.
The Kings of the Realm
Like any self-respecting individual trying to avoid embarrassment, I Googled #Mmemberville. Search results returned links to dozens of tweets using the hashtag. It also directed me to a LinkedIn account for Sibusiso Sithole, co-founder of #Mmemberville and located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Further down in the profile, he states he runs a “hashtag called #Mmemberville on Twitter, a virtual stoner community…”
I searched the name on Twitter and there are more Sibusiso Sitholes than you’d imagine. I then searched “co-founder of #Mmemberville” an found @sparzito and @zip_zona. These were the kings of the realm. I had so many questions for them about this virtual group, so I reached out to get the full story.
Sparzito (the Sibusiso I was looking for) and Zip Zona were born in Johannesburg in the mid-90s, and shared many interests, including cannabis and legalization. In South Africa, cannabis has never been widely accepted but glorified mostly by the youth in urban areas. The country did take a step in the right direction, however, as they decriminalized marijuana possession in 2018. Like most states in America, South Africans are still prohibited from buying and selling of any cannabis products. Devoid of any cannabis dispensaries, they are only able obtain cannabis products through underground trade.
Birth of the Hashtag
The duo describes #Mmemberville as a “digital community and platform where stoners can express themselves and connect with like minded people.” In 2017, Sparzito and Zip Zona started using Twitter daily, engaging with more and more people like themselves, and they felt a tremendous level of love, respect, and acceptance among the stoner community.
During a cypher in July 2018, they came up with a plan to create #Mmemberville to further bond the stoner community. They wanted to build a following much in the same way their role models South African music artists AKA and Cassper Nyovest did – by building their fiercely loyal fanbases through Twitter.
So, what is the origin of the name, and why the double “m” at the front of #Mmemberville?
The duo says the name originated back when they were in varsity (college) together. Instead of calling one another “stoners,” which was universally known, they decided to use the term “member.” This codename made them feel like they were “part of an organization of some sort.” The “-ville” part implies it is a community, albeit virtual. They added another “M” in front to allow the hashtag to stand out as a brand.
From the very start, Sparzito and Zip Zona had a global vision for #Mmemberville, hoping to get every cannabis enthusiast in the world to use the hashtag. They started by persuading existing followers to use it whenever tweeting about cannabis. This may not surprise anybody, but stoners tweet about cannabis all…the…time. Rapid snowball effect. The partners realized it was gaining traction and becoming a “big deal” when they saw a predominant portion of those using the hashtag were from the United States, which they recognize as the biggest market of cannabis culture.
Right now, the hashtag is used approximately 400 times per hour. Yes, you read that correctly.
Path to Official Mmembership and Its Benefits
I was hesitant to fly the #Mmemberville flag on any social media platforms because I wasn’t sure if I earned the right to use it. Zip Zona and Sparzito insist that anybody is welcome to use the hashtag; however, you are NOT considered an official Mmember until they say so. The more you use the hashtag, the closer you get to becoming an official Mmember. Once you are deemed worthy of being part of the community, one of the co-founders sends you a #Mmembership banner and tweets out an announcement for all other official Mmembers to know. At that point, you are showered with congratulations from other Mmembers and you can proudly post the banner to your profile page.
The primary benefit of being an official Mmember is to engage with other Mmembers. Within this community, I have seen joyous congratulations, uplifting encouragement, unifying commiseration, and heart-felt consolation for those experiencing difficult life events. I have laughed at some really funny jokes and witnessed true concern for other Mmembers’ safety during the recent protests. In addition to connecting with other stoners on Twitter, #Mmembervile also serves as a platform for stoners who have ideas, products, or services they would like to bring to a large, friendly audience. The more the community grows, the stronger the benefit of influence grows.
#Mmemberville’s Future and What’s Next for Sparzito and Zip Zona
The duo prides itself in growing the #Mmemberville following organically, allowing each Mmember to genuinely feel valued. They have several long-term goals that leverages the success of #Mmemberville. For example, they plan to release a clothing brand as well as music geared towards the stoner community.
Zip Zona and Sparzito continue to dream big, and anybody would be foolish to doubt them after what they have built with #Mmemberville. Simply put, they are masters of influence. After describing a typical day as “hitting the office, smoking all day while working on #Mmemberville, and that’s about it,” I can see why stoners gravitate towards them. The kings of #Mmemberville are rightfully proud of the amount of time and effort they put into building this movement, and Zip Zona optimistically proclaims the “only place we are going now is the top!”
And they are taking #Mmemberville with them.