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Social intercourse: TikTok

Social intercourse: TikTok

Concluding her series looking at how adult businesses cope with censorship on social media platforms, Tabitha Rayne tackles TikTok…

I’ve been so delighted by how many industry folks have shared their experiences so generously but, if I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t sure I’d find anyone to comment for this TikTok piece. From my own perspective, I made a TikTok account mainly to watch others’ videos. I think I made a fundamental error in using ‘erotica’ in my handle @tabithaerotica. Having only shared very innocent videos, my profile is still completely hidden. This implies a search or shadow ban which is not great for business visibility.

I was hoping for some hacks for us sexy biz peeps so we could at least get a little bit of TikTok action. There is actually a lot of TikToks featuring sex toys from users so I was a little bit hopeful…

Super Smash Cache is a sex blogger and toy critic: “I tried TikTok because, when Instagram Reels came out, I enjoyed making videos to the beat of music, and I noticed how Reels were being prioritized in the algorithm. Some of my Reels went viral, so I figured I might as well post them to TikTok, too, for a slightly different audience. Or vice versa, depending on what audio and editing features I wanted.”

Talking of editing features, I find that TikTok is great for filters and effects, making dynamic content quite easy, also their caption generator is really good. You can download your video before it gets taken down for breaking community guidelines and use the films elsewhere like Super Smash Cash suggested. I asked about her biggest success.

“The first video I cross-posted (IG first, then TikTok) performed pretty well. The second one (TikTok first, then Instagram) went to the moon (by my standards). It had about 7,000 likes and I gained maybe 3,000 followers from it on Instagram. The video in question? an overview of the differences between the Lora DiCarlo Filare and LELO Ora 3 oral seggs (oops, sex) stimulators.”

One thing I worry about is sex educators using hashtags which either lead to a ban, or are misleading to the audience. Super Smash Cache had a surprising response to this. “I don’t use hashtags on TikTok or Instagram anymore. #sexpositive has been practically blacklisted, and hashtags seemed to be less effective across the board on Instagram after the 2020 US election.”

While Super Smash Cache says it’s a case of when rather than if her posts get censored, she does notice an uptick in action elsewhere prior to the dreaded take down.

“I do notice spikes in traffic to my blog after going viral. Maybe potential new readers will see something spicy and think, ‘Better check out her other channels before she gets banned here!’”

Any advice on avoiding a ban? “TikTok’s community standards are inconsistently enforced, so it’s hard to know for sure everything that might get censored or taken down. And it’s frustrating seeing people who post spicier content than you freely build their followings, while you’re punished by the algorithm for posting something not even that phallic or remotely graphic. Have fun with TikTok. But diversify and save copies of the videos to post somewhere else you won’t be censored, such as your own website.”

Angel Russell, COO of Tickle Life, talked to me about why they tried TikTok. “Its popularity is making a space where folks are putting their attention. Sex Ed should be in those spaces.”

Angel also chooses not to use the hashtags, “I don’t even use them most of the time because I hate censoring them. Sex is not a dirty word. I hate that we have to use wonky sex-adjacent words to be seen.” Angel has also had experience with the censors. “I’ve had videos removed and gotten warnings like everyone else. It’s frustrating and sad, and I don’t spend as much time on TT as I do on other platforms because of it.” Having said that, “A video about Arousal Non-Concordance set to the song WAP,” got a lot of views. “I think people really resonate with that content, it blows up any time I share it anywhere.”

Angel echoes the sentiment that you have to use multiple media channels. “Don’t let that be the only place you live online. Expect it to be unstable and insecure. Do it for fun, but don’t put all your (s)eggs in that basket.”

Sherryl Blu an online sex educator is relatively new to TikTok but seemed to find overnight success with the platform. Now with over 300k likes, she explains how she started using the platform almost by accident. “I often put short vids about sex and health related stuff on Instagram so when the idea of me using TikTok was floated, I thought why not? I did not know what to expect initially and it’s taken a while to find my stride. I like the fact that I have a certain amount of time in which to be creative and even though TikTok have now increased their upload time, I still try to keep my videos under a minute and as close to 30 secs as possible. People’s attention span is so limited these days, short, sharp, and packed with info, seems to be the way to go!”

The most explosive response was one of Sherryl’s first TikToks, “Interestingly, the video that has racked up the most views so far is one that I did on squirting.”

Sherryl too has encountered the spectre of censorship. “Yeah, censorship is a real thing across all social media but with TikTok, sometimes it feels policed that little bit more. I often find my videos are placed ‘under review’ before being released for public consumption. I appeal all removals and have had most of them reinstated so far—all but maybe two. I’m not sure how they decide what should stay and what should go but it definitely feels inconsistent. In terms of hashtags, I try not to use ones that contain words that link to the subject directly ie instead of ‘sex’ I’ll use ‘seggs’. It’s ridiculous really because sex is the seller of EVERYTHING but ho hum… what can you do?”

To try to keep on the right side of the TT police, Sherryl is careful about how she expresses herself. “I try to keep the language I use in the videos as neutral as possible. Where I have to refer to something explicit, I will change the word ie ‘schmexx’ instead of ‘sex’. In some instances, I include a ‘educational information’ caption because I want to indicate that I am not just on here to talk dirty, its actually education!”

Sherryl shared her final thought about her place in this social media world where we glean most of our information now. “It’s crazy because sex education is so necessary, they should be embracing this kind of content, for balance if not for anything else.”

So what about actual sexy products on TikTok? From my own point of view my Ruby Glow video only stayed up for a few minutes and my mini vibes for my doll’s house nightstand have not fared brilliantly. I was delighted to find Amavidi, a silicone dildo making company who seem to have cracked the TikTok code. They provide engaging content to complement their longer, more informative YouTube videos. I talked to CEO Derek Tarvin who explained his video technique. “The format focusses on the pouring of the silicone – a hypnotic and satisfying thing to watch—I guess it’s almost like, if you know, you know—if you don’t you enjoy the process anyway.”

By following Derek’s posts, some of which have over a million views and one over four million, I discovered that there are actually some pretty kinky places on TikTok, the key is knowing where to look.

“The main hashtags that I use have been adjusted by the community to be a little harder to stumble on to – #k1nktok as an example.” Let me tell you of a little place called #PegTok which some of you might also enjoy. Derek has some other advice for choosing hashtags. “When you use trending hashtags your videos are more likely to run in front of someone who would be more likely to report it just because of the broader audience. This will ultimately crush your reach and get you throttled to some extent. I would also add that by using trending/popular hashtags we could be violating consent, but that’s probably a broader conversation.” A very important point—we as adult businesses are very careful to be sure of highlighting our work as suitable for 18s and over, so while we do want to be in a mainstream space, we have to be mindful of who else is there.

Like a lot of us on social media, Derek has had to simply figure it out.

“In the beginning I made a lot of mistakes and many of my videos got reported and taken down for violating TOS. Eventually, I figured out where the boundaries were and stayed within them. We use alternatives to certain words: dildos are ‘sculptures’ which gives a certain amount of plausible deniability. Occasionally, I test the system by posting something that is pushing the limit—but I post it without any hashtags. This seems to work pretty well—but it probably only works because I have a large enough following that TikTok ‘knows’ who would like it.”

The burning question for all businesses—does this mighty following on TikTok translate to traffic elsewhere? “Yes. I have a link in my bio that directs them to my webstore or other social media profiles. And when a video pops on TikTok, I see a spike in traffic on my website as well as sales. Whenever I do a TikTok Live I see a bump in sales as well.”

What piece of advice would you give someone in the adult biz if they were thinking about trying TikTok?

“Understand the platform and the users. Take some time to figure out where the boundaries are and then learn to play the game. I know that a pour video will be fine on TikTok—a demoulding video showing the final product is likely to get taken down.” One of the more brutal yet key points Derek makes is so valuable: “Understand that the platform isn’t there for you as a creator—it’s there for the viewers. TikTok doesn’t care how much time you spend on a video. All they care about is whether you are getting people to spend more time on the app. In a nutshell—TikTok (or any social media platform) isn’t searching for viewers for your videos – it is searching for videos for their viewers.” And a final thought for your videos: “I think it’s also a bit like burlesque—a little teaser of what you *could* see without showing it.  Leave a little to the imagination and that will get people hooked.”

This is the final Social Intercourse article and I am very grateful to everyone who has offered their thoughts, experiences and advice through navigating the world of social media in the adult industries. The advice has been universal—follow the rules, remember social media platforms are run by private companies so it’s their party. Be sure to have interesting content that people want and build a community around it. Until sex is seen as a holistic part of the human experience we’ll just have to play carefully. Pioneers in the adult social platforms such as Tickle.Life, LoveGivr and the Mon app are hopefully on the rise and we look forward to engaging with you there.

Love Tabitha


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