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4 Marketing Lessons Your Nonprofit Can Learn From Tinder

Elliot Rysenbry

What does Tinder have to do with your nonprofit marketing strategy? Probably a lot more than you realize. Think about it: what is Tinder if not a massive, multi-million-user experiment in online marketing?


Sure, your organization's marketing success metrics (donations, donors, petition signatures, etc.) are different from those of the average Tinder user (right swipes, matches, dates), but the tenets of both strategies are essentially the same: experiment with messaging and different forms of media, test out your calls-to-action, and win hearts and minds. 

Let's dive in and see what lessons the strange world of Tinder has to offer nonprofit marketing!


Lesson #1: Mind the optics


A bad profile picture is a deal-breaker. If it’s a blurry shot taken from an unflattering angle, you're bound to be swiped left, aka "bad swiped." People aren’t messing around - there’s a lot of competition for attention and as a result, Tinder swipers tend to move quickly through the available Tinder profiles, only stopping when something (or someone) catches their eye. Or in simpler terms: first impressions count, people!

This same behavior applies to how people interact with your organization. We don't spend much time really looking at online content, especially in noisy, social environments like Facebook or Twitter feeds or email inboxes. And after a split-second evaluation, we react instinctually based on the optics.

Much like dating profile pics, calls-to-action and ads do better when their images follow certain principles. High-quality, professional photos almost always do better, as do those with colors that stand out from the typical white and blue tones of Facebook and Twitter.

That said, stop using terrible stock photos! There are too many super awesome stock photography sites out there to continue sacrificing quality for clipart. Keep your branding consistent across your marketing pieces and make sure your website design stands out in the crowd. And as always, test, test, test.


Lesson #2: Write a great bio


Everyone has a target audience. On Tinder, most users have an idea of who they're looking for. There’s the basic criteria like location, age range, gender preferences. But then there’s subjective stuff like sense of humor, personal outlook, or whether you both jog on a Sunday morning (or loathe those do) that's a bit harder to gauge from just photos (even if they are with baby tigers.) That's when we turn to the ever-informative bio.

Tinder bios are hit and miss, but in this writer's experience, mostly miss. A common mistake is saying something like, “I heart Netflix!”. Let's face it: we all heart Netflix, and sentences like that don’t attract anyone in particular, or weed out bad matches. 

The moral of this story is that, to encourage your desired audience to self-select and match with you, your nonprofit needs a great bio - er, messaging. Just like in any marketing scenario, you need a clear, focused message with no extra fluff.

Communicating with your audience (like a good date) should be a pleasant, positive experience that helps you foster a relationship.

For marketing pieces like ads, emails, or landing page copy, try to find the right mix of specificity and ambiguity while keeping it short, direct, and sweet. That way you’re speaking directly to the people you want to and encouraging them to self-select, while avoiding scaring people away with the wrong messaging.


Lesson #3: References are valuable


There are two schools of thought on Tinder regarding "mutual friends." There are those Tinder-ers that look at having mutual friends with a potential match as a big plus, and those that treat it like a red flag.

First off, the red flag people aren’t looking for a relationship, so forget them. Since you’re looking to build a long term relationship (in your nonprofit's case, with your supporters and donors), it’s the former group that’s important here.

People are far more likely to be open minded about a person, cause, campaign etc. if a friend supports or otherwise endorses it too. Just as you might rationalize that a potential Tinder match can’t be insane if they’re friends with your friends, people rationalize that if their friends are interested in a cause, then it must be worth paying attention to.

There are a couple of ways of tapping into the trust of mutual friends.

  • Use share buttons that showcase which among a potential supporter's friends have liked, shared, or tweeted a piece of content - in fact, if you’re running a Facebook ad campaign, likes of friends already constitute an all-important endorsement.

  • Use peer-to-peer social fundraising tools and techniques that allow your organization to leverage the social networks of your supporters.


Lesson #4: Move quickly (but not too quickly)


Let's talk about timing. After you’ve crossed the initial Tinder hurdle of getting someone’s attention, when and how do you take the step of meeting IRL? 

This question is also directly relevant to nonprofit communications and marketing. Once you’ve gotten someone to click on an ad, read a blog post, or share a social post, how direct should your marketing strategy be?

The best approach to this marketing conundrum (and to matters of the heart) is to find a delicate balance. You should be direct, but not super direct. You’ve already gotten their attention so they’re obviously interested on some level, so reassure them, offer a few more convincing cues, and close the deal.

Take the example of visiting your nonprofit's donation page. Once someone is there, an essay about why he/she should donate is unnecessary at best, or intimidating at worst. A good donation page offers a few sentences to remind your potential donor of why he/she should care, the real-world value of his/her donation, some security and privacy reassurances, and maybe a big beautiful image. 

Whether it’s dating or digital marketing, don’t beat around the bush too much - get to the point and people will appreciate it. 


Lessons learned

There’s a lot that marketing oneself on Tinder can teach us about marketing nonprofits online (and maybe vice versa - apply our nonprofit advice to your dating life at your own risk!)

Whether you’re trying to get people to swipe right on your profile or click on your ads, you’re competing for attention in a content-rich environment where it's hard to stand out, and even harder to get people to give you a second look. A few things to remember:

  • First impressions are everything. So don’t skimp on decent photos or graphics.
  • Know your target audience. Appealing to everyone means appealing to people you don’t want or like, so try and target the right people.
  • Use references. A recommendation from a friend is worth that particular friend’s weight in gold. Use things like social buttons with share counts and Facebook integration, and try and get influencers involved in your campaigns.
  • Act fast - but not too fast. Once you’ve got a match/click through/engagement, reassure them and then act on the interest. They came here for a reason, so get to the ask.


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