Aps and programs and web platforms come and go, but I think Tinder has a lot of potential to be one of the big ones that will really stick around.
For those who don’t know (story here), it’s more or less a hetorsexual version of Grindr. It shows you the Facebook pictures of nearby people, and if you like the person, and they also like you back, then it puts you, via an easy, swipe-friendly interface, in touch with them to chat (but no sending pictures or videos – you really don’t want to have random people on the internet pushing pictures at you – load Chat Roulette if you don’t believe me).
So it’s shallow (you decide based on pretty much photos only), it’s got a lot of buzz (they savily started it running at some big party schools), and it’s growing fast. But that’s a thousand aps. Why might this be one of the biggies?
Perhaps THE fundamental insight behind marketing is that it’s about finding ways to help people meet their key pursuits – whether that is getting places faster (hello cars, airplanes), talking to people they know quicker (hi to telephones, email, snapchat), or just passing time better (oh my, XBox and Angry Birds). The problem Tinder solves is the age old issue of (presumably) single people wanting to meet other (presumably) single people without getting immediately and painfully shot down in flames. People are very driven to meet each other, and the world has no shortage of services for making that happen (bars, dating web-sites, organized activities), but those are all freighted with rejection. And rejection HURTS.
Tinder helps solve this. The other person isn’t TOLD that you’ve liked them until they have liked you back. That’s not the case on dating websites – there someone has to approach the other person with a message or a poke first. Even in speed dating you are put across from someone who may well have taken one look at you and written off the next 3 minutes of their life. In Tinder your secret is safe until they reciprocate. It’s what your friends tried to do in high school when they quizzed you about who liked who, so they could make matches, except with far less of the interpersonal anxiety and awkwardness that comes from a gossip-prone human intermediary.
So that is why I think it is exploding. But will it stick? Possibly. The trick with social networking tools is to lock people in by having a large user base. Email, for instance, was initially slow to take off because there is no point having an email address when nobody else does – who are you going to send your messages to? But now that everybody has an email account, people think you’re weird if you don’t have one. If Tinder builds up a large enough body of users then consumers will prefer it to any new competitors, because Tinder will be where all of the other potential partners are. A critical mass of users are key to keeping these things safe from new entrants.
The biggest long term threat to it will be if it can’t move past setting up dating relationships. The pool of singles is large, but it also turns over somewhat regularly – a couple of years from now today’s unattached 20 somethings will have been replaced en masse with an entirely new generation, and that one might bring be using something different. Facebook started with young people, but has increasingly been dropped by them, as they have migrated on to other forms of chat. Facebook remains popular with an enormous base of older people, though, who use it for connecting with a diaspora of friends. If Tinder is going to survive more than a few years as a big thing, it needs to transition to an older, more stable user base, who use it for more ongoing everyday social purposes – perhaps killing time in transit with casual conversation partners, or some such. Fail at that, and they remain at the whim of the notoriously fickle young.
That’s my analysis anyway. Come back in a few years and see how well it holds up. I promise not to delete this post if it doesn’t 🙂