Tinder: The Swipe to Success
For those of you who have spent the last three years living under a wifi-free rock, Tinder is an increasingly popular mobile dating application amongst millennials.
These days, it seems everyone and their dog have conquered the app or at least witnessed the ‘swipe’ selection process of one of the 50 million people worldwide using it. Tinder has encapsulated the zeitgeist of this generation’s dating style: quick, often artificial and of course – easily translated to social media.
The principal co-founders of the start-up – Sean Rad and Justin Mateen – found a rapid hit with the app when it launched in August 2012. Such success evinced itself with Tinder’s 600% increase in growth in the year 2014 alone.
How it’s changed the dating game
With more than half of its user base comprised of those between 18-24, Tinder has become a makeshift lifeboat on the rocky dating seas of early adulthood. The game-style format of the app is a key reason that the average user spends 90 minutes ‘playing’ per day.
Swiping a user left or right was inspired by physical playing cards. Simplicity is key, luring users to ‘play’ along with what is essentially a techno-twist on the ‘hot or not’ game. Through adopting this capricious framework, the app has “revolutionized the technology-assisted matchmaking process”.
The app links with GPS location to stimulate the sharing of Facebook mutual friends and likes, as well as a section where you can describe yourself. This digital manifestation of ourselves has translated our romantic intentions into a ‘second screen’ experience.
Moreover, the ability to accept or reject fellow participants in one swift swipe ensures the efficiency of the entire operation. Tinder thus holds a strategic advantage over similar applications. Through the capacity to ‘weed out’ certain people based on disconnect in conversation, physical attractiveness or mutual interests in such a timely fashion on our phones, the app scores many points for efficiency.
Additionally, unlike many other more time-consuming and extensive dating apps, Tinder is free. The app also manages to capture a large demographic of female users, where it’s predecessors like Blendr, failed to do so. The ability to protect oneself through limited social media linkage, gave users increased control, and the speedy ability to un-match distributors of unwanted communication, has women happily jumping on the Tinder bandwagon.
Mateen, for one, wholeheartedly believes: “The context of Tinder is way different than any other product that’s out there”.
The initial value proposition
At inception, Tinder was intended to be more than just its underlying label of ‘dating application’. When formed, Rad and Mateen had envisioned Tinder as a channel for social interaction, moving beyond solely romantic intentions.
Refuting the generally clouded aura of what is widely perceived as a ‘hook-up’ app, the co-founders defend its aim of being “a social discovery platform, facilitating an introduction between two people”. They even go as far as saying that they want to de-stigmatize the perception of Tinder as a hook-up app, to encourage people in relationships to use it for wider social networking purposes.
However, the reason for Tinder’s existence seems to somewhat shift depending on who you ask. Rad comments that on one hand people join Tinder, not because they’re looking for something, but because they “want to have fun”. Rather opposingly, Mateen believes “it was never meant to be used for hooking up”.
It’s this inconsistency that has brought to question what Tinder really is. Is it an app for hook-ups, for serious dating, or that overarching vision of ‘social discovery’? Tinder has released a statement claiming “the ability to meet people outside of your closed circle in this world is an immensely powerful thing. So we are going to keep focusing on bringing people together. That’s why we’re here.”. While this may explain why they think they’re bringing people together, the reality is far from clear.
A doppelganger attack
Given the divergence in intent, it seems Tinder has fallen into the trap of becoming a doppelganger brand. This classification means that Tinder’s brand image is constructed around the opinion of users. As such, the brand risks being labelled as “inauthentic by claiming to be something that its is not or disguising its true nature.”
With brand images strongly influencing consumer beliefs and behaviour, the perception of Tinder from the users’ point of view could determine its future trajectory. In an environment where people can be treated as disposable with the flick of a finger, the intention to date or meet can be easily adopted as a façade. Thus, despite its wide-ranging social intentions, it’s clear the app has – for many – become a mere source of sexual exploit.
Investigating Tinder users has unveiled its prevalence amongst prostitutes as a marketing platform for their services. Additionally, some users are in fact married, spotlighting the perception of the app as an enabler of instant gratification. This is partly attributable to the arguably detached-from-reality experience Tinder offers.
As mentioned previously, what you gain in efficiency and simplicity in the app’s format, you lose in comprehensive personal sharing. Unlike other dating websites that include an array of personal details in order to construct the best match, Tinder’s one photo minimum and bare Facebook information inclusion results in what seems like simply ‘shopping’ for a hook-up. In this vein, Tinder has been called the proponent of what is referred to as the ‘dating apocalypse’.
Now, it seems that this generation’s perception of the line between dating and hook-ups is blurred. This renders the proposition of Tinder as ‘a wide-ranging social hub’ a smokescreen, especially since the evidence points to its design simply facilitating relations of a purely superficial sort.
“It’s not about the company’s intentions. It’s about the way in which people are experiencing these dating apps”. The experience of the user is thus conditional to Tinder being able to label itself a ‘social discovery platform’, and this seems questionable under the current state of affairs.
Careful Tinder, you just got burned
With success, competition will often follow. Hinge has emerged recently as an alternative to Tinder, calling itself the ‘Facebook’ equivalent to Tinder’s ‘Myspace’ likening. Hinge provides a more tailored landscape of ‘trust and transparency’, through offering matches with friends of Facebook friends, as well as more detailed information regarding schooling, full name, and so on.
Newly initiated Hinge casts a small shadow next to the Tinder titan, but shows quick promise -the rival having grown five-fold already since its 2014 introduction. Perhaps the biggest challenge presented by a brand like Hinge relates to its authenticity in comparison to Tinder. As considered, the inherent purpose of Tinder seems to vacillate between a dating/social connection app and that of a mere game.
Polling revealed that in comparison to Hinge’s 59%, only 16% of users considered Tinder a tool to meet people. Moreover, 64% think Tinder is just a game to play, vs only 14% using Hinge. These figures reveal that despite the stated intentions of the co-founders, the perception of Tinder by users is what is so frequently denied: a mere hook-up app.
Future business implications
Clearly the stigma of the hook-up reputation taints Tinder to some degree. However, for whatever motivation people draw on for their swipe – they keep swiping.
Banking on such exponential progress, Tinder has plans to cement themselves fully into the realm of business networking. Mateen clarifies this intent: “As the product evolves, we’re moving into different uses for it, doing little things that will allow people to interact socially in ways other than dating.” This will be no easy feat for Tinder, their brand image currently will work against them in establishing a new social market.
Rad has expressed ideas of Tinder expanding to the business sphere in a way akin to Linkedin, through changing the physical motivation to swipe into one based on networking value. “We want to be the company you turn to when you want to meet somebody”.
Financially, Tinder is currently a free app, but the features on the newly introduced app extension Tinder Plus – paired with a charge – is set to shift Tinder into a potentially lucrative revenue stream. This could soon be supplemented by a devised advertising plan to further monetise the business.
In a bid to increase their social responsibility and lift itself out of the incriminating bed it seems to be permanently glued to, Tinder has paired with companies such as Amnesty International. This works both ways, the not-for-profit receives wider exposure by users being linked to photos from their campaigns whilst engaging with the app, and Tinder looks like it’s more than just a plausible pimp.
For now, however, Tinder is “focusing on its rapid growth, capitalising on an area being neglected by the world’s largest social network, Facebook, which (Mateen) suggests is still focused on connecting its users with people they know, rather than with like-minded strangers.”
Their constant strive for progression is a product of the immersive, competitive environment. With novel dating platforms increasingly burgeoning within the app store, Tinder has to “keep the fire burning.”
Swipe left or right, does it actually matter?
Dating, sex or social connection; the reason for which Tinder has become a cultural phenomenon is unimportant. The real success lies in the ability of co-creators Rad and Mateen to construct such a generationally significant technological and social phenomenon, now ingrained in our lexicon.
The app’s tagline is “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”
Whether or not this regurgitation of algorithmic triviality is better than real life is questionable. What is clear however is that without a doubt – the iconic Tinder swipe has found its way into the hearts (and mobiles) of the app generation.
Tinder for their part sure think they matter, using their Twitter account to shout out a war-cry response to that Vanity Fair article that slandered them as causing the ‘dating apocalypse’.
“It’s not going to dissuade us from building something that is changing the world. #GenerationTinder”.
It seems that this tagline is an inescapable part of our modern identity. For better or for worse, we are #GenerationTinder indeed.