Considering all the forms of advertising that exist and have ever existed for sex work and related industries, the most powerful is, and always has been, without a doubt Twitter. I’ve been creating and marketing websites for sex workers since 2000. My first clients came to me because the era of the tart card was drawing to an end. The Tart Cards were like postcards and were mostly placed in London’s famous red phone boxes. They were adverts depicting the ladies and their sexual services along with contact details. The design work ranged from classy and cool to nasty and lewd and often the photos or artwork were clip art or had been cut out of magazines. The residents of London’s boroughs – typically Paddington, Kensington and Baker St – eventually won their way when they were banned in 2001 ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tart_card
Around this time there were rumblings of a new form of advertising via the WWW and websites were becoming a must-have marketing tool. At this point, although Google did not yet exist, there were various search engines – who remembers Ask Geeves?. Search engines were “the next big thing”: the clever girls knew it, and it was also the very beginning of the first online directories dedicated to promoting sex workers. I’m thinking of you Max Fisch and Dickie Virgin.
SEO principles back then were quite simple, and you really only needed a basic website. In order to hit the front page of the search engines, you could simply stuff your homepage with a huge list of service related keywords and locations – anything you thought your clients might type into the search engines… This practice is now frowned upon and Google may even penalise “Black Hat SEO” Times have changed!
Social Media and Censorship
As an adult industry based webmistress and marketer I have tried out all the Social Media platforms. Facebook has kicked me off more times than I can remember; blocking my access to well-crafted and nurtured fetish/femdom related Fan Pages that I’d been running for clients. The most aggravating case might have been when working with highly respected, BAFTA award-winning director, Stuart Urban. After the success of our first crowdfunded campaign to restore and remaster the original film of Preaching To The Perverted , Stuart’s hope to create a sequel of sorts was diminished by FB’s narrow minded politics. PTTP’s audience was prevalent on FB as a balance between mainstream and fetish scene fans. We were using FB ads to increase our reach by promoting the crowdfunding Kickstarter (who had accepted us, and whom we’d successfully used in the past campaign for PTTP). When the Tortured in the Orchard’s page and ads to raise capital were shut down at a crucial point in the funding campaign it meant we were unable to meet our target and dreams of producing a fun sequel crashed. The most frustrating part was not receiving an explanation or any reason why… except that it was adult content. Which it really was not, because BAFTA?
Facebook, now the proud owners of Instagram have never wavered on its no-female-nudity stance and now both platforms are wiped clean quickly via their magic algorithms that use image-metrics and can detect a female nipple. Even the mere mention of the word ‘boudoir’ my have you shadow banned. They’ve even gone as far as banning the use of emojis that possibly indicate sexual activity.
“Hundreds of porn stars and sex workers had their Instagram accounts deleted this year, and many say that they’re being held to a different standard than mainstream celebrities.” ~ https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-50222380
It would be funny if it wasn’t so ludicrous
So, how did we all end up on Twitter?
When Twitter popped up in 2006, it was initially a baffling concept for me. Self-hosted online forums were still quite popular with plenty of space for debate and depending on the website – the owners and moderators – a fairly relaxed policy towards adult imagery and discussion. At this point, Facebook was only 2 years old and Instagram non-existent. So with a mere 140 characters to make a point on Twitter… how did we manage…?
Twitter and Censorship
Despite Twitter’s quite tight terms and conditions, it’s the largest free mainstream platform that is still quite open to sexual content. It seems that if you are diligent in indicating that your content may contain sensitive media ( you can do this under your Account > Settings and Privacy > Privacy and safety > Mark media you Tweet as containing material that may be sensitive) they willingly allow us to share and promote adult imagery and services within our profiles (though your header and profile image may not contain sensitive media).
Instances of possible censorship include having accounts deactivated (Madame Caramel claims to be on her 18th account) and shadow banning. However… I believe it might just be down to misbehaviour. A colleague has elaborated further on shadow banning and broken down Twitter’s T&Cs into relevant snippets on his website here eyemblacksheep.com
Twitter as a referral system
Twitter has opened up many business opportunities, which would not be possible otherwise. Social influence is not just restricted to mainstream celebrities: Twitter is the ultimate virtual word-of-mouth referral based system and between many of my femdom, sex work, BDSM and fetish clients the notion of the community over competition, is strong.
Furthermore, the idea that potential clients can interact with the Mistress in their sights, and to an extent get to know them from a distance, is priceless marketing that costs nothing except the time needed to nurture an interesting, well-crafted Twitter profile.
Get to the point, Miss May
It’s too easy to grow comfortable and rely on just one system for our promotion. We all know that “putting our eggs in one basket” is never a good idea, right?. And even since I have started to write this (end of 2019), the idea of Twitter – as we know it – is on shaky grounds…. SOSTA/FESTA was voted in the USA forcing Backpage to close down along with many other websites that were unsure of their position in the law. The word on the virtual-street was that Twitter would be the next to send their sex work profiles packing. I am pleased to say that so far, this has not been the case. In fact, I have stopped worrying about new censorship laws since the UK has forever been trying to force regulations that never quite make it through… different story. I won’t go there now.
Where do we go to in a world without Twitter??
After all the followers we’ve gained, and relationships nurtured, what happens if one day we are ALL booted off Twitter?
What’s your backup plan?
Twitter does provide a backup system of sorts. But it’s only an archive of your posts, media and interactions. I just downloaded mine and it looked like this:
So I can see all of my tweets, likes and direct messages but I do not get a back up of accounts that follow me and vice versa.
Go to your Account:
> More (it’s the circle with three dots)
> Setting and Privacy
> Your Account
> Download an archive of your data
Your Website is your business’s online home
If you are in business and on Twitter, I’d like to assume that you at least have a reasonably well thought out website and online business plan. You don’t have your own website? Read on.
Your website is the one thing you can count on if all things fail. Find yourself a web person you can trust. But definitely don’t make that person your current slave. No matter how much you trust them. In my two decades as a web designer, I have seen so many websites breaking down along with messy breakups. In the long run, it’s 100% worth paying a neutral party to deal with your professional affairs.
Please, make sure that your domain name is registered to YOU. Not to your webmaster, nor your best friend, and again, certainly not your current slave in service. This topic is a whole other post in itself but simply put YOU must be the registered owner of your own URL i.e domain name.
Make sure you have regular backups of your website being archived somewhere that YOU can access. My hosting company backs up all of my websites once a month. I also recommend a weekly (or more often) backup with a plugin like Updraft Plus(if you’re using WordPress).
Mailing List – Email Marketing
Who doesn’t love receiving a juicy email packed full of the latest news and photos of your favourite online person?
Your website and mailing list should be your major point of contact and therefore you should, at the very least, be maintaining it regularly via promotion and backing up. Promote it to increase your regular audience, back it up to secure that audience. Back up your mailing list regularly; ensure you will be able to regain contact with them in the event you lose access to it.
Of course, the repression and censorship of Sex Workers often work against us, so I am sorry to say it but MailChimp is not your friend and I have had clients lose their accounts in the past. There are however always other options! I have successfully set up clients on YMLP.com and someone else I know is using ConstantContact and has been for years. I am not going to recommend them with 100% confidence because, you already know it, adult sex work probably goes against their T&Cs. It is up to you to take the risk and always do that backup! Make it a weekly or monthly admin task. If you use WordPress there are lead generator and newsletter plugin options that I am currently investigating however, the setup may be arduous. Have a look at https://www.thenewsletterplugin.com/
So, to sum up the whole point of this rather drawn out article: In a world without Twitter to market ourselves on, the two basic tools you should be bulletproofing are your WEBSITE and your Mailing List! Do this now, and secure your present and future as a successful and smart business owner.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twit! @Miss__May