Social Media and SexTech

Social media is an intrinsic part of our modern world (particularly in these COVID-19 times). It’s how we keep in touch with friends: seeing pictures or posts about what’s happening in their lives. We get targeted ads that are cleverly designed from the data we knowingly (or perhaps, unwittingly) provide to the social media giants in exchange for using their services. For any digital business these days, advertising on social media doesn’t just make sense – it’s necessary for survival.

But what about if you’re a sex tech company? Selling a cutting edge sex toy, or a subscription to digital sex education classes, or an ethical porn hub wanting adults to make the switch from free porn? While there is a very legitimate societal need and market demand for these companies’ products and services, sex tech companies are subject to intense censorship from social media companies. 

The Verge writes how the sex tech industry is significantly restrained by censorship and sexism. Lora DiCarlo having their Innovation Award rescinded from CES 2019 is a particularly apt example of this, especially when CES has a demonstrated history of allowing VR porn and sex robots for men. Furthermore, social media algorithms struggle to differentiate between sex education and porn – meaning that perfectly legitimate content is removed. Cindy Gallop has spoken extensively on how difficult it is to run her ethical porn platform Make Love Not Porn – for her, advertising on social media is simply out of the question. There is some bittersweet reassurance in these stories – it’s not just up and coming sex tech start-ups that struggle with these issues, but the leaders themselves within sex tech.

All of this sounds very glum for the sex tech industry. We are not here to sugar coat it for you, but to emphasise that while there are incredible profits to be made from working in this field, there are also significant barriers that have to be navigated. So what can be done about it?

Some established sex tech leaders give excellent advice for those already in sex tech, or wanting to get into the industry. 

  • Strategic relationship building – It is crucial to establish and nurture strong relationships with teams on social media platforms. If you aren’t talking to someone (read: a real person!) at Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., then it’s important that you make meaningful steps to opening up dialogues with these companies. That way, if (read: when!) you run into snags in your campaign or content plans, you will have a much better chance of getting them back on track.
  • Be organised – plan your campaigns and content well in advance, so that you can be prepared for any risks and have time to manage them without impacting your product or service too greatly.
  • Go beyond social media – this is not to say you should give up on the giants completely, but to also think outside them. Reach out to mainstream, niche, or local news outlets to see if they’d be willing to promote your company, or even do an interview with you! Even if you can’t run ads with them, at least use this opportunity to get your name out there.

The road ahead is not too difficult, it has too many curves!

Viva La Vulva!