Digital marketing lessons from dating apps
If you haven’t used dating apps, you definitely know someone who has. In recent years, the pandemic and decreasing stigma have led to a boom in their usage and popularity. You’ve most likely heard the horror stories, downright bizarre situations, as well as the happily ever afters. Having used a few dating apps myself (seems like the only way to meet people my age these days!), I could write an entire thesis on this subject but I’ll spare you the salacious details.
Instead, I thought I’d do a deep-ish dive into some of the interesting digital marketing techniques these companies have used to raise brand awareness, as well as get users to download their apps and pay for their services.
Know your market, find your niche
As a starting point, it’s important to deeply understand the thing that makes your product, service or cause unique. The basis of your strategy is your niche and your content should be geared towards building a community around it. For Hinge and OkCupid, that is helping people build long-lasting relationships. Tinder users are looking for both serious and more casual arrangements, and Dig is “the dog person’s dating app”.
If you have an app, your digital strategy can also showcase how easy it is to use. Display how you’ve gamified it with interactive elements such as emojis, voice prompts, tap-to-love, shake-to-refresh your feed, etc.
An interesting way that a number of dating app companies get to know their target audience is through the apps themselves. Users are usually required to input key data about themselves when they sign up to use the apps, including their age, gender, location, education levels, profession, beliefs, interests, etc. This is useful information to get to know your audience and find potential new customers.
“Read more on our blog…”
Blogs are a useful marketing tool to stand out in an oversaturated market and showcase the value you provide to your audience. It’s a great way to use your voice and have people get to know your brand better.
Tinder, Match.com and Bumble, to name a few, use their blogs to share success stories, give advice on how to use their apps, share their news, and discuss the initiatives that they’re involved in. Blogs are also a means to rank highly on search engines to drive organic traffic to your website and raise brand awareness. Use your blog to unpack popular topics within your niche and become more discoverable online. For example, Bumble’s “The Buzz” blog (one of my personal favourites) has several guides on “ghosting” and these posts rank quite highly in Google searches.
Make your app “downloadable”
Much like SEO, you can optimise your app’s potential to be installed by users with keywords and other useful tricks to ensure your app ranks highest in the app store listings. One step is to include keywords that your customers would use to find you (for example: “dating” and your niche) in your app’s name. Add these keywords to your app’s description too. Badoo is particularly good at this. In the Google Play Store, I searched the words: “dating”, “meet”, “match” and “relationships” and Badoo came up every time. Screenshots and other striking visuals of your app can help you attract organic installs too. Also bear in mind that many positive reviews can help your app rank higher in results.
Celebrate your successes
Studies have shown that many people will unfollow a brand if they do too much self-promotion so it’s important to demonstrate your product or service’s value to users by sharing stories from satisfied customers, interacting with those who haven’t had the best experiences and sharing the positive things that media outlets are also saying about your service. Tinder’s Twitter and Instagram accounts are great examples of how user-generated content can be harnessed to start a conversation, grab the attention of potential users and authentically show why people should choose you over your competitor.
Specific strategies from the most popular apps
This app is kinda legendary as far as dating apps are concerned. The term, “swipe right” is a familiar phrase to many, even among those who don’t even use the app! So how did they do it? Getting to this level of powerful brand recognition was no easy feat but Tinder did this by, for one thing, finding a gap in their market – young people – and crafted a digital strategy around catering to their needs.
Tinder loses two users when a match lasts so they employ different strategies to tap into numerous audiences including serious daters, casual daters and friendship-seekers. They also use platform-specific strategies. On LinkedIn, they place strong emphasis on their team, company culture and a peek into work life at Tinder. On Twitter, they are actively engaging with their audience and maintain a regular posting schedule, and much of their Instagram strategy is rooted in influencer marketing.
The innovative solutions that Bumble has created to some common match-up problems permeate their online messaging. Fun fact: the company’s CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd used to be vice-president of marketing at Tinder and with Bumble has adopted a very smart and sincere approach to her “feminist dating app” that has led it to become one of the most popular options on the market. The whole premise of the app is that women make the first move and men can only message them when they have been sent a message first. The app also has two other modes – BFF for making friends and Bizz for networking.
Their Instagram grid is a mix of impactful graphics, photos and videos showcasing success stories, the Bumble team, dating tips, inspirational quotes and more. On Facebook they primarily advertise their events centred on women empowerment and intersectional feminist advocacy. Bumble is highly engaged on Twitter and makes an effort to be a part of discussions about real-world issues especially those pertaining to gender norms in dating and women empowerment. They also update their blog quite regularly with posts about love, friendship, careers and wellness.
I’m fascinated by Hinge’s minimalist, word-of-mouth style marketing strategy centred around their slogan, “The app designed to be deleted”, and other punchy catch-phrases such as, “Make dating effective, not addictive”, and, “Go on your last first date”. This appeals to serious daters and relationship-seekers and appears to have worked well for them. They have a strong brand identity focused on improving the dating experience for users by providing quality matches (they call themselves “love scientists”).
While Hinge occasionally runs Facebook and Instagram ads and retweets Hinge-related news on Twitter, they don’t post much at all on the former two platforms. Their primary digital platform is their website which contains their blog and other information about the app.
I really enjoy the Grindr approach to digital marketing which, given their target audience, is based on creating visibility for LGBTQI+ daters and raising awareness about issues affecting their community generally. Establishing safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community is a major brand pillar. Grindr partners with prominent queer and trans influencers and makes good use of user-generated content by putting a spotlight on the couples who connected through their app using the hashtag #MetOnGrindr. For Grindr, the user experience is very important given the unique challenges that this often-marginalised group faces. Much like Bumble, their strategy is geared towards creating solutions to the challenges that their target audience may face and doing their best to make them feel heard and seen.
One thing that dating apps teaches us about digital marketing is that amidst the many different options on the market, there is always a way to show what your brand does best. People are becoming much better at spotting brands that are inauthentic and overly self-promoting. You may have a very valuable service but your app’s user base – the people that comprise it – are what drive its success. So catering to their needs, concerns and desires needs to be as much a part of your strategy as your unique product or service. At the heart of your strategy should be driving important conversations within your niche and building a community of like-minded folks. The most popular apps on the market are a good place to look for a masterclass in this!
- Better Marketing [www.bettermarketing.pub/7-lessons-marketers-should-learn-from-dating-apps]
- Moloco [www.moloco.com/en/blog/the-tinder-marketing-strategy-unpacked-4-lessons-for-dating-app-marketers]
- Adjust [www.adjust.com/blog/how-to-market-a-dating-app/]