Tinder is one of the biggest social media phenomenons of the last year. 1.5bn Tinder profiles are swiped through and there are 15m new matches per day.
Instagram and Snapchat have gained most of the hype, but Tinder is soaring in a similar way. Meet anyone under 30 who is single, and they’ve almost certainly tried it.
Chances are they’ve been on it in the last month. Actual user numbers and a real $$ valuation are not widely available; but it’s safe to say, they’re big.
So what opportunities does a network like Tinder throw up to marketers? The truth is, not many.
In April 2014 Fiona Salmon did a great job explaining how native advertising on the network throws up ethical concerns. As yet, the network also offers no advertising solutions.
Even if it did, the options would be very limited to brands related to under 30s entertainment. But aside from the lack of advertising options, looking into the trends surrounding Tinder’s success does make for some intriguing reading.
If you are looking to build an app or other online service there have been some clever product marketing plays that enabled Tinder’s incredible success – these should be taken seriously.
1. It’s a collection of already existing services
Tinder really consists of three core services that existed long before it did. The use of these services is not particularly original, but blending them together is.
Technically it took existing user behaviours and melded them into one app.
- Hot or Not: This website was launched in 2000. It allowed you to rate users out of 10 according to how hot you thought they were. Tinder takes this concept and removes the rating system to be literally ‘Hot’ (swipe right) or ‘Not’ (swipe left). It is a simplification of this service but there is a clear similarity.
- Whatsapp: Text messaging has taken a nosedive for millenials and Tinder offers a near identical interface to its usurper. In one-on-one chats, there is no discernible difference between Tinder and Whatsapp.
- Mobile Location Services: Knowing whether another device is nearby is not a new technology. It’s been in development from 1990, with patented services arriving in the early 2000s. Tinder uses location services to find other users in a certain area. Tinder effectively ‘stole’ this entire concept from its precursor Grindr.
A fourth key service ‘Moments’ is a clear steal from Snapchat. Launched in 2014, this service is barely used, but allows users to upload moments that are available for their matches to view within a 24 hour period.
2. It addressed market-wide user experience problems
While some of Tinder’s appeal is based on already existing technology, there was already a number of user experience issues in the market that it entered into.
Different problems occurred according to gender. For many men, large numbers of messages would need to be sent before getting a response – which would be time consuming.
For particularly attractive women, they’d need to read lots of messages and decide which ones to respond to – again time consuming.
Obviously, these user experience problems are extremes, and there would be exceptions to these, but they were problems that would put many initial users off.
Tinder addresses this issue by removing the first message opener altogether. Instead, it relies on matching with the look of a person. While considerable time may be spent swiping through profiles, it takes significantly less thought than sending a message.
3. Its success was enabled by advances in mobile technology and subsequent changes in behaviour
2014 was apparently ‘the year of mobile’ we’ve been waiting for (just search ‘year of mobile’ on Google). Internet traffic from mobile phones has now overtaken that from desktop. This is a crucial factor in the app’s success.
It has also been reliant on the explosion of smartphone powered photography, notably through Instagram, and the subsequent increases in young people taking selfies and holiday shots on their phones.
Mobile phones are regularly used in periods of casual downtime. Many people now sit around in front of the TV, Tindering away hoping for their next match. Making the app incredibly easy to use, while offering the potential of a high prize has helped its addictiveness.
The swipe left / swipe right mechanism is the primary use of the app; there is no login and it requires very little thought to use – just a reaction to a picture. Compare this to a dating website, where you need to login, browse, click through images, compose a message, send and then check for a response. Tinder has removed this entire process.
4. It’s market disruptive
As yet, Tinder doesn’t have a clear business model; it’s still focused on building users. But like most startups (although I’d argue that Tinder isn’t really a true startup), it has been extremely disruptive to the online dating market.
It’s abandoned subscriptions altogether – very few successful sites have done this previously. Currently, it is an entirely ad free experience that you don’t have to pay to use. Contrastingly on Match.com (owned by the same company), users need to pay around £30 a month for subscription.
Tinder completely undercut a large part of the existing online dating market. Online dating websites will need to transfer their existing (desktop) user experiences and subscription models to mobile to compete. It’s not a ‘mobile first’ way of thinking, and that’s why Tinder has been able to usurp them.
Scratching below the surface we can see that Tinder is really a collection of other services, and therefore nothing particularly new. It then simply takes advantage existing user experience problems and behaviours driven by advances in smartphone technology.
The factors in its explosive growth are something that anyone who wants to develop an app and a user base can learn from.