Earlier this week Tinder, the dating app that is largely known for facilitating casual hook-ups, lost its shit on Twitter over an article in Vanity Fair. And a big part of why you may heard about the Vanity Fair article is for no other reason than because Tinder decided to lose its shit. It's called the Streisand effect, and it carries with it a big lesson on why sometimes brand management means just shutting the hell up on moving on.
The facts were these: Nancy Jo Sales recently wrote an article for Vanity Fair titled "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" about the rise of dating apps, 'hook-up culture,' and how social media is changing romance and dating. While the article is fairly incisive about its subject and actually backs up its observations with data and lots of interviews, it doesn't stray much from your average "boy, the times they are a-changin'" thinkpiece about the rise of digital culture. Let's put it this way: the lead photo is one of those "group of young people all staring into their smart phones" pics used as shorthand for modern disconnectedness.
As Julia Greenberg writes in her article in Wired covering the Tinder brouhaha, twentysomethings think that "dating sucks, men are pigs, and dating apps like Tinder are part of the problem." (Guess what kids, dating has always sucked.) But here's the thing: even when the Vanity Fair article was first published it didn't actually get Tinder's attention or ire. Not until author Sales tweeted out some survey results stating that 30% of Tinder users are married did whoever runs Tinder's Twitter account start putting stuff out like:
-@VanityFair Little known fact: sex was invented in 2012 when Tinder was launched.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
It's disappointing that @VanityFair thought that the tiny number of people you found for your article represent our entire global userbase- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Tinder users are on Tinder to meet people for all kinds of reasons. Sure, some of them - men and women - want to hook up.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Next time reach out to us first @nancyjosales... that's what journalists typically do.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
This is a bit snarky, sure, but Tinder does have a point. Sales' article isn't the first time someone has blamed technology for a deeper issue (as stated, dating sucks), but the problem is that Tinder's tweets just, kept, on, going ...
The Tinder Generation is real. Our users are creating it. But it's not at all what you portray it to be.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Our data tells us that the vast majority of Tinder users are looking for meaningful connections.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Talk to the female journalist in Pakistan who wrote just yesterday about using Tinder to find a relationship where being gay is illegal.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Talk to our many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people on Tinder even though Facebook is banned.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
Instead, your article took an incredibly biased view, which is disappointing.- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
But it's not going to dissuade us from building something that is changing the world. #GenerationTinder- Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015
There were over 30 tweets in the barrage, some with reasonable points but some, as above, with strange pretensions towards Tinder being a force of freedom and social justice in the more troubled parts of the world. (Please never let #GenerationTinder catch on.)
The things is, if a brand goes on a tear like this, people are going to notice:
As Jose Franco succinctly put it:
(Tinder later contacted Wired to say that while it stands by what it said and is passionate about its mission, it admits it may have overreacted.)
This is a near-perfect demonstration of the Streisand effect, named after Barbara Streisand's litigious attempt to remove a photo of her Malibu, California home from a public registry the news of which resulted in the photo being distributed globally and getting her endless amounts of negative attention. Here, but for Tinder's Twitter rant, the Vanity Fair article would have come and gone like so many magazine pieces before it.
It's an important lesson in brand management, as we at Social Media Today have previously observed on numerous occasions, sometimes the best thing you can do for your brand is just leave well enough alone.