How Did Tinder Become Viral?
They Targeted Key Influencers
Tinder targeted people who did not need to dating assistance. At first, Tinder targeted VIPs, like the presidents of sororities and other “key influencers in Greek life,” plus celebutantes, models and other “high-quality people,” as one employee puts it. The principle was that popular people would help Tinder be perceived as not just another dating app for losers: It was helping hot people who could already get dates get even better dates. “Let’s say you’re making $100,000 a year, but why not try to make $250,000 a year?” says an employee reported by Rolling Stone. In fact, he targeted what he called ‘social influencers,’ avoiding the ‘awkward crowd’ of people probably most in need of a new way to make friends.”
Demand & Supply
With the influencers “bought in,” the marketing team could begin to address the larger Greek-letter community on campus. This tinder viral formula uses social proof to progressively build out the community at each campus. At each stage, the user segment is “saturated” when a functional majority of that group have joined the platform.
The Tinder team used personal approaches at popular campus bars and events to get 10 people from that college to sign up for the app. According to Parantap, this allowed them to control the first impression of users during later demos. It would enable someone to conduct a second product demo, swiping through user profiles with other attractive people already on the app. Justin gave Whitney Wolfe, a former vice president for marketing at Tinder, clear instructions for the SMU marketing blitz: get 10 girls on the app before ever going to a sorority, so that they see that other attractive people are on the platform.
“Justin and I were partners in a promotion business in college, putting on events across Los Angeles for USC students,” Weir told TechCrunch. “Justin developed and executed a marketing strategy that would target and engage the influencers. For us, this meant individually approaching the fraternities and sororities at USC to announce each event, and personally reach out to anyone we considered ‘influential.’ This was done with the intent to gain exposure and popularity amongst the people we considered to be ‘early adopters’ who would bring everyone else to the events.”
Inspired in part by the path of Facebook, which launched first at elite colleges, Justin turned not just to the Ivy League but to schools known for their good parties. After seeding USC, Justin and Whitney traveled to schools like SMU in Dallas. Whitney might stand on a table in a fraternity and announce that there were 200 hot sorority girls on the app waiting for the men to sign up, then run to the sorority and tell them the reverse. As explained by TechCrunch, they left a trail of stickers behind them—in the best campus bars, in the most exclusive nightclubs.
Joe Munoz told Bloomberg that Whitney, would go to chapters of her sorority, do her presentation, and have all the girls at the meetings install the app. Then she’d go to the corresponding brother fraternity—they’d open the app and see all these cute girls they knew.
Tinder also conducted launch parties with the requirement to display the installed app on a mobile device to gain admission to the party. This pattern was developed at USC and then exported to other campuses. Justin Mateen held the original “launch party” at his parents’ house in Beverly Hills.