The most popular session I attended at #SFS16 was #SFSMedia or ‘Navigating Social Media Practices for Adult Businesses’ and as you’ll see, this post is drawing heavily on the tidbits of wisdom dropped by panelists Sandra Bruce (Shevibe), Metis Black (Tantus), and JoEllen Notte (Redheadbedhead.com). While I was taking notes and tweeting as best as I could I realized during that session that it would spawn a blog post or two but I didn’t realize that every month thereafter I would be reminded by others‘ social media fuck-ups that this post needs to be written.
Today I’ve partnered with Formidable Femme, Red Hot Suz, and marvelous darling to create a multi-post guide to sex industry social media. Hopefully, through these guides, new and old companies can be educated on how to maneuver through marketing sexuality in a professional way. I plan to pull this post out like your mother pulls out that annoying pamphlet on whatever health condition she is sure you have or will have. I will present this to companies and hope they have the sense to read the whole thing.
— Sarah Jane (@marvydarling) August 5, 2016
As more and more adult-industry companies are created, or simply joining social media, the occurrence rate for social media fuck-ups is also rising. It seems like every month on Twitter the blog squad will notice new1 companies saying things that fly in the face of everything our side of the industry2 stands for: sex-positivity, body-positivity, inclusivity & tolerance, and correct education. As a business, your social media posts go beyond fun & marketing – they are your reputation. Reputation is currency. Reputation can be the difference between being named someone’s favorite company of the year and living on their Blacklist; between being recommended consistently to readers & customers or never mentioned. Reputation is currency. Understand this and you’re on your way to understanding how to handle your fuck-ups. It’s easy to make mistakes – listen to the community and take heed when we tell you you’ve fucked up.
— Bex (@BexTalksSex) August 5, 2016
Alright, so you’ve fucked up. Your mentions/comments are filled with people calling you out on your fuck-up. What’s the first thing you should do?
Step 1: STOP. Remove yourself from this equation, and don’t take it personally. I say that to prepare you for this: It doesn’t matter what you think right now. It doesn’t matter what your intent was. What matters is how it was received. Full stop, the end. Sit with this for a minute or ten and repeat it like a mantra until you fully believe it – and don’t you dare respond to folks until you believe it. So many companies make the storm worse by getting offended and upset, by doubling down on the bad behavior we’re calling out or throwing us a half-hearted fauxpology.
— Tantus, Inc. (@tantus) August 5, 2016
When you’ve done wrong, every hour that ticks by, from the moment the river of hate floods your screen, is affecting the perception of your business. As a business, a brand, the longer you take on damage and stay silent, the worse it will be for you and the harder it will be to come back from it.
Step 2: Delete the offending post(s). They’re terrible, offensive and hurtful. The post that got you into hot water is not going to do you any good by leaving it up. By bringing it down and quickly following up with Step 3 you will hopefully stop the bleeding. Stop the bleeding, and start the mending.
Step 3: Apologize and tell us you were wrong, we were right. Because no matter what is in your head our reaction is what is correct right now. Apologize publicly, apologize privately, apologize to individuals and acknowledge the validity of their complaint to them. However, and this is very important, make sure your apology isn’t a fauxpology. A fauxpology shifts the blame – to the complainant for their feelings or that they saw something you didn’t, for example. A fauxpology is “We’re so sorry you found this offensive, it was never our intent” which can be re-written as: “I’m very sorry; I didn’t see it that way but understand my error”. Crafting a good apology is as simple as expressing regret/remorse, admitting you’ve done wrong, and promising that it will never happen again.
Actually, there’s one aspect I left out but it needs a little mention: a blanket “sorry, we did wrong” can feel empty if you don’t seem to really understand what you did wrong. Months after this post went live a perfect example has occured. Godemiche put up a quick personal video to a social media account which showed the company owner discussing how he thinks a “hairy vagina” is “disgusting”. Many folks with pubic hair (and even those without) were offended and enraged, and rightfully so. The company put up a written apology that seemed sincere but vague. They later did a periscope video where they talked about their error in conflating vagina with vulva. Nowhere did they talk about how it was incredibly wrong to shame body hair like that or acknowledge that they crossed a line on their professional account. This left many folks feeling skeptical and unsatisfied that the company actually understands what it is they did wrong.
— Lunabelle (@ninjasexology) August 5, 2016
Step 4: Sit there and take the beating. This doesn’t mean you need to engage in discussions about it and reply to every single tweet in your mentions. It’s a delicate balance; a dance of sensitivity. Apologize, make it look heartfelt but understand that more angry tweets will follow. When a tweet is popular, it will show up in someone’s timeline later on – 9 , 18, 24 hours later. And that may be the first time they’re hearing about Your Awful Thing. And maybe they’re so disgusted/incensed/hurt by what you did that they need to jump in and be another voice telling you. This may come hours, or a day, after your apology. Let it happen. Take it.
— Lilly (@dangerouslilly) August 5, 2016
Step 5: Do better. Don’t let this happen again. Learn. If this happened because you handed your social media accounts over to someone who doesn’t understand the language of sex-positivity and inclusiveness, who has never run a social media account for a sexuality company? That’s on you for letting them go unchecked. At the end of the day, this is your company and you shouldn’t be hands-off on something so important. Hire someone better and make sure you have the login information for all of the social media accounts others are handling. Make sure you’re logged in so that notifications are seen immediately by you.
If this happened because you, the owner, are running your social media accounts then you need to consider handing them over to someone else who has experience running social media for sexuality companies. Otherwise you could be damaging your own business.
Educate yourself and your employees, specifically on the topic you were called out for. Understand the nuances of consent, shame, gender, sexuality, and more. And if you read up on these topics and still feel that you were right, we were “over-reacting” or being “too politically correct”? Then you have no business being the voice of your company. Hire someone to do it for you.
What Not To Do
DON’T block the people who are complaining. That’s literally never a good idea. It does absolutely nothing but make you look like shit. It earns you a bad reputation amongst the folks who are giving voices to your brand; the folks who might have considered forgiving your fuck up.
DON’T ignore us. The apologies are necessary. You can’t just delete the offending post(s) and be done with it. No response will land you in hotter water than you started in. It signifies that you don’t give a shit and/or don’t care to understand your mistakes.
DON’T insult us. Don’t get defensive. We’ve seen too many folks lash out at the people doing the call-out. Again, this is only going to make your situation worse and pretty much ensure that most bloggers won’t recommend your brand.
DON’T assume that the followers who are vocal are the only ones who care. I can assure you that there are other brands, companies and important people following you who also care but couldn’t say anything. If you are a retailer, consider if you’re prepared to have brands pull their stock from your shelves because you fucked up and handled it poorly.
And finally, get over your belief that any publicity is “good”. Sure you may be getting attention for your bad behavior but remember this: bloggers have influence. On their readers, on other bloggers, and sometimes on the retailers they work closely with. In addition to never shutting up, we don’t forget.
This Could Be You
Let’s say you don’t believe me and don’t think there will be a lasting impression. Let’s look at a few examples of companies who fucked up and didn’t fix it:
Lelo – They never took responsibility for naming Sheen as the face of their terrible condom. They’ve never acknowledged our anger (about multiple issues). Instead, they tossed out some condescending responses and look where we are now – many bloggers finally gave up on supporting them and recommending their products. Many retailers who were already half out the door before this catastrophe finally decided to stop carrying their products.
Blush Novelties – Many bloggers are reluctant to recommend their products. I’m still blocked by their Twitter account; I’m still pissed off at how they reacted when we called them out on blatant copycat reproductions of Tantus designs. When I do reluctantly recommend a product of theirs I never fail to also educate my readers on my reluctance and will continually mention their treatment of bloggers and their too-casual attitude on Intellectual Property. Only after many months and many assurances from a trusted representative have I, and other bloggers, returned to supporting Blush.
Kiiroo – They offered up a half-hearted fauxpology on a rape joke and have had multiple complaints from freelancers – including tales of how they want to commission blog posts about decidedly un-feminist, not-sex-positive topics. When esteemed company Standard Innovations (We-Vibe) announced their pairing up with Kiiroo the blogger reaction on social media was loud and swift. Numerous bloggers have said they won’t review any We-Vibe products that are a Kiiroo partnership.
FiFi – For ages in the beginning of their existence on social media, the owner of the company apparently gave carte blanch to some douchebro of a social media manager. Fat-shaming memes kicked us off, but it didn’t end there. The company ignored the hundreds of tweets and gave a bland apology many months later. Not to mention, reviews of the item aren’t really positive. Many feminist, sex-positive retailers who had previously been considering stocking their product changed their mind based on the social media shitstorm and blogger boycotting.
To close, I need to add this: This post is about dealing with companies – not individuals. You may notice tweets from #sfsmedia where JoEllen talked about “blocking early & often”, or see where someone said it’s okay to wait out a social media shitstorm by going silent. Those comments were about dealing with individuals as an individual or dealing with a shitstorm based on lies from a troll. My post is dealing with the very simple and straight-forward multi-platinum hit: You Done Wrong. It’s often re-mixed and covered but the song remains the same.
It’s been said by some that instead of, or in addition to, calling out companies for their bad behavior we need to be educating them. Consider this your education.