What Happens When Your Femtech Startup Can’t Use Social Media For Marketing?

What Happens When Your Femtech Startup Can’t Use Social Media For Marketing?
What Happens When Your Femtech Startup Can’t Use Social Media For Marketing?

Entrepreneurs Alison Greenberg and Audrey Wu used to log off investor emails with “joyful vaginas!”
The co-founders of Ruth Health needed to offer telehealth providers for pregnant girls to speak about incontinence, intercourse and different changes that include giving start.
Like most cash-strapped startups, Ruth Health started leveraging social media to promote the corporate. But the content material proved “offensive” to these platforms: Early in 2020, Instagram took down a publish that used the phrase “vagina.” On Pinterest, certainly one of Ruth Health’s advertisements exhibiting a breastfeeding girl was flagged for inappropriate content material.

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“It simply doesn’t make any sense,” Wu stated. “Then we tried a unique set of images and people had been rejected as nicely. And it simply turns into tough. Like, how do you really present a lady feeding her baby?”
Ruth Health isn’t the one startup battling this dilemma. The billion-dollar femtech sector is filled with startups of their infancy. In truth, 40% of funded femtech startups in 2022 are at their seed stage, based on Crunchbase knowledge. Armed with a small advertising funds, they depend on broadly used social media platforms to develop an viewers and present proof of idea to traders. Without that entry to broadly used advertising platforms, attracting funding may be difficult
“It fairly frankly puzzles us, however sadly if we need to do that on the platform, we’ve to abide by the foundations they set,” Wu stated.
Trouble getting traders on board
For a very long time, femtech (learn: female-driven well being applied sciences) have sat on the again burner of enterprise funding from a mostly-male VC pool. Since the time period was coined in 2016, the sector broke the $1 billion mark in enterprise capital raised for the primary time in 2021, per Crunchbase knowledge.
Now it’s going through a brand new hurdle: Getting enterprise corporations on board as startups wrestle with a go-to-market technique.
Emmeline Ventures, which invests in women-centric startups, has a portfolio of startups tackling ovarian most cancers, sexual well being and even a sportswear startup that enables for air flow across the pelvic space.
“We have to speak about it proper upfront as a result of we all know these points are on the market, and (founders) must have a plan round how they’re going to market what they’re constructing, given the place the hurdles are,” stated Naseem Sayani, cofounder and managing director at Emmeline Ventures.
Dipsea, a sexual wellness startup that gives a variety of audio erotica, has a historical past with Meta relationship again to 2018 that includes a rotating forged of Facebook representatives. Weeks would go by when Facebook allowed Dipsea’s content material, the corporate stated; on different weeks, posts would get slashed ceaselessly.
“We imagine {that a} pleasure-first product, the product that creates erotica, is a sexual wellness product,” stated Gina Gutierrez, co-founder and chief artistic officer at Dipsea. “And we predict that separating pleasure exterior of wholesome intercourse is definitely actually problematic.”
As Dipsea started pitching its sexual well being platforms to primarily male traders, the identical questions arose: How can Dipsea be much less beholden to Facebook and Instagram and nonetheless get in entrance of a big quantity of shoppers? Would it’s doable to scale the platform with out Facebook? Could it survive if it had been unable to promote on Meta?
“I can confidently say that it makes traders second-guess investing in sexual wellness companies,” Gutierrez stated.
But enterprise corporations gained’t be capable of ignore the femtech trade for much longer. The sector is rising as extra firms in pharma and digital well being construct fertility medication, health-tracking apps and sexual wellness merchandise.
Funding peaked in the course of the second quarter of 2021 at $892 million, an $807 million leap from the earlier quarter. That momentum hasn’t stopped regardless of the current financial downturn.
The Lowdown, a London-based femtech startup, additionally skilled getting flagged on Meta platforms. The sexual well being platform crowdsources peoples’ experiences with various kinds of contraception so sufferers can higher perceive uncomfortable side effects and decide the suitable contraception technique.
Despite this seemingly noncontroversial goal, the platform has to make use of an @ image when discussing the vaginal ring on social media.
Once the staff posted “Who’s up for some Sunday intercourse chat?” on an Instagram story to advertise a panel discussing libido, vaginal dryness and uncomfortable experiences with intercourse. Instagram took it down for violating what it referred to as “grownup sexual solicitation tips.”
“We don’t enable folks to facilitate, encourage or coordinate sexual exercise on Instagram,” the platform stated.
“It’s simply one other barrier for girls looking for details about this type of stuff,” stated Matilda Lucy, digital advertising strategist at The Lowdown.
Social media platforms make use of promoting and content material rules to assist monitor posts because the platform scales. Sexually suggestive content material is just not allowed on Meta platforms (within the handful of examples given, a unadorned statue of David is compliant however a lady consuming a banana isn’t).
Tiktok bans advertisements centered on “intimate” physique components. Instagram doesn’t enable nudity both, even within the type of artwork, however will enable feminine nipples within the context of breastfeeding, health-related content material or as a type of protest.
Navigating the precise guidelines for every platform is tough. Algorithms have hassle digesting the complete context of a picture: Is a photograph of feminine nipples a type of artwork? Protest? Health consciousness? Or all three? But it additionally has 1000’s of human eyes scanning the web, witnessing issues too terrifying for Facebook’s platform, and making split-second selections on whether or not or to not enable that.
But these split-second selections can cripple startups that depend on social media to market their early-stage startups.
“(Now) we’ve performed it lengthy sufficient that we’ve a way of what’s ‘secure,’ however that requires us to speak round our product in a means that arguably isn’t one of the best expertise for Facebook customers,” Gutierrez stated. “Because if individuals are promoting merchandise to you with out utilizing the reality of what the worth proposition is like, is {that a} greatest case state of affairs?”
Getting artistic
Despite the obstacles to social media advertising, startups have discovered methods round huge platforms.
“It’s a barrier to development and conversion, but it surely’s not a dealbreaker as a result of there’s so some ways to succeed in that finish shopper … it really turns into about, how artistic is that founder being round navigating round these hurdles?” stated Emmeline Ventures’ Sayani
From the startup perspective, Dipsea has invested a bigger share of selling {dollars} in podcast advertisements, capitalizing on the shared audio platform. Meanwhile, The Lowdown has in its armory a robust search engine optimization technique for natural searches, bringing folks on to its platform.
Ruth Health discovered its house on Tiktok, garnering 1000’s of views per video on breastfeeding, affected person advocacy and life postpartum. In truth, Tiktok is likely one of the greatest site visitors drivers to its web site.
“We find yourself having to take these to different locations as a result of, are you able to do an Instagram stay about this?” Wu stated. “I don’t know. We haven’t tried. And fairly frankly, why hassle, proper?”
Illustration: Dom Guzman

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About the Author: Amanda