So you saw the many stories about Tinder’s Twitter “meltdown” last night, which occurred in response to a Vanity Fair piece that effectively blamed dating apps for the rise of short-term hookup culture and even erectile dysfunction (yes, really). BuzzFeed covered it, as did Wired and others.
One thing was missing from those stories, though: the fact that Tinder’s PR team pitched its own tweetstorm to journalists before it happened.
@summeranne I in fact got a pitch from a PR person that Tinder was about to tweet storm, and I should watch for it.
— Claudia Koerner (@ClaudiaKoerner) August 12, 2015
This was no spontaneous outburst–it was all written ahead of time in response to the Vanity Fair piece and tweeted, line by line, with the approval of the company’s VP of communications and branding Rosette Pambakian, who called journalist Nancy Jo Sales a bully before making her Twitter account private:
tinder’s VP of communications won the actual Top Tweet of the Night pic.twitter.com/ua5teXFHG7
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) August 12, 2015
The company then sort-of apologized to The New York Times and other outlets, writing that “the article didn’t touch upon the positive experiences that the majority of our users encounter daily” and that “we overreacted.”
Sure they did.
Many questionable claims were made by the two parties involved, from the fact that dating apps may cause “performance problems” to the idea that North Koreans somehow love Tinder, which has allegedly created more “connections” than there are people living on Earth.
Maybe the story would have felt more complete if Sales had reached out to reps at Tinder, Grindr and OK Cupid for comment. And a piece in New York Magazine this morning argues that, “standard-issue self-importance from Silicon Valley” aside, the startup is almost certainly not responsible for the douchey behavior documented in the VF article.
But this is really about the company’s ability to control the resulting narrative. And so it did.
Yes, plenty of people mocked the startup on Twitter:
— darth™ (@darth) August 12, 2015
Man… I can’t… does Tinder’s PR department realize that tweet sounds like something Donald Trump would say?
— Abraham Riesman (@abrahamjoseph) August 12, 2015
Sales herself was like, whatever (though “Tinder” was the first word in the article’s headline):
Serena Ehrlich of Business Wire, however, sees the story as a journalistic failure because reporters didn’t reveal the fact that Tinder pushed its own talking points. These outlets essentially reprinted Tinder’s press release, delivered in the form of 30 angry tweets:
So was the “meltdown” a success or a big mess? The “hot takes” jury is still out:
The Tinder tweetstorm should be taught as a case study in how NOT to handle social media PR
— Alex Fitzpatrick (@AlexJamesFitz) August 12, 2015
@PRNewser for inbound traffic? Yes. But tinder got its message points in all those leading pubs. They won the internet.
— @serena ehrlich (@Serena) August 12, 2015
That’s true. Still, something tells us that Vanity Fair is happy for the attention and that most Tinder users could really care less. When asked about the app’s downsides, all the men interviewed for the VF piece said that it makes dating “too easy,” which is exactly the point. Yet they continue to use it every day.
So was this social campaign (let’s call it what it was) a justified response to “bullying?” We’ll ask the Tinder community in North Korea for comment and update this post when they get back to us…
UPDATE: Koerner confirmed to Adweek that the firm pitching Tinder’s response was Rogers & Cowan.