Once relegated to sleazy red-light districts and the darker corners of the Internet, porn stars are now gaining followings in a surprising place: Twitter. They are using the social media site to engage directly with their fans and build their individual brands
"Twitter has opened up these porn stars fan bases like nothing the adult film industry has ever seen before," said Dan Miller, managing editor of XBiz, an adult industry trade publication. "Since most mainstream pop culture publications don't cover the porn industry (and) porn movie reviews don't generally appear alongside reviews of big Hollywood movies ... the adult industry has embraced Twitter as a way to reach out directly to fans beyond the typical porn consumer."
Miller estimates that 90 percent of porn performers are on Twitter, and he believes it is essential for new performers to use social media effectively to promote themselves and build their "brand."
"If you're not on Twitter, you are definitely at a disadvantage right out of the gate," he said.
Alexander Raymond Palumbo was one of the first executives in the adult entertainment business to embrace social media, first on Friendster, then Myspace and now on Twitter.
"Via our social media platforms like Twitter I'm trying to establish brand loyalty, like people have for a company like Disney," said Palumbo, a social media strategist at Digital Playground, an adult movie production company.
Palumbo holds seminars for adult movie actors, helping them set up their accounts and guiding them on how to tweet in a way that will connect them to their audience by engaging directly with fans and showing some of their personal sides to their followers.
"I try to instill in performers that you should let people know who you are, invite them into your interaction," he said.
Palumbo begins his work day by logging onto Twitter to gauge reaction from the fans to his company's movies and performers. If viewers of a new movie trailer tweet that there is too much emphasis on male characters, Palumbo will make a call to the edit department asking for changes.
"Twitter is like an instant focus group," explained Palumbo. "It's not going to go away, it is the future. From our company's point of view, it's pure customer service."
Social media is profoundly changing the porn business, according to Chauntelle Tibbals, a visiting scholar at University of Southern California who studies the porn industry.
"Before it was about pure fantasy: you didn't have enough information to be real fans of performers," she said. "But now you can become a true fan of a porn star."
The performers who are successful on Twitter are the ones who open themselves up and share parts of their non-professional life with fans, allowing followers a window into their off-camera personalities.
"That kind of interaction is something you don't see mainstream celebrities doing to the same degree," according to Tibbals. "You don't see Angelina Jolie tweeting directly to people."
Many of the performers are surprisingly funny, smart and engaging on Twitter. While they all promote their movies, most focus more on their hobbies, current events and personal lives.
"You are seeing a different kind of relationship that a viewer has with a porn performer," Tibbals said. "One of the things that comes with social media is the deconstruction of stereotypes."
Social media has the power to change how the public views porn stars, according to Tibbals, and it may ultimately make porn more mainstream and socially acceptable.
Here are several adult film stars who are using Twitter to attract a wider audience:
The Boy Next Door: @JamesDeen
James Deen is arguably the hottest male performer in the porn industry. At 26 years old, he has already appeared in over 1,200 movies.
He has made a name for himself by defying stereotypes about male porn stars: he comes off as a funny, slightly goofy boy-next-door. His non-threatening demeanor has made his films popular with younger woman and has led him to more mainstream opportunities.
Deen is currently working on a Hollywood movie called "The Canyons," in which he is co-starring with Lindsay Lohan. The film is directed by Paul Shrader, who is known for writing "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull" and "The Last Temptation of Christ." The movie is slated to premier in 2013.
Deen credits Twitter with helping his transition to mainstream films.
"I think a lot of the mainstream thing has to do with Twitter," he told CNN. "People look at me and they say, 'He's not a porn star, he's just a nice guy."
His approach to Twitter is simple: be yourself.