10 online marketing lessons from porn

Some studies say up to 30% of the data consumed online is porn. Others have stated that all men watch porn. Obviously I don’t.

Obviously the good writers and readers of this blog find porn disgusting, offensive and even terrible. But it may be generating more revenue than Hollywood and a good part of all the innovation we enjoy on the Internet every day.

The porn industry may be unethical, but they sure know how to adapt to the change of times. It’s amazing how a disruptive industry as the net may crash the music industry but enshrine porn. Those who adapt survive, and at the very least, the porn industry teaches us how to thrive.

1. Give something for free. But not everything

Porn generates more money than almost everything. It is possible that it actually generates more money than anything, I don’t know. And still, you can watch porn free porn whenever you want, with any device, in High Resolution, long format, you call it.

How’s that possible?

Who would think people don't like to pay for stuff?
Who would think people don’t like to pay for stuff?

So how does the porn industry make so much money? Is it because there are losers out there who haven’t discovered the Internet yet?

No, not at all.

Remember that there will always be a high demand for free content. And as long as there’s Internet, there will be people giving it away for free. Don’t be afraid of creating free content. Create a blog, a youtube channel, a social media strategy. Write ebooks, design infographics and offer pieces of research. In the last step of your funnel, offer free consultations, free trials or special offers.

People want free content, and unless you’re already established, chances are the only way to get them to know you -and thus paying you at some indeterminate point in the future- is to compete in the free-content space and then, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

TL:DR: Free is not an enemy of paid. Actually they work pretty well in conjunction. Just don’t give everything for free unless you’re pretty sure you’ll get the revenue from other channels.

2. Focus on niches

The mainstream porn industry is so huge that it is really difficult to ignore. And still, the competence is so savage that usually only really big players can raise their products above the general noise and benefit from it. If not, you’re going to need to focus in smaller spaces where you can compete with smaller players.

As you can see, every industry has short and long tails, in porn too. You should definitely check the source, an infographic on the porn industry that you should really check. But believe me, that’s the most SFW content you’ll find in there.

porn-niches-infographic

 

The same happens in the web ecosystem.

Big themes are already picked. Backlinko probably wouldn’t be so big at the moment if they had tried to fight against MOZ in a wide SEO content strategy. But they focused in link building and got big on that niche. Then they started adding more topics once they had secured their niche.

You want to do SEO? Focus in the big, juicy keywords only if you’re big enough to fight for them. You’re working on a content strategy? Go beyond the most basic stuff and try to really find interesting  marketing personas. Search that target that is small and rare, but unchallenged. Oh, and don’t forget to check our content marketing strategy guide.

TL;DR: Just because the web allows you to reach immense markets, that doesn’t mean you should. If you’re small, focus in small things. The long tail comes first, and once you’re big in a niche, you can expand to others.

3. Innovation, innovation, innovation

Do you know what online payment, streaming and live chats have in common? All are internet technologies that wouldn’t exist without porn.

innovation in porn
Disruptive technologies such as Google glass and Oculus Rift have been embraced by the porn industry even before than mainstream media.

The porn industry is always reinventing itself: they’re working with gamification techniques, supporting the “mobile first” mantra, working in social media, pursuing interaction and creating infographics. They were great at SEO, affiliate marketing and lean processes before the rest of the world knew they were a thing.

You have to do the same. Do not only monitor your industry, but search ideas outside your comfort zone. Adopt or experiment with every available technology that may fit in your business. Don’t wait until others try it out for you, because then you’ll be chasing them.

TL;DR: Learn from your competitors, learn from other industries and always keep new ideas flowing. If you stop innovating you’re dead. 

4. Be social

As I’ve mentioned, social is quite a big deal for porn.

Personal branding was a must for porn stars much before than for the personal public. But in a time where freelance work and entrepreneurial spirit seem to be the major forms of skilled labour, everyone of us should learn a thing (or two) from porn stars.

Not only they probably tweet more and better than you but they know they have a people they need to understand and give them what they want. But they’re also proficient generating viral stunts, like that time when Christy Mack offered a blowjob in exchange as the prize in a Lego competition (and later cancelled).

Porn star Carter Cruise’s twitter profile is an example of how to WIN in social media:

carter-cruise

not what you expect | professional badass | DJ | your girlfriend’s favorite porn star | blogger | the only thing I’m better at than fucking is being right

If that’s not one of the best written bios of all time, I don’t know what it is. She’s probably reached the maximum amount of sass available in the English language for that number of characters.

Even MOZ wrote an article on how awesome Pornhub’s game was on social media and digital marketing in general.

53c3277964d218.42379163

Porn brands know that social is one of the major traffic drivers and a fundamental asset for branding. They’re working hard to take away the taboo around pornography and turn it socially accessible. And they know social media is a key factor for that.

From choosing the right community manager -the persona YouPorn has built in Twitter, Katie, is an awesome example-, to giving the correct incentives to your users. Make sure you check all these lessons from MOZ’s post.

TL;DR: Social gets you traffic and branding, and it can be your way to change how your brand or your sector is perceived. If you learn it from people within the porn industry, you’re learning from the best.

5. Use Hollywood as a reference

Do you know what rule 34 is?  It says that if something exists, there’s porn about it somewhere. And it tends to be surprisingly valid, as this porn version of Super Mario Bros illustrates.

In marketing online we can use this in two different ways.

First, try to use the buzz around the last movie, book, personality or event that’s focusing everyone’s attention. You can always twist your stories a little bit so they benefit from the attention an external event has generated.

Second, we should learn from Hollywood how to tell stories. Marketing is a great deal of storytelling. Telling a good story, telling it well, at the right time to the right audience, using the right tone and resonating with them. That’s what a good marketing strategy -digital or not- does.

TL;DR: Use trending stories to give a push to your content. But above all, tell a good story about your brand.

6. The star-system works

Porn stars have names that are memorable. From Nacho Vidal to Sasha Gray, they’re porn stars, but also Hollywood stars, entrepreneurs, bloggers, DJs or even academics. They have transcended their porn star status to become a wider cultural phenomena. Having the exclusive to publish an actress scenes can be a game changer for a porn producer.

Because people don’t want just meat. They want the story behind it, what makes it special. Again, telling stories and hollywood.

Captura-de-pantalla-2013-10-17-a-las-19.46.45

In the same way, it doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or the trainee. You have to transcend that denomination to become something more, that adds a bigger value to your business and to yourself.

Start your own parallel projects, upskill in different areas, focus on your social media channels and network.

You want everybody in your team -your startup, your company, your blog- to be a pornstar rockstar. Work with them so you make their path easier. And it will be good for you in the mid-long term.

TL;DR: You don’t want a team of drones. You want professionals with passion and their own presence and public. They’re the ones that will add more to your project. 

7. Video is king. But there’s room for more

We’re visual animals. We like images, and love video. And it seems that video is the future of content marketing.

Nevertheless, once we’ve accepted this, we’ve got to recognise that there’s room for more. Even in porn. 50 Shades of Gray illustrated how written soft-core can be a massive industry. But it’s also easy to find examples of comics, games, audio, chats…

Never put all your eggs in a single basket. You never know what can be successful if you don’t try, so you may as well focus in new -and old- formats that may be successful with the right idea.

TL;DR: Don’t get carried away by the last shiny trend. Video is cool and you should be doing it, but there’s many other things you can do that could work well.

8. Amateurs rock

Inseparable to the concept of Internet video is the notion of the “amateur”. That person who doesn’t have a professional background in something and still tries it.

But with the wide availability of professional produced content -in porn in particular as in the Internet in general- we want something produced by humans, with its flaws and imperfections. That’s why we distrust stock photos.

As consumers, we appreciate things that are natural and honest. Even if they don’t look as sharp as they could. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of  start doing video strategies,  editing images and why not, failing.

You don’t need big budgets and expensive hardware: you need the will to do something great and overcome the fear of doing something embarrassing.

TL;DR: Start doing things now. Maybe in 3 months your opportunity window is closed. You’ll get better as you go.

 

9. Don’t take anything for granted

After reading this post you probably have this as clear as water: we’re horrible human beings and we’re probably going to hell.

It would seem that men are just a bunch of animals with only one thing in their heads: boobs.

FALSE!

butts-vs-boobs

If we perform a content analysis on adult movies released from 1991, we can see how the term Butt is much more popular than boobs. So we have butts in our heads, not boobs. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t trust your guts or what you think you know: you should trust data!

If you need to do something online, you have plenty of ways to confirm a hypothesis: Analytics, A/B testing, social media, user testing… You have at your disposal datasets as big as the total number of searches from Google thanks to tools such as Google Trends. Use them! Throw your opinion away and don’t take anything for granted.

And if you don’t have the data, then test it.

TL;DR: You’ve enough data in the net to test almost anything. And if not, you have the tools to generate it.

10. Future is digital

Nowadays nobody has a playboy under their mattress and videoclubs are mostly dead (along with their adult sections).

Culture is becoming digital, and so is marketing. Of course, we still have newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. But digitalisation is a process that won’t stop.

If you’re a marketer and you don’t have both feet on the digital industry, chances are you’re not learning from porn. And there’s a lot to learn from porn.

Based in a previous post I wrote (in Spanish) for 40defiebre.