With nearly 8 billion people in the world, it’s safe to say there’s at least one person out there with whom everyone reading this would have a happy, healthy relationship. Now, that person isn’t the same for all of us—of course, and thankfully! And, depending on how you feel about soulmates, there might not be “the one” at all, rather potentially dozens or more people with whom you’d have a fulfilling relationship if only your paths crossed.
But back to that number—8 billion (8,000,000,000). That is a nine-zero situation that we don’t see spelled out very often. And all those zeros make for a lot of potential relationship heroes to consider.
But we don’t start by considering all 8 billion; we hone in on those folks who seem most likely to be a good match. We start with basic criteria—like age, location, gender and gender preference—and continue refining our options from there.
And if you’re doing your searching and sorting at least in part through ‘the apps’, which the numbers show many of you are, dating app algorithms are instrumental in helping you find someone special.
Table of Contents
Algorithms are sets of instructions or rules that help complete a process as those rules intend. No matter how simple or complex the algorithm, or how much or how little data it has to digest to function properly, the basics of how it works are the same.
Algorithms are designed as tools to help in sorting, digesting, and delivering relevant information; it is people who determine the goals the algorithm will help achieve. And despite algorithms in the digital space being regularly eyed with suspicion by many, they are truly intended to improve our search results.
While all dating apps share a foundational commonality—helping foster connections—they also differ in some key ways that might influence their current and future goals. Let’s do some background research on a few of the most popular dating apps to see what we dig up.
If you’ve tried more than one dating app, or are weighing your options, you may find yourself wondering the same thing you wonder when looking for a partner: “Are they really all the same?” This is where it’s important to again consider the goals of that particular platform. Many have the same overarching goal—to connect people to other people they’ll like—but what kind of connections is each best suited for, and why?
You can tell a lot about a dating app by the first impression it makes with its name and slogan; both can provide some level of insight into what the goals of that dating platform are, which helps make sense of what the goals of the algorithm would be.
Remember that “matching” is largely what search functions as a whole are designed for, whether it’s matching searchers with the right information, right services, right answers, or Ms. or Mr. Right.
Let’s do some classic internet detective work to see what we can learn about a few popular apps, diving deepest into Tinder…
Tinder is among the most popular dating apps thanks largely to its large user base, ease-of-use, and becoming a bit of a household name over the past few years. For many folks, Tinder is synonymous with dating apps the way Band-Aid is synonymous with adhesive bandages. In fact, recent data shared by Statista found that brand awareness of Tinder in the US is 84%, and that 37% of all US dating service users are on the platform.
As we know, the first step in understanding an algorithm is determining its goals. Let’s see what we can learn about who Tinder is, and what their goals, purpose and promise are, straight from the source—Tinder.com.
- Tinder is the most popular free dating app in the world, and has made more than 55 billion matches to date. They boast millions of single users, and considers themselves “the most diverse dating app”
- In your Discovery Settings on Tinder, you can set your sexual orientation, and the age and distance-from-you for the profiles you’ll see on the platform. They use location-based technology to connect you with relevant profiles based on those selections (Source: Tinder FAQs)
- Tinder can also be used to foster non-romantic connections, including helping college students make friends at school through TinderU
- Tinder believes “everyone deserves the right to be seen and make the first move,” and doesn’t filter by race, religion, education, or height
- Tinder isn’t only for those looking for ‘the one’ — ”Some sites, like Hinge and eharmony, are designed for long-term relationships, but on the Tinder app, we’re all about the experience and offer possibilities for whatever it is you’re looking for.”
- If you want your answers to specific questions to help you in finding users with similar replies, you can enable the Tinder Vibes feature. You can also add Passions (or Interests) to your profile.
- Tinder can also help you in finding more matches by notifying you when a Swipe Surge is underway—a period of high activity on the platform. Once you’ve joined, you can narrow your options by selecting from different categories that let other users know what you’re looking for on Tinder (ie. casual chats, nightlife, etc.)
- Tinder is open to evolving to keep up with the changing wants and needs of its users. After all, those who started on the platform in their early twenties may have very different goals in their early thirties, and no platform wants to lose its most loyal users. As recently as December 2022, Tinder added a Relationship Goals feature
Now that we’ve unpacked what Tinder is to help in understanding the why behind their algorithm goals, let’s dive deeper into what they’ve shared about how their algorithm works, which bears a lot of similarity to social media platform algorithms.
Engagement is a primary factor
Just like the Instagram algorithm better understands what you want to see more of based on your in-app engagement, Tinder can provide you with better potential matches the more you use the app. This includes using “anonymized cues” from photos in tailoring future recommendations, serving up profiles with photos similar to those a user has liked before. Nopes are also considered.
Because there are two people in this equation, the algorithm is working similarly on the flipside, showing your profile to users who have liked other profiles with photos similar to yours. If you start noticing similarities in the profiles you’re shown most often—like all your matches have profiles featuring concert photos or camping photos—your swipe history has likely influenced your results.
But on Tinder, it’s not just measuring your engagement metrics to determine your top interests; they also want to make sure you’re still actively looking. Tinder wants all their users to have an optimal user experience, which is facilitated in part by prioritizing active members.
Translating this to the ecommerce space, they want to make sure they aren’t wasting your time, or annoying you, by directing you to out-of-stock URLs.
Proximity comes into play
When creating a Tinder profile, users provide their gender, gender preferences, age, distance (from potential matches), and current location. These are all fairly standard, but it’s that ‘current location’ where things can get interesting.
In addition to considering your state or city-based location in the potential matches shown, Tinder will go one step further and prioritize profiles that are in the nearest proximity. “Proximity is a key factor; it’s always fun meeting someone in the same neighborhood and that’s why we consider a potential match’s distance from a member’s current location.”
Translating this to the commerce space, they don’t only want to show which stores have the product in-stock ‘near you’ in a broad sense, rather what’s available in the stores closest to you where you can click-and-collect (swipe-and-connect?) ASAP.
User-provided data can help refine matches
Many folks like that they can get started swiping on Tinder with just a modest amount of upfront work required, but the more data you give the algorithm to work with, the better your results are going to be. While adding your interests/passions and a detailed lifestyle description are optional, Tinder will consider them in your matches when you provide them.
Tinder also shared some things that aren’t factored into their algorithm, including social status, religion, and ethnicity. They also noted that their much-discussed Elo Score is “old news” that their latest technology doesn’t rely on.
While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of dating sites to choose from today, the one that can be considered the mother of them all is Match. Starting all the way back in 1995 when many folks still relied on newspaper classifieds to find singles in their area, Match.com entered the scene to lay the groundwork for letting the information superhighway (aka internet) provide the path to lasting love.
Unlike Tinder, Match isn’t simply looking to foster connections; as their name implies, they are looking to help find true matches. They’ll even let you know if you’ve crossed paths with one of your matches in real life. That said, it isn’t as expressly marriage-driven as eHarmony, so may serve as a nice middle ground for folks who want something more than casual, but aren’t rushing nuptials.
So how do they make those matches? As you might expect, your provided information is at the foundation! And as noted by BestCompany, Match offers one of the most comprehensive profiles around—if users take the time to complete theirs. In addition to being able to add information like religion, profession, and whether you have children, Match goes even further giving users the option to submit responses to essay questions. They also let you rank how important something is, noting if it’s essential or just nice-to-have.
The importance of your profile, from Match:
“It contains questions about who you are, where you’re from, the things that interest you, your lifestyle, and your background and values. It also asks you about your ideal match. All of this information helps form a great image of who you are and who you’re looking for. Not only does this help potential matches understand you better, it also helps us provide you with better matches through our unique matching tools.”
Bumble is unique in that it requires women to make the first messaging move (in heterosexual matches). They note that they prioritize kindness and respect, and similar to Tinder, have sister sites aimed at helping users network eller find a new BFF. Like many other popular apps, Bumble is free to use, but offers optional premium features that can help get your profile seen and improve or increase functionality.
Bumble isn’t as transparent about their algorithm as Tinder, but who you see on the app appears to be largely filter-driven. While filters can be very helpful in narrowing your selection of available options, Bumble notes that over-filtering may leave you with very few profiles that make the cut. Loosening your filters can help in making you matchable with a wider variety of users, but bear in mind you’re losing some precision in the process.
Similar to most dating app algorithms, it is speculated that Bumble is learning what you like and don’t like as you swipe. Just like the information you expressly provide to aid in making matches, including your gender and distance preferences, your swipe activity is another factor for the algorithm to consider. The more intentional you are about the choices you make, the more accurately the algorithm will be able to deliver strong potential matches in the future. This is just another layer of ‘you get out what you put in’; if you want Bumble to better understand who to show you, they need to get to know you first.
On Bumble, regular use of the app isn’t only encouraged, but required for optimal experience. Once a match is made, a message must be sent within 24 hours; if not, the match expires. And after the first message has been sent, another 24-hour timer begins. If a reply isn’t sent within that window, the match expires. Similar to Tinder, this shows us that Bumble prioritizes profile activity so it can ensure users aren’t wasting time crafting messages to inactive users.
Where Bumble differs from Tinder is in what the vast majority of its users are looking for. Whereas Tinder aims to be the dating app destination for users looking for everything from casual connections to something serious, the majority of Bumble users are looking for long-term relationships.
It’s also worth noting that the ‘women message first’ model for heterosexual relationships is a motivating factor in using the app for men and women alike. As Bumble’s infographic shows, 97% of women made that first move and messaged their matches in the past month. And 63% of men reported that “women making the first move” was their reason for choosing Bumble.
eharmony is a dating app designed for people looking for serious, long-term relationships. In fact, according to eharmony, couples who met through their platform make up 4% of all marriages in the US.
With this goal in mind—helping people who are truly, deeply compatible find one another—eharmony has to ask a lot of questions to make sure they get things right. For casual daters, these types of question lists are often exactly what puts them off a dating site. For those who want to get right to scrolling or swiping, eharmony is not a good match.
Just remember—you get out what you put in, because the algorithm is working with the input you provided in its output. The more relevant information you provide for it to work with, the more tailored to you your results will be. On eharmony, they actually quantify your likelihood of getting along with someone by assigning a Compatibility Score, with 60 being low compatibility, and 140 being the highest compatibility.
Explained by eharmony:
“Each of your matches will display a different eharmony Compatibility Score and, as the name suggests, it’s a simple indicator of how compatible you two are. These scores are based on your similarities and contrasts, as well as the answers you gave to our Compatibility Quiz when you joined eharmony. In the Compatibility section of each match’s profile, you can see what similarities you have, and also potential points of friction.”
Happy to answer a laundry list of questions about who you are, and what’s most important to you, but don’t want to pay a fee? OkCupid is another popular dating site option that relies heavily on provided information to aid in the compatibility measurement process, for free (upgrade options available).
Just because algorithms can help you find love certainly doesn’t mean they’re the only path to happiness. They simply provide a more streamlined, strategic path of possibility that sifts through the wide sea of options, providing a curated, filtered, or otherwise sorted list of choices from which you can weigh pros and cons before ever typing “hello.”
Similarly, most of us have happened upon one or more products in our lives that we didn’t even know we were looking for, but instantly fell in love with. Perhaps it was that perfect gold charm bracelet you stumbled across in a tucked-away jewelry store while on vacation. Or maybe it’s those jeans you grabbed at a store near your office when you forgot you had after-work plans, and they ended up being the most flattering, comfortable jeans you’ve ever owned.
These are moments of luck and serendipity, and they do indeed happen every day! But they don’t make a solid plan for accomplishing your goals, no matter what you’re searching for.
The algorithms that power dating apps will always be running in the background, but many apps offer ways to get your profile seen when it might not have otherwise been algorithmically driven to the top. It’s important to note that these aren’t true algorithm workarounds, rather methods through which you can push to the front of a specific line, often at a price.
Additionally, some features are more simply designed to let you engage more often or heavily within the app, which can naturally improve your chances of securing a date. In a sense, this can be thought of as advertising yourself.
For example: In addition to the additional benefits packed into each of Tinder’s subscription tiers, popular premium features include Boost and Super Like, which Tinder claims will “increase your chances of matching by 3x and have convos that last 70% longer.” Exclusive to Tinder Platinum subscribers is the Priority Like feature, which “puts your profile in front of the people you Like faster.” Similar premium features are available on Match.com, where they’re known as Power-Ups.
Not only do some dating apps offer paid services that help users go over the algorithm to an extent, they also make a lot of their money from advertising revenue. As it turns out, love—or at the least the quest thereof—just might be able to pay the bills, after all.
Does Match Group have a monopoly on love?
Ad space across many of the most popular dating apps can be purchased from the same place—Match Media Group. That’s because Match Group owns more than a dozen popular apps, and can sell cross-platform advertising options to prospective advertisers for many of them.
“Match Media Group serves as a single point partner for marketers to leverage the aggregated audience, data and insights that result from having millions of global users across Match’s portfolio of dating platforms, including Tinder, OKCupid and Match.com.”
— Match Media Group
As for who exactly is cuddled up under this love umbrella, the following are some of the dating apps owned by Match Group…
- …and many more dating companies worldwide
But the Match Group isn’t the only major player on the block. There is no denying their impressive portfolio of apps, and the incredible data they’re able to collect and leverage thanks to the millions of users across their portfolio. But two of the biggest names in the dating app world are missing from their list—Bumble and badoo—both owned by the same parent company.
What advertising options are available on dating apps?
Looking specifically at ad products available from Match Media Group, we find the following options:
- Branded Profile Card (Tinder): Brands can create profiles native to the Tinder user experience. When users match with a branded profile, they receive brand custom messaging including offers, promotions, exclusive content, and/or more
- Quiz (Tinder): Quizzes can be fully completed within the app, and leverage Tinder’s swipe feature to answer questions, which can be as simple as asking whether they like or dislike something. Following a short series of questions, these users can then share their results across their social media networks if they choose to
- Native Video Card (Tinder): Video advertising is only on the rise, and makes a perfect fit for a fast-paced app that appeals to younger users, like Tinder. Tinder video ads can lead folks to external URLs, including your website. These video ads auto-play within the app when users are in discovery mode
- Native Display Card (Tinder): Similar to a profile card in design, these ad units allow brands to drive traffic to an external page with one click.
- In-App Interstitial (OKCupid): These full screen interstitial ads are shown as users are browsing their matches
- Standard/High Impact Units (Match, Meetic, People Media, Plenty of Fish): These are set to target your key demographic, and are available across several platforms
Match Media Group notes that interested advertisers can run their campaigns across their full portfolio, or on specific sites, with a minimum investment of $25K+.
Advantages of Advertising on Dating Apps
There are perhaps more advertising options available today than ever before—from classic digital advertising avenues to in-store screens, LED billboards, magazines, streaming ads, and far beyond. Each of these has unique goals and purposes, as well as the ability to reach potential customers in different mindsets, different funnel stages, and so forth.
Looking at advertising on dating apps specifically, a few key considerations and benefits come to mind:
- People on dating apps are already in a comparative state-of-mind. When someone is already actively in the consideration phase, like they would be on a dating app, they are mentally in the right place to be served an ad for a product or service to consider
- You can reach Gen Z in droves. The average user age varies from platform to platform, with the most popular free platform—Tinder—being home to a wide audience of Gen Z and young Millennial users. BusinessofApps notes that while Tinder has historically been popular with the 25-and-younger set, its use is increasing with older folks as well. This is due in part to Tinder’s overall increasing popularity, but also because those who have used the app for years are quite simply getting older
- Dating apps have a much higher percentage of male users on average. Similar to the average age varying by platform, the percentage of male users compared to female users also naturally varies. That said, looking at the breakdown for a few of the most popular apps, we find that there are significantly more male than female users. According to the above-linked article from BusinessofApps, Tinder’s user base is ~75% male. This could make dating apps an excellent advertising tool for brands whose products or services are largely targeted to men
- Your competitors probably aren’t there (yet). The competition for the most eligible singles may be fierce on dating apps, but compared to other digital advertising spaces, it may be easier for your brand to stand out. It’s a unique advertising territory that many brands simply haven’t considered yet, giving those who have an added edge by being early adopters. With an estimated 75 million people in over 190 countries using the Tinder app every month alone, the potential reach is incredible
Dating App Advertising Examples
Tinder recently partnered with rescue shelters across the country to help some very swipeable pooches find their forever home. As if adding a dog to the family isn’t reward enough, it could also help you secure more swipes. A 2021 study by Honest Paws found that profile photos featuring a canine companion may get more positive attention.
From The Drum:
“The tie-up follows a 2021 survey, conducted by Honest Paws, which found that 70% of singles believe that a dog in their profile pic leads to more matches. This belief is supported by 60% who express themselves to be more willing to date someone holding a dog close.”
As we’re all aware, it’s important to consider your audience in marketing. And that’s exactly what Domino’s UK did going all the way back to 2014, with an innovative Valentine’s Day Tinder ad campaign. Do you know who orders pizza on Valentine’s Day? Single people! And do you know who wants a coupon for that pizza? Everyone!
There’s a reason people say your profile is a chance to “sell yourself” because ultimately, you are your own marketing manager on dating apps. Interestingly, when we consider all the information above, it’s hard not to see a dating profile as remarkably similar to a product detail page. And just like a PDP, there are certain elements that can help you in optimizing it for search (and conversion!)
Choose your main photo wisely
Your main photo is the first photo potential connections will see, and heavily determines whether they choose to learn more from your other photos and profile content.
Similar to the main photo you choose for a product you’re selling or advertising, you’ll want the photo to be clear/in-focus, eye-catching, and prominently feature an attractive and accurate representation of the available item (in this case, you!), without others in frame.
Let the pictures do some of the talking
While there is room to provide additional information about yourself through text, just as they do with product images, photos can tell a lot of that story for you. Select an assortment of pictures that clearly display your interests, values, hobbies and more. This might mean including a photo with your dog, another of you hiking, another at an amusement park, and another marching at a protest.
These don’t tell the whole story of who you are, but they give some important information before a single word has been read, just like lifestyle photos and infographics on PDPs.
Showcase your unique value propositions
It’s hard to argue that honesty is typically the best policy, and in the dating apps landscape, it’s absolutely crucial. Not only can it save you from frustration and disappointment, but it can also save you a lot of time, and help in finding a truly strong match faster.
Just as you would do when considering what distinguishes your particular product from similar products in the same space, think of what unique characteristics about yourself are not only likely to be intriguing, but are also an integral aspect of your personality, values, or lifestyle.
Include the most important and relevant information in your profile copy
Want to give dating app algorithms the most information to work with in crafting potential matches that are truly personalized to you? It’s going to take a little work on your part, but it can actually be a great self-reflection session!
Just as you consider what a prospective buyer would want to know about a product before adding to cart, what is most important for a potential suitor to know about you before sending a message? This information might vary depending on the seriousness of connections you’re looking to make, and how important something is for you in a partner. If something is a make-or-break for you, be sure to include it in your profile copy to save everyone time.
Our research into how dating algorithms function only solidified our suspicions that they function very similarly to the algorithms that impact our daily lives as marketers. After all, the goals of platforms like Google, Facebook, and Tinder aren’t all that different—to help in sorting through an abundance of options to present you with what you are most likely to be interested in based on key preference-determining factors like your provided information, and previous engagement.
Thinking more specifically about marketing and advertising options, we realized that just like people, each has its own set of strengths and skills that make them a solid match for different business goals.
In the spirit of dating profiles and Valentine’s Day being just 2 weeks away, we created Marketing Profiles for three of our services—Connected Commerce, Lifecycle Marketing, and Streaming+. Which one is the most important match for your business?
Name: Connected Commerce
About Me: I’m that holistic free spirit your mother warned you about, who really and truly believes all things are connected! Rather than searching for the path of least resistance, my sights are set on crafting the path of best performance. You might call me the Cartographer of Commerce Success, because I don’t follow a templated map—I draft a custom one every time. I am your 360-degree commerce solution; if people are shopping somewhere, I’m considering how we can make that somewhere work best for you.
Why Should You Get to Know Me: In the words of Ani DiFranco, “I am 32 flavors and then some.” I am Commerce Media, Commerce Strategy & Ops, Social Commerce, In-Store Commerce, Gaming Commerce, Commerce OTT, Data & Analytics, Creative, and Influencer. A lot of folks think they’re the “total package,” but I really am! I understand that every client journey and customer journey is unique, and that my role is to assure both are properly supported, and strategically accounted for.
Interests: Finding the best path forward, diving into cross-channel capabilities and impact, full-funnel commerce strategies, success
Recent Read: Marketing in 2023: 5 Big Bets for the CMO
Where You’ll Find Me: Come learn more about me at The Commerce Summit on February 15, 2023. (I’ll be the one with a bagful of half-priced Valentine’s Day chocolates I picked up at Rite Aid on the way.) If things go well and we make a real connection (which is kinda my whole thing), we can sync up again a week later for webinar date #2 on February 22, 2023. You can also hit me up here anytime—looking forward to connecting!
Favorite Quote: “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ― William James
Name: Lifecycle Marketing
About Me: I’m the trifecta of hyper-personalized, privacy-compliant communications—email marketing, mobile messaging, and on-site marketing. I work best when all three aspects of who I am are fully-integrated so I can ensure I’m saying the right thing at the right time in the right place to the right person. (Do I really mean that, or do I keep saying “right” so you see me as the “right one” for you? Yes and yes.)
Why Should You Get to Know Me: I am a strong, capable leader that can help power your data and audience strategies in the privacy-by-default future. I’m an empathetic marketing avenue, always aiming to provide shoppers and subscribers with only the most relevant information. I believe in rewarding loyalty, and respecting user permissions and preferences.
Interests: Collecting and leveraging zero-party and privacy-compliant first-party data, building customer loyalty, highly personalized messaging
Recent Read: The 2023 Lifecycle Marketing Guide
Favorite Acronyms: SMS, ESP, CLV
Where You’ll Find Me: On-site, I often literally just pop up! And I usually have a coupon or something equally enticing to offer when I do. But you’ll also find me in your inbox, and in your texts (but only if you opted-in!) You can also reach out here to learn more about why we’d be a great match!
About Me: I’m a bit of an advertising force to be reckoned with, with no click-to-close box in sight! In some situations, it can even be said I’m over-the-top. I am an unskippable, scalable, targetable, data-driven dynamo, introducing audiences to new brands and services wherever they get their stream on.
Why Should You Get to Know Me: I’m designed to reach audiences not only where they are today, but where they’ll increasingly be in the future. In the grand scheme of advertising, some folks still see streaming ads as a promising up-and-comer. But the reality is that I’ve fully arrived, and I’m reaching millions of viewers and listeners with relevant, targeted streaming audio and video ads at this very moment. (Bit of a multitasker!)
Interests: Meeting your audience where they are, non-skippable ads, patented measurement technology that connects served impressions to marketing outcomes
Recent Read: The Ultimate Guide to Performance Streaming
Favorite Acronyms: OTT, cTV
Where You’ll Find Me: On internet-enabled devices near you, including your television, tablet, desktop, and mobile device. Some of the most popular places you can find me are Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Reach out today to learn more about how we can make streaming sparks fly!
Favorite Karaoke Duet Song: Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
Personal Catchphrase: Just livin’ the stream!
With all this talk about the power of algorithms, and how they’re fueling search results everywhere from Snapchat to Match.com, it’s important to remember that they’re simply tools that play a part in powering what you see—not what you ultimately decide.
It is still up to you whether you want to go on a date with a person returned in your search results, just like it’s ultimately up to you what product you buy, plumber you call, or restaurant you decide to go to based on your search results. And just like there are algorithms, photos, provided information and more to help you with those other decisions, so is the case in the commerce of love.
As we’ve explored, choosing the right dating app for you requires considering your own goals in using the app, and weighing those against the goals of the apps themselves. So the first step is finding which app is your best match! And at the end of the day, whatever it is you’re looking for online, chances are algorithms are behind those results you see. (Not to be confused with the Al Gore Rhythm.)
Want to learn more about how we can help your brand find true love with new and existing customers across the advertising universe? Reach out today!