In Defense Of Tinder's Twitter 'Meltdown'

The dating app wasn't going crazy, it was practicing the public relations of the future.

Tinder's social media manager is having a difficult day today.

To recap: Last night, the dating app's Twitter account sent out a stream of tweets criticizing a sprawling 6,000-word Vanity Fair article,"Tinder and the Dating Apocalypse," written by contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales. Hook-up apps like Tinder, according to Sales' story, are responsible for a generation that's bereft of emotional intimacy. 

By morning, the Internet had weighed in on Tinders' tweets with a consensus: Tinder had gone wild

According to the rapid-fire take machine, Tinder's tweets show that the company is "broken hearted," suffering from an "emotional meltdown" and, per Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams, demonstrating "a sincerely epic case of butthurt." The company has since issued a statement about the incident, saying it overreacted as it tried to defend itself.

But here's my take: Tinder wasn't overreacting, going "crazy" or having an epic rage spiral; it was simply practicing the public relations of the future. 

"Be yourself, be authentic," is the first rule of Twitter's guide for brands, a how-to on using the site. The guide encourage businesses to lighten up when promoting themselves. It also notes that successful tweets "reflect the individuality and personality of your business" and aren't overly edited or laden with public relations-speak.

"There’s no need to be overly formal on Twitter," it reads.

This actually highlights the tricky spot companies are in as they try to wedge their PR department into the lighter, snarkier voice of social media.  

Sites like Twitter were created as a place for people -- not brands -- to share stories, pictures, gossip and otherwise interact with friends and strangers who have similar interests. But as brands have flocked to the platforms, increasingly incorporating social media into their overall strategy, they're having to navigate communicating with their audience in a medium that wasn't intuitively designed for corporations. It's tough to be a company masquerading as a person. 

But there are massive rewards (and audience) available for brands that can take a meme or sassy remark and make it work in the voice of a company. And, in the future, this is a balance brands will have to strike.

The old-school public relations model doesn't make sense with a generation of Snapchat natives, who are used to companies that converse with them, respond directly to complaints and are accessible with an easy swipe. Issuing a press release or writing a blog post seems outdated when you can respond immediately, and directly, to your followers on Twitter. It's the appropriate place to respond to bad press. 

Granted, 30 tweets is a lot of tweets, and Tinder's defense might have been better placed as a Facebook post or a Medium entry. But I read the tweetstorm as a well-reasoned defense of the company, and a critique of Sales's journalism. One of the tweets alleged that she never contacted the company for her story. Indeed, in Sales's lengthy article, which blames apps like Tinder for everything from bad sex to declining marriage rates, she didn't once quote the company -- or indicate that she'd contacted a spokesperson. That's just bad journalism. (I've reached out to Sales for comment on whether she spoke to Tinder at all while reporting the piece.)

 There are over 35,000 characters in Sales' article. In comparison, a few dozen tweets seem like an appropriately measured response, not an emotional meltdown.