Tinder and Grindr Share Their Secret (Local) Sauce

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hot local actionMore than just serving as a way for people to hook up, location-based dating apps are helping to fuel a $2 billion online industry that employs thousands of people. During a panel at Street Fight Summit West on Tuesday, Local SEO Guide proprietor Andrew Shotland spoke with Tinder co-founder Jonathan Badeen and Grindr‘s global head of sales, Steve Levin, about what’s working for the mobile personals industry and what other hyperlocal vendors can learn from their successes.

Tinder has exploded over the past year. In February, the company said that the number of swipes — the way users say whether or not their interested in another — had nearly doubled in the previous three months, reaching more than 10 million matches a day. Badeen attributes a large part of the Tinder’s success stems from the simplicity endemic in mobile: “Simplicity is in our blood. That’s what we’re all drawn to the mobile experience,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grindr has regrouped after explosive growth a few years ago.

“We backtracked for a year or so and made our priority to stabilize the platform first and foremost before we ever did another feature,” Levin said. “Now that we’re finally stable, we’re working on a whole host of other features.”

As far as business models are concerned, Tinder and Grindr have a similar strategy. Levin’s role as the head of sales at Grindr has him selling ad space to national brands and agencies, seeing click-through rates between 10% and 12%.

Although Tinder is still in “user acquisition mode,” Badeen says the company has plans to implement a monetization strategy that will likely involve some sort of advertising component in the “near future.” Tinder has partnered with TV shows like The Mindy Project on integrated campaigns.

“We’re just feeling it out a little bit,” Badeen said.

Badeen also says it’s “quite possible” that Tinder will eventually move to a subscription concept, allowing users to pay essentially in the same way that third-parties pay for the experience.

Both Grindr and Tinder are looking to expand beyond their niche categories to change how they are perceived by users.

“Grindr, for good or bad, had a reputation of being skewed toward younger, good looking, well-built sort of guys all over the world,” Levin said. To combat this perception, Levin says the company has introduced “tribes,” a feature that allows users to identify as one or more categories.

Tinder is looking to change its reputation, as well. Rather than being perceived as a dating app, Badeen wants Tinder to eventually become a tool for meeting people in general. To accomplish this, he says it’s important for the company to not be too specific or too general in limiting how people utilize its services.

“We have the momentum and the name,” he said. “Once we do enter that market, we’ll be able to gain a lot of ground.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.