Everyone is talking about how Tinder went on a bit of a Tweetstorm (copyright Marc Andreessen, 2014) last night in reaction to a Vanity Fair article that was, in reality, only kind of about Tinder and mostly about the mobile dating culture that has spawned around it and similar apps. It turns out some guys are jerks who use the apps only for commitment-free hook-ups and some girls aren’t fans of being seen as simply one of thousands of potential “options” for men. Because obviously Tinder and the like created these mindsets.
But let’s not focus on the narrow-minded “the world only came into existence five years ago” premise of the story and instead talk about Tinder’s response, which has become today’s punching bag for marketing and media types to mock.
It’s long been accepted wisdom that, with self-publishing platforms like blogs and now social networks, companies and brands should use those platforms to not only tell their own original stories but also to respond to inaccuracies or misrepresentations in the press. See something wrong and use the power of your blog to correct the record.
In and of itself what Tinder did makes sense along those lines. They felt the story was unfair to them and so went on Twitter to speak to that feeling. That’s fine. So where did this go off the rails and turn into a target to be made fun of? There are a couple factors that play in to this:
- The story wasn’t that bad. No, it wasn’t complimentary and there were legitimate points Tinder could have taken issue with. But it also comes off as having a bit of a glass jaw since this was a lightweight hit that was more about the culture than the app. So someone should have taken a breath and walked around the block, after which it may not have seemed so bad. This may speak more to the tech industry culture of expecting nothing but glowing profiles and not knowing what to do when reality comes crashing down.
- This was on Twitter. Let’s be honest and admit that, for as common as it’s become, Tweetstorms are still not a great form factor and lend themselves to head-shaking on the part of the audience. If this had been a blog post I firmly believe the points Tinder tried to make would have been received in a better way. A blog post would have also allowed for more substantial thought than the quick takes that Twitter is a home for.
- There was no comment by Tinder in the story. No, this wasn’t an official press release. No, this wasn’t an embargoed announcement. So, objectively, there was no actual need for the writer to reach out for a comment from the company. But considering how one-sided the story was – to believe the attitudes presented are 100% applicable to all of New York, much less the entire dating world is laughable – reaching out for a comment about the culture that is being presented would have gone a long way toward defusing the potential powderkeg here.
Stories are coming out today that this may not have been the spontaneous right-swiping on indignation it initially appeared to be, with a Buzzfeed writer saying she was tipped off by Tinder PR that a Tweetstorm was about to begin. The way these comments are framed, though, it seems that both versions of the story can be true. It could be that Tinder PR knew the social media team (assuming they are different teams) was about to engage in this online rant and wanted to make sure press knew about it AND that this was a legitimate, for lack of a better phrase, outpouring of emotion.
If in fact that’s true – and there’s no reason to think it isn’t – it doesn’t dilute the bigger lesson to take away, which is that social media is a powerful outlet for brands to react to the press. Sometimes that’s done well, sometimes that’s done poorly. Don’t let the response today dissuade you from calmly, rationally and with plenty of facts – or at least a strong perspective – at hand responding to stories you feel are in error. That’s a legitimate tactic that self-publishing allows for and it can be a powerful option in the corporate communications toolbox.