The ways porn has influenced modern culture and technology is a rather unspoken side of the business. It’s one of the leading platforms succeeding to monetize VR, for example, while many of the lighting techniques used in adult content have been instrumental in fashion photography. But now, more than ever before, porn stars are leveraging the internet to build brands, using social media to monetize and normalize their work by society’s standards.

In short, performers are becoming influencers, and like the rest of the internet, influencer marketing is hot, especially when it comes to the massive millennial audience consuming adult content. Perspectively, PornHub alone sees more than 64 million views a day, and millennials account for 60 percent of the site’s overall users, according to a 2017 report.

So what does this mean for the adult industry? We spoke with a couple performers to find out how social media is changing the world of porn, and how they’re leveraging it to cultivate their brands and evolve with the digital frontier.

Tanya Tate

Tanya Tate is an 11-time MILF of the Year award-winner, who launched her adult entertainment career in late 2008. At the time, she was an office worker, and decided to get into porn “on a whim to spice up her life.” She quickly made mainstream headlines with Sex Tour of Ireland, a sex scene that featured Tate and an Irish pro-athlete. This skyrocketed her career and brought her to LA, where she established herself and began filming for top-tier adult companies such as Digital Playground, Vivid, Wicked Pictures and Brazzers. Among a long list of other achievements, she’s also the founder of Star Factory PR, representing some of the hottest performers in the adult world.

Social Stats: 400k on Twitter, 345k on Instagram, 323k on Facebook, and 26k on YouTube, in addition to a growing presence on Snapchat.

How did you go about cultivating your audience on social media? As a performer, in what ways has it been most valuable?

I like to get out there and connect with my fans, because it’s the fans who watch my work, and often request me for different company movies. It’s very important not only my booking, but for my brand as well. In the past, this wasn’t possible—years ago this kind of feedback had to be written with a pen and paper, then sent in the mail.

I use a few different networks, mainly Twitter, Instagram and a little bit of Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel and Snapchat. This is how I talk with my fans; it lets them see more of personality than what you see in the movies. I have a lot of different hobbies, for example, such as going to comic conventions to do cosplay or watching WWE wrestling. So I’ll Tweet or post pictures on Instagram from these events, or even post pictures of my dog. Fans get to know me just from the fact that I put it on social media.

There are a lot of girls that have really solid followings, but I look at them and see ass shot after ass shot after ass shot. I could do that if I wanted to, but fans can see that anywhere. For me, social media really strengthens the relationship between me and my fans because I get to share a bit about myself. When they see the name Tanya Tate, I want to be seen as a pornstar, but also show that my brand is about much more than making porn, making movies or directing movies. And even further than that, I engage with the fans as well. If I post a picture on Instagram, for example, I’ll see who’s commenting, like the ones I like, or delete the ones I don’t like. And if the person’s really rude, I’ll just block them.

So it’s all about maintaining authenticity and transparency.

Exactly. I always read the comments—some fans might think I don’t because I only reply to certain ones, but it’s just not possible to reply to all of them. I reply on Twitter too, but I tend to get a lot more comments on Instagram, even though I have more followers on Twitter. I try to build a strong following both personally and professionally, without being bombarded with dick pics. There’s a time and a place to send me dick pics and it’s not on social media. Don’t do it!

I also use social media to promote new scenes, things I’ve directed, or if I’m doing something like a radio show. The other day, for example, I was on Vivid Radio discussing the topic of whether you like pussy licking or ass licking. It was a really easy topic for everyone to have a say in and people were relying on social media to weigh in. Unfortunately on a radio show, not everybody can call in because there’s too many callers, so I’ll take time out to read what people are saying on social media, then give them a shout out on the radio.

Sometimes, fans really want to talk to you, so I’ll post different ways they can contact me—I have a text service and a call service. I wish I could sit here and interact with everyone, but that wouldn’t be possible. However, it’s great getting to know the fans one on one. There’s one who will call me to talk about wrestling, and another one who’s in the hospital right now, so I sent her a little ‘hello’ video to cheer her up. I don’t know their personal circumstances, if they have a lot of friends or no friends. And sometimes I think it’s just nice that they can reach out to somebody to talk to.

 

Tell me about your YouTube channel.

On YouTube, there are a lot of videos where I show off my hobbies or collections; I collect Funko Pop! and do videos where I unbox them. I also started doing live videos—for example, I had a box of WWE buddies and unboxed them just before a WWE event on TV. That was quite good because people were interested and could talk to me about wrestling, like, who I thought was going to win and things like that. I also do live AMA’s. It’s quite nice to have these things available.

Beyond a tool to market to your audience, do you monetize your following on social media?

I sometimes do paid posts where I might talk about a company, but I actually do use the products from the companies I work with. If I do get paid to post, it’s for companies that I’m happy to talk about and enjoy using their products. I wouldn’t want to promote something I would never use myself or not interested in.

What platform have you seen the most success with?

Each different platform brings different things. I like Twitter because you can actually click through the links, and I do put adult content on there so there’s nudity. You have to be logged in and over 18 to look at my feed. On Instagram, I like the fact that you can easily see all the images, and I’ll also do short videos like Boomerang posts. I find the replays on Instagram are much higher than Twitter—for media, Instagram definitely gets the most visibility. Obviously, there’s no nudity on Instagram, but I’m very conservative on it. I’ve had my account deactivated by Instagram twice. When I specifically asked them the reason why, they said, ‘oh sorry it was an error.’

In terms of Snapchat, it’s great because it keeps people coming back since stories are only up for 24 hours, so you’ve gotta catch it before it disappears. I can see how many people viewed it in that time, which is usually quite a lot. I find that when people click on your name on Snapchat, they tend to view everything available. I’m still quite new to Snapchat, and I also have a premium Snapchat, where people have to pay to be on it. With that, there’s a lot more naughtiness. The other day I was doing naked yoga, for example, or this morning, I was dropping the towel when I got out of the shower, teasing my naked body for the camera. I also find that YouTube is the best for live videos. Even when I edit videos to make them more professional, they pretty much get the same amount of views as live videos do.

Briana Banks

Briana Banks is iconic to the adult entertainment world. She’s the longest reigning Vivid contract star, remaining with the company for eight years and shooting some of their best selling titles, such as Briana Loves Jenna, Heartbreaker, and Briana Loves Rocco. Born in Munich, Germany, she moved to Simi Valley just outside of Los Angeles at seven years old. Her career launched in 1999, spanning over 400 hardcore scenes with a specialty in gonzo, shooting everything from five-on-one gangbangs to double vaginal penetration. She was also the June 2001 Penthouse Pet and inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2010, she took a five year hiatus from the industry and returned in 2015, launching a personal paid membership site.

Social stats: 93k on Twitter, 235k on Instagram (Banks’ account has been deactivated since the time of this interview. We will update this article when it is revived.)

Can you give me some background on the industry? How do you go about getting work?

For me, I’m currently signed with OC Modeling, only because I was with Vivid for eight years, then left the industry completely for five years. I came back, obviously, and everything had changed: there was no contract stars, and I didn’t know how to go about finding what companies are good to shoot for. So for me the best decision was to go with an agent to get my toes wet.

I noticed you have a solid Twitter following. Can you tell me about that and how that helps you as a performer?

Twitter was really difficult for me. It was just starting to become a trend when I left the industry, then I came back and it had basically taken over. I had no idea how to use it, I didn’t really understand it. So I just kind of looked at other girls’ accounts to see what they were doing. I actually have more followers on my Instagram, which I basically use to promote things. A lot of girls in the industry will do two-minute masturbation videos and things like that on Twitter, but I try to keep mine pretty R-rated because I’m trying to promote my website. If I’m giving it away all for free on Twitter, no one will pay for my site. I also use it to promote any movies I’ve done. Directors will be more likely to re-book you if they see that you’re promoting their product. And of course, other directors and fans will request you more often.

What platform have you found the most success with when it comes to building your brand?

Well, I had a huge following when I entered the industry in ‘99. I was a two-time Hall of Famer, so I would say it’s just my fans, really. I have diehard fans and I’ve been back one year, and already have almost 250k on Instagram. I’m just trying to keep it semi-classy. I think there’s a way to be successful on Twitter without showing stuff that people would otherwise be paying to see.

Speaking of paying for things, do you ever do paid posts for brands or companies?

I did Flat Tummy Tea and have been approached by several workout supplement brands, since I lost over 60 pounds in the past year and a half. I’ve been promoting my weight loss and the goals I’ve reached on social media, but I’m careful about what I choose to promote because I don’t want to promote something that doesn’t work, and have people spend their hard earned money on bullshit. I would never promote something that I wouldn’t want my fans to spend their money on.

I find that’s a very common precedent for most social influencers.

Yeah. You have to be very picky and choosy because that’s your brand and you don’t want to be promoting something false, and don’t want to get the reputation of being a sellout.

For someone new to the industry, is it possible to be successful without a large social media following?

I believe it is, because when I got back in I didn’t even know what Twitter was or how to use it. It’s taken me eight months to do what it’s taken most girls to do in almost three years. On my spare time, I’m constantly going through social media, retweeting, posting. You have to be very active on it. It’s possible to do well if you put the time in, but if you don’t, no one’s going to know who you are or know to book you, and you’re not going to have a career in the adult industry whatsoever.

So would you say that being active and consistently connecting with your fans is the best way of building an audience on social ?

Absolutely. At first, I hated Twitter because I was used to conventions where people would wait in line for hours for your to autograph the stuff they had…but now, it’s definitely not like the old-school days. Along with all the people I get to interact with that I never would have gotten to before, you also get the haters using the platforms to hide behind their profiles. There are pros and cons, but I would definitely say I’ve gained a new generation of fans on top of the fans I already had. So it’s really done a lot of good for me.

To wrap things up, in what ways do you think social media has transformed the industry as a whole?

It’s changed it completely. Adult stars, or anyone in general, are much more accessible. You don’t have to wait in lines anymore to talk to them or send them messages. It’s really a brilliant way to promote and market yourself if done correctly. If you don’t know what you’re doing, like myself in the first few months, it can really be a nightmare. I suggest that girls learn what Twitter is and how to use it before they actually start Tweeting. I look back at some of my earliest Tweets and I don’t even know what I was talking about! 

Oh, and I appreciate your intelligent questions. If I had to talk about my first scene in 1999 one more time I would have to jump off a balcony!