In the Beginning, There Was Friendster
In 2003, a little-known beta site called Friendster appeared — it was a place to connect and re-connect with your friends. It was a whole new frontier, but sadly it spent more time not working than working.
MySpace came on the scene in 2004 and continues to be the dominant social networking site of choice. In 2004, Facebook launched — originally created for college students to get to know people on campus and keep in touch after graduation; the company opened the site up to everyone in 2006.
Twitter, a social networking/ blogging site came on the scene in 2006. It's almost like an electronic leash — you can keep track of anyone. Just sign up to follow someone who uses the service and receive updates, called tweets, which are updates with up to 140 characters that answer the question, "what are you doing?" Twitter is the hot site that everyone is talking about.
Virtual Insanity, Meet Your Favorite Stars & Directors Fans watch their movies, but trying to meet their favorite star in person isn't easy. Fans now can meet the stars and directors virtually, reaching a whole new crop of people they would have never come in contact with. And, the fans feel loved.
Jessica Drake puts it best. "You can download anything I've been in for free, but you can't download personal attention."
Belladonna views it as more than just her fans keeping up with her. "It's very easy to communicate to everyone each day and give them news about what I'm doing, where they can meet me and what new projects I'm working on."
The time spent creating a MySpace or Facebook page can be nominal or time-consuming. Belladonna's page literally looks like her website, not showing how many friends she has or her Top 20. Digital Playground girls Jesse Jane, Riley Steele, Angela Armani and Stoya have intricate pages that feature the studio prominently. More time is usually spent adding friends.
Dana DeArmond, known for having the most MySpace friends of any performer, has 620,677 friends right now and adds more everyday. This means crazy upkeep. "If I skip a day, I will have thousands of friend requests waiting for me. So, I try to pace myself and not get too backed up. It's murder when I'm traveling a lot. When I got back from Vegas, I had 7,000 requests to accept."
Many performers like Stevie Hart, Belladonna, Sasha Grey and Stoya try to spend only the first part of their day or less than two hours on it. No matter how much time they actually spend, the fans are eating it up and can relate.
"They find comfort in the fact that they know that somewhere in the world you are sitting around on MySpace on a Sunday afternoon, just like they are," says Joanna Angel. Belladonna and Eon McKai blog daily on these sites and their own personal sites.
Twitter allows you to make quick updates throughout the day from your computer or cellphone. Jessica Drake updates all day long. Recently, she asked her fans to decide if her hair should be darker or lighter. After she was done at the hairdresser, she sent her fans a picture of her hair.
Director Eon McKai has 500 people following him on Twitter. He's constantly tweeting — at the premiere of Kimberly Kane's "Live In My Secrets," he snapped photos and shot 12-second videos. People as far away as Germany were there too. Although he is on all three major sites, he prefers Twitter. "I have a Facebook page, but not for Vivid-Alt. I feel like I'm running out of time and spending too much time tending to it. And, having to check two or three places like the pokes and wall every time on Facebook is a downer," says McKai.
The Prizes, Glamour, Movie Deals & Site Hits Of course, everyone is using these sites for self-promotion. But, what have they gained? "Social networking has definitely helped me get jobs and even get into the industry," says newcomer Angelina Armani. Jesse Jane has had offers to make appearances at clubs and feature dance. Stoya has gotten some work, but other offers didn't pan out. "Most of my work before I was a DP contract girl came from MySpace," she said.
Belladonna increased traffic significantly to her site through her use of social networking sites. "Anytime I post on MySpace or Twitter, I double the traffic to my website for that day," she said.
Jessica Drake is using her MySpace to get the word out to vote for her performance in Wicked's "Fallen" on AdultDVDEmpire. Stevie Hart and Sasha Grey are working on personal sites and hope to convert their social networking friends into memberships for their sites.
Fox Magazine contacted Hart for a photoshoot through MySpace. Joanna Angel views it as free advertising. "My pages are basically advertisements for my websites with banners and photos," Angel said. "I don't think the traffic you get from these sites is quality traffic, but promoting your sites on these pages is good for making your brand stronger and getting your name out there to people who probably wouldn't have stumbled upon you otherwise.
Of course, there is a darker side to social-networking sites. Dana DeArmond was stalked. Even though every move is tracked on sites like Twitter, most performers haven't had any problems. Jessica Drake doesn't allow anyone she thinks is stalking her, or that's a Jesus freak, access to her personal pages.
Another problem with MySpace and Facebook, accounts are being pulled down for adult content. If you post naked or racy photos and/or get too many complaints, they warn you once and then pull your page down, which happened to Belladonna. If your page gets hacked, you can lose all your friends — you have to start a new page or try to find your friends again. And lastly, if you're a director like Eon McKai, it's not wise to post a picture of one of your movies' stars. After posting a picture of Riley Mason, he was deluged with friend requests, naughty emails and instant message requests. Now, he just posts a picture of himself. "That way people really contact me because they want to know me and my work," says McKai.
Dollars & Sense It would only make sense that companies would take advantage of this phenomenon. The Star Factory publicity firm's Alexander "Monstar" Raymond has multiple MySpace, Facebook and Twitter pages. "If I need to look someone up or explore new contacts, they probably are on MySpace, and usually that's what I'm looking for — new contacts." Most of his girls have their own pages, but he features them on his pages to give them more of a push.
Xcritic.com is a site that features porn reviews, news, interviews, blogs and a forum. Although the site is free, they need advertisers and the traffic they attain from social-networking sites really helps. Twitter and Facebook work best for them. "There's no half way with social networks; you have to commit the energy and resources to them or they won't do anything for your business," says Editor Chris Thorne. "It's not enough to have a Twitter account and post news items or releases, you have to have someone really interacting with the people who follow you."
Online and brick-and-mortar stores also are turning to social-networking sites for promotion. "Investing in social-networking sites serves as an invaluable tool for strategic branding and exposure, mainly because these outlets are the future of communication," says Casey O'Connell, marketing coordinator for Stockroom.com. When you're selling alternative lifestyle products and want to bring them to the general public, you need a new kind of spin. "It seems as if the more we utilize these sites, the more consumer-friendly our brand becomes," says O'Connell.
Adam & Eve also uses these sites to make the average customer feel more comfortable purchasing products. "Twitter is much more than promoting products; people don't respond well to continuous 'spamming' of advertisements," says Lauren Polinsky, the company's social marketing project manager. "We use Twitter to get closer to our fans and keep in touch with them, like you would with any friend you have online. For us, creating a bond with a fan is just as important as overtly selling product."
Studios like Evil Angel and Digital Playground use these sites to sell product, promote new movies and get free publicity. No one capitalizes on this vehicle quite like Digital Playground. They post daily bulletins on MySpace and get fans to join Twitter and follow them to win contests. Publicist Adella understands the important of these sites, but doesn't see them replacing live appearances.
"Cyber interaction is very personal and one-on-one, evoking higher degrees of fantasy than appearances," she said. "Appearances are more realistic. Both reality and fantasy are important and necessary."
Evil Angel uses networking sites to reach out to fans. "We consider interaction with our fans to be very important. Showing them that we're creating hot new material, and being present on the sites to hear their feedback is one of my key tools in helping bring them movies and products that they love," said Evil Angel publicist Karen Stagliano.
More social-networking sites are cropping up daily. In the future, they will continue to be the best and cheapest way to promote products and build a fan base. It allows industry professionals to increase their following and branch out into the mainstream, along with making products and websites more "porn friendly" to the general public. It is definitely worth the time and creativity involved in creating and maintaining these sites.