What does it take to succeed at social media marketing for coaches?
Somatica alumni Janel Vitale was recently voted “#1 Sexpert on TikTok” by Cosmopolitan. Somatica Institute co-founder Danielle Harel interviewed her to find out how she got over 6 million likes on the social platform, and what it takes to get started in social media marketing as a sex coach – and continue to stay inspired over time.
[Interview has been edited for clarity and length.]
Overcoming Insecurity and Shame to Becoming a Sex Coach
Janel’s specialty is relationship design. She helps couples navigate differences in what they want – in the bedroom and with their relationship structure. She works with monogamy and non-monogamy, high sex drive versus low sex drive, kinky versus tantric.
Maybe not exactly a natural fit for TikTok – a social media platform whose user base is largely Gen Z (60%) – you might think. Or is it? Her 400,000 followers and over 6 million likes tell a different story.
But let’s start at the beginning. We’re always curious to hear how our students get started in their journeys as sex and relationship coaches. With Janel, it went a little something like this: “So much of why I’m a sex and relationship coach is growing up with shame. I went to catholic school for 14 years, and just always felt like something was wrong with me. I have a high sex drive and I’m non-monogamous, but I didn’t know that was a thing when I was in catholic school. So I was always filled with shame. And that propelled me on this wild journey of self exploration, where I lived on communes, and I hiked these long-distance trails.”
Through that, she met someone who introduced her to Somatica. “Something just hit me in the gut,” professes Janel. “I knew – that’s it for sure. That’s the thing I need to do. But I had a lot of insecurity before I became a coach,” she says. “I thought, ‘My relationships aren’t perfect. How could I ever become a coach?’ And then through all of my journeying and facing my shame I just realized, ‘Hey, I don’t have to be perfect to be a coach. In fact, it’s helpful to be imperfect.'”
Not long after, she took a free Somatica certification Q&A session – and hasn’t stopped learning and training since. She got fully certified as a sex coach in 2018, and has taken every Somatica Mastery Class ever offered since.
Then she found TikTok.
How to Conquer Social Media Marketing
At the beginning of building her business, Janel was getting most of her referrals through the Somatica sex coach directory. She did a lot of face-to-face coaching, mostly with men. Then the pandemic happened. And she decided, she needed to really kick-start her online business. But how were people going to find out about her?
“At the start of the pandemic, everyone was talking about this thing – TikTok. And it turns out it’s such a great way to go viral,” raves Janel. “It’s so fun to have a place where I can talk about a more alternative view of relationships. There’s so many ways a relationship can look, sexually or relationally, and it’s just all about figuring out what’s right for you. I love helping people think about that. We live in such a shaming society, and they need more messages about just being yourself.”
Sure – making all those TikTok videos and engaging with the community was intense at first. But, she says, she just got used to it. And what led her ultimately to be so incredibly successful? “You can’t just say ‘I want more clients.’ You have to actually be excited about telling your story. If you’re not – that lack of enthusiasm is going to shine through on social. Viewers will know. So just pay for ads, and don’t bother with social media marketing at all.”
If you do want to engage though, Janel has another hot tip for you: “Pick the channel you feel most excited about, and stick with it. Whether that’s videos, or podcasts – doesn’t matter. It’s a mix of actually enjoying it and wanting to tell your story.”
How long did it take her to build momentum, and how often does she post on TikTok? “So there’s an element of consistency and discipline required to craft your success,” Janel says. “You have to commit to it for like a year – and just give it your all. People will start finding out about you.” She used to start out by posting twice a day, but quickly learned that it took a lot of time. She now does a post every few days, and that’s just fine.
Finding Your Perfect Coaching Audience and Vocation
TikTok also helped Janel tune into her audience, and the work she really wanted to do.
“I was coaching people one-on-one, which was wonderful,” she says. “But putting myself out there [on TikTok], just talking about what I’m into, and seeing who responded – I got to know who I really liked to work with. I now work mostly with couples, and I like it so much more. You see so much momentum and growth with two people. For me, that’s beautiful. I’m inspired by seeing their relationship and communication get better.”
Finding her audience also enabled her to be more strategic in her marketing. “Don’t pay for ads until you really know who you want to reach. Only then should you pay for ads that target those people.”
Learning how to find her audience and market her business was (and is) by no means without road bumps, she admits. “I fail all the time. I’ll launch a program a certain way, and two people will join – when I was hoping for 20. Sure, it’s not a *total* failure, but I’m still crushed.” But she also knows that failure is ok. After all, she is constantly experimenting, learning, and iterating. “I inspire myself to keep going by acknowledging that it’s not a failure. It’s part of the process. And actually a big piece of sustaining and growing my practice.”
Janel also knows that short cuts don’t work. “I think we’re fed this myth as business owners that you’re going to be an instant success if you only follow this 1-2-3 step-by-step program. But it doesn’t work like that. You have to find your own way. It will take time, and you’re always going to be inventing and learning. But that’s what it takes.”
The Joy of Knowing You Can Change the World
As a coach, no matter which channel you’ll end up choosing for your social media marketing – there is one aspect that can’t be overlooked.
“You are putting free content out there that helps people,” Janel enthuses. “Not only are you selling your business – you’re also creating content that changes the world. Because people need this information. It’s not just a waste of time, and not just a business effort to get you money. You are really helping people let go of shame and come to terms with their authentic desires. I want to encourage everyone to do more of that.”
Wanna check out Janel’s fun TikToks? You can find her “Love by Janel” channel right here.
Or are you ready to help change the world a bit yourself by making relationships better? Join us for the next Free Zoom Somatica Certification Q&A session!