It's been causing outrage in the pole dancing and burlesque community – and rightly so – because Instagram and Facebook have taken it upon themselves to decide what's "appropriate" content, and what isn't.
And they decided that women pole dancing and celebrating their bodies and sexuality is "inappropriate". Much like the female nipple. Male nips? No problem. Wave them around all you want. Female ones? Disgusting.
The upshot of this puritanical bullpoo is that for much of 2019, certain hashtags were shadowbanned – which means the social media user posting pictures didn't realise their pics weren't reaching anyone beyond their followers.
(Unless you were looking for pics from the upcoming movie Hustlers starring J-Lo, all about the stripping industry. Those ones are fine. Presumably because J-Lo and Hollywood and the stamp of male approval. Actual strippers, though, owning their bodies and their choices? Nope.)
When you search a hashtag, you should be able to find every image tagged with it, which is super-useful if you're researching how to do a particular pole move, or looking for choreography inspiration.
Only, for most of this year, loads of posts became all-but invisible thanks to the shadowban.
The pole industry got together and I believe Instagram and FB have removed their heads from their butts and sorted it out, but not before a bunch of business owners saw their businesses suffer... Which is what inspired today's email.
Regardless of the rights or wrongs of shadowbanning, the whole sorry debacle highlighted the dangers of relying on someone else's platform.
I heard tales of people losing a lot of money because of this, and the sad thing is, they didn't have to suffer this way.
Take this quote from jaqcthestripper talking to the Huffington Post:
“I absolutely depend on Instagram to make a living. I sell books, I sell T-shirts, I sell art, and Instagram is my largest-reaching advertising platform,” she said. “Having my content demoted makes me less visible and makes it harder to remind people to buy my stuff.”
That sucks and I do sympathise, but... relying on a platform like Instagram or Facebook is called digital sharecropping and it's a crazy-unstable way to run your business.
By all means, use all the tools at your disposal: build a rabid Instagram following, especially if your business is visual like aerial arts, painting, cartooning, and exotic dancing – but please don't make it the only thing you do.
You don't own the platform and as the social media giants demonstrated this year, if they decide they don't like you and your content, you're screwed. You are the product.
Instead, grow your own email list. One you own and control. You can decide whom you contact, when, and how – and you're not at the mercy of other people's twisted morality.
Use other people's platforms because they're super-useful, but don't rely on them. Create your own platform of loyal fans and customers, and talk to them on your (and their) terms.
Build relationships in the real world as well as online.
Oh, and the best way I know of to do that?
Write your book.
p.s. you might argue this is a non-issue only relevant to social media, but I'd argue it's far more insidious than that. It's indicative of a wider attitude to women that I find profoundly disturbing – and if you let it go on one platform, it becomes pervasive everywhere. And when you consider Instagram allows far-right extremists to have a platform, along with woo-peddlers and anti-vaxxers, it does make one go "hmmmmm". What's more dangerous? Shimmying women or far-right violence and health atrocities?
If you want to learn more about how to write, self-publish, and market a book for your business, snaffle yourself a copy of How The Hell Do You Write A Book? Then check out the blog and podcast for more articles and guides. If you want a little (or a lot) more help, find out how you can work with me.
Vicky Fraser is the founder of Moxie Books and author of How The Hell Do You Write A Book and Business For Superheroes. She helps business owners write books, connect with readers and new customers, and grow their businesses. When she's not doing that, she's hanging from a trapeze by her feet.
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