Tinder's Sean Rad: No question, we invented swiping

Tinder's founder discusses company's origins and views towards growth

Tinder founder Sean Rad says "There is no question, we invented swiping" but admits that the service needs to continue to push the boundaries of interaction design to keep its young, active audience engaged.

In an interview with Marketing and SapientNitro SVP and European MD Nigel Vaz, Tinder founder Sean Rad  says there is no question that his app invented the swipe as a decision maker. The interaction is certainly synonymous with the dating app and has been mimicked across all areas of mobile apps ever since. However, he admits that there is a lot more that apps and brands need to do to keep millennials engaged via their phones.

How did Tinder start and what’s the journey been up to now?

Rad: We started Tinder because meeting new people is a clunky, boring experience and we wanted to make it better by solving some of the problems there. If you want to meet someone, you need to walk up and you might get rejected, or they may be with their friends and you don’t want to interrupt them.There are all these misconnections that happen. What we do is allow you to anonymously put it out there into the world that you want to meet someone and if they want to meet you back then it’s mutual and we make introductions.

How did you start with Tinder? Did you set out to disrupt dating?

Rad: No, not dating, more just meeting new people. Whether you are at school, at a restaurant or looking to meet people that work with you; it’s about creating context and getting to know someone and we wanted to make that better.

What is it used for now? What has Tinder become?

Rad: It is designed to solve a universal problem about meeting people but it is optimized for dating. Although people use it for dating, they do what we call "hacking Tinder." They’ll use it when traveling, for example, to get recommendations on where to go and match with people for those preferences. At conferences they may want to meet people, at Cannes for example, they may say, "I am the CMO of whatever, and I want to meet in Cannes." You can see how people want to use it for other reasons, but we are not there yet.

Do you think you own the swipe? And what is next in terms of innovating?

Rad: There is no question, we invented swiping in the way we do on Tinder in terms of making a decision, and we are the thought leader there. You can either scroll or swipe, and I think the way we do it, where you do two things at once — navigating and taking action — is a lot quicker. Speed is extremely important; users nowadays can digest a lot more content at an even faster rate than before and if we don’t provide a user interface that is quick, then brands and apps would suffer from a loss of user attention. Attention spans are shorter and they can capture content faster, so you almost want to move at the pace of the user.

Vaz: I think interaction design is very, very important. It’s unbelievable how a well thought through piece of interaction design that enables you to do something and integrate it into the proposition is so easy to consume, versus so many brands and experiences that have tried to translate interaction paradigms from other platforms onto how people behave on a mobile device. You see them failing appallingly; from shopping to how you download your boarding pass.

Just think of how many bad examples of this there are out there. Not understanding that the interaction could be the reason someone picks you over someone else, I actually think it could be that defining. People make airline decisions on how easy it is to get a boarding pass, versus what the seats are like and think about how much an airline obsesses about seats.

Rad: I actually like flying Virgin America because they have Passbook.

Vaz: We do work with Lufthansa and we are "iBeacon-ing" the airport in Germany so you can target people with specific messages, such as "at your speed, the gate is 20 minutes away" and then a the next gate it’ll say 10. We know where you are in that airport and how fast you are travelling, so it is super specific. People give us amazing feedback all the time because normally it’ll say 10 minutes but you think, "What am I — Usain Bolt?"

The scale Tinder has built must be appealing to advertisers?

Vaz: It’s an audience that is engaging, it’s not passive. For me it’s an audience that’s in "lean forward" mode. If you can integrate propositions that are complementary to each other and don’t deter from what tinder and users are trying to do, then it can be great.

How do advertisers use the service? Is this run through you?

Rad: Brands had been leveraging the platform to communicate with fans on a smaller scale, so we built a product called "promoted profile" where you take your account and you match users to your brand. Brands can then use it to distribute messages or content to fans. It’s done remarkably well for us and users because they get some sort of exclusive content from the brands. Then for the brands it’s great because the engagement we are seeing is insane. We consistently see over 20% match rates, so 20% of people that use the ads end up matching with the brand and then receiving content.

Your audience is mainly Millennial. What have you learnt from creating ads for them? What sort of interactions do they expect and welcome from brands?

Rad: What is great about Tinder is we put control into the user's hand; if they see a brand they want to hear more from they can swipe right and if not, they can easily get rid of it. Where brands make mistakes is when they try to take over the whole experience and force you into a relationship, whether it’s interrupting television content or it’s in video ads where you see takeovers. We don’t want to do that because we believe the user should be in control, they need to be able to say no or lean in easily, it’s the best experience for users and brands.

Vaz: I think the relevance is hugely important too, so by understanding how you can seamlessly integrate in a way that adds value.

 This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.

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