In the summer of 2020, Kristen Melchiorre, 30, like many other Americans in quarantine, discovered a new hobby: making ice cream. In her spare time, she produced unique flavors – like blueberry corn crisp and chocolate peanut butter pretzel – from her kitchen in Philadelphia, gifting them to her enthusiastic family and friends who served as testers of initial tastes. In their comments, there was the resounding idea that Melchiorre should capitalize on his talents and sell his frozen candies. So she created an Instagram and dubbed her new gig Side Hustle Scoops.
Initially, Instagram was the main driver of sales, but soon after launching, Melchiorre used his Hinge profile to tout his lovely side project, filling out prompts such as “Together we can…” along with “build my business from. whole ice cream ‘and including Side Hustle IG handle of the scoops. Indeed, Melchiorre noticed that the number of followers on the account had increased after adding the link to his profile.
Ice cream, she found, was the perfect icebreaker. Many of her conversations on the app centered around dessert – favorite flavors from her matches, witty brainstorming sessions on what variety she should be producing next, and the occasional overt appearance. “I think I was like, ‘So can I come and try some? “;)” More times than I could count, “says Melchiorre.
Although she quit the business after about nine months (her daily job as a TV and podcast producer required more time and energy), Melchiorre found Hinge to be a perfect way to promote a small business. . Adding the brand’s Instagram to its profile required minimal effort and chatting with matches about its side gig enabled a direct-to-consumer organic marketing approach. “Simply speaking from a woman’s point of view is good to promote yourself,” says Melchiorre. “It’s nice to show that you have a lot to do, it shows that you are trying hard, it shows that you are motivated. The type of partner I want to attract respect this and would comment that it is. [my] most attractive qualities.
Just as Instagram handles in bios have become ubiquitous as a means of personal brand promotion on dating apps, singles use dating sites to advertise other aspects of their lives, namely their small businesses. They are fond of their real estate companies and sunglasses brands, personal training services and startups. Some even try to recruit for multi-level marketing companies on dating apps.
On Tinder, the use of the word “entrepreneur” in bios increased by 25% between April 2020 and July 2021, according to a survey by Shopify and Tinder. Taking advantage of the localized nature of dating apps, compared to international networks on Instagram or TikTok, entrepreneurs are able to deploy small-scale advertising efforts to the audience most likely to frequent their storefront or fitness center. As the turbulent economy has turned hobbies into marketable personality traits, people are looking to other avenues for success financially, romantically, or both.
The shift from dating apps to career promotion isn’t all that surprising or new. Digital platforms often transform to include unintended uses beyond their original purpose. The Facebook Marketplace and Buy Nothing groups facilitate the exchange of goods locally; Instagram now offers a way to turn your life into a marketable commodity. Apparently in response to a deluge of daters seeking to network on apps, Bumble and Tinder have created career-focused hubs in Bumble Bizz and Tinder Explorer, which allows users to interact exclusively with other people who want to chat in the store. With entrepreneurs using dating apps to grow their businesses, the line between work and play is continually blurred.
While dating apps give small business owners the ability to advertise their services to a wide range of locals, some singles see the practice as misleading for daters who use the apps to find love. “If I’m on Tinder, I’m not looking for a weekly personal training session,” the 31-year-old explains. Rasika Thapa. “These are dates that are close to my heart and that create a connection.”
In Dubai, where she lives, personal trainers often promote their gyms on dating apps, Thapa says, which immediately results in a swipe to the left. If conversations with matches naturally turn to career topics, she doesn’t mind, but she tries to avoid anyone who seems to promote her professional work. It comes after she accidentally teamed up with one of these small business advertisers. “It was just store talk, no real conversion or interest in getting to know each other. [me],” she says.
Likewise, 31-year-old writer and filmmaker Daniel Hess has noticed more singles on dating apps near Baltimore, where he lives, not outright promoting their businesses, but rather encouraging the pursuit of dating. conversation on Instagram, which is only dedicated to their side. scramble or work, he said. After meeting a woman who worked in a salon who encouraged Hess to follow her on Instagram, he noticed that she was constantly posting about work and the conversation had fizzled out. Now he is trying to keep his dating app conversations only on the app or via text message. “I’m not really upset as much as I’m disappointed, really,” Hess said. “Some people that I meet and I feel like we could really rock or connect, but then it all becomes business stuff.” It’s depressing, he said.
On Tinder, using a date to promote a business is not a prohibited offense. It’s against Tinder terms and conditions, however, to include a link in a profile that navigates outside of the app, by a Tinder spokesperson. But, if a user connects their business Instagram account to their Tinder profile, it’s fair game.
According to Hinge and Bumble terms and conditions, users may not share content “relating to commercial activities”. According to a spokesperson for Bumble, business activities include links to Venmo, Paypal, CashApp, solicitation to join an MLM or “network marketing” group, links to OnlyFans, ManyVids, Patreon or any other platform where a transaction is required for participation, and solicitation of products or services of any kind. (Hinge did not respond to a request for comment.) While Melchiorre was not banned from Hinge for promoting Side Hustle Scoops, she was ultimately started from the app when she did. used to find podcast guests for work.
Abrielle Fox doesn’t mind being excluded from applications where she promotes her tattoo business. Despite being recently out of a relationship, the 23-year-old hasn’t created any Tinder and Hinge accounts to date, but to find more clients. One of his Hinge prompts reads, “Would you let me tattoo you?” “
In the few weeks she used the apps for business, Fox gained a few new clients – all of them men, though she slipped on both men and women – by tattooing them in her Winnipeg apartment. She finds that setting non-romantic boundaries with her matches, despite meeting on a dating site, is one of the biggest challenges. One client insisted on calling their session a date, she said. Some matches have gone so far as to qualify the practice as illegal and “morally reprehensible”. “I think dating apps should be for whatever you want them to be,” Fox says, “meet new people, make connections”.
But when capitalism and consumption filter through matters of the heart, these connection efforts can seem spurious. For someone who is genuinely interested in a game only to find out that they are being sold a serve, the already difficult act of dating can lose even more appeal.
Since Shreya, who asked not to share her last name, joined Bumble last March, the 26-year-old has seen singles near Pune, India, where she lives, promoting their dance classes, their fitness services and hair products; a guy advertising the latter texted Shreya asking her to write online reviews for hair products she had never used. She’s never been on a date with a self-promoter because she thinks mixing business with pleasure is a recipe for trouble.
“Please use the platform for the purpose for which it is designed,” said Shreya. “We don’t go looking for a date on LinkedIn. Don’t use a dating app to network.