Elite dating app Inner Circle on why influencer marketing doesn’t work

Inner Circle is trying to gain a foothold in a very saturated market and says low online attention span means word-of-mouth is its go-to marketing method.

You might not have used elite dating app Inner Circle but you will almost certainly have heard of it. The company made headlines when it launched in the UK in 2015 over the selectiveness of its app.

It claims to connect only the “most attractive and inspiring singles” and has very strict criteria for who it will let in.

The singles out there are probably shouting ‘sign me up!’ to themselves as they trudge home from yet another bad date because it picks users based on their education, network, social background and, to a certain extent, appearance.

However this approach has also seen the company come under a lot of criticism for being elitist.

This reputation is something the app’s co-founder Michael Krayenhoff is quick to defend as he says appearance is based on pictures being “appropriate” not elitist. However, he admits the app’s selection process is “not flawless” and that he sometimes gets involved with the final approval.

“We don’t see it as exclusive. It aims to create a community of like-minded people and to make it easier for them to meet people,” he tells Marketing Week.

While the strategy might have its detractors, targeting such a specific group gives Inner Circle a clear USP in an already saturated market. Krayenhoff claims Inner Circle is something of a first mover in terms of dating apps, launching in the US two months before Tinder in 2012, and that it has a unique marketing strategy in a competitive space.

That strategy focuses on “quality instead of quantity”, meaning Inner Circle looks to stand out by tailoring its products to the way its users would want to meet people, rather than other apps that focus on the mass market.

This has also influenced its digital marketing strategy. Krayenhoff admits that having such a niche, albeit growing, audience has meant it has been difficult to reach them online. It now has 400,000 members worldwide but says most of them have signed up because they’ve heard good things from friends.

“The attention span isn’t as great online, so we get new members more through word-of-mouth. Friends talking to friends and inviting them to the app through LinkedIn or Facebook, he explains.”

Krayenhoff puts this down to the fact people are secretive with their love life and don’t necessarily want to engage on Instagram. The company is also careful with how it pushes out its “success” stories, including Inner Circle babies and marriages.

We thought we would have significant impact in terms of sign-ups through influencer marketing but we haven’t seen evidence of this yet.

Michael Krayenhoff, Inner Circle

“3,000 people have let us know they have found the one through the app and we have a baby wall in our Amsterdam office to celebrate this. But we are conscious of people’s privacy and the private nature of the app,” he explains.

“We have some well-known success stories with celebrities but we like to keep love lives private, this adds to the appeal of the app. We have never posted any of the wedding pictures sent to us either.”

A focus on privacy has also affected the company’s use of influencer marketing, with Krayenhoff saying it has not had as big an impact as the company thought it would, although it is continuing to test this by approaching “bigger influencers”.

“We thought we would have significant impact in terms of sign-ups but we haven’t seen evidence of this yet. People want to keep their dating life separate to other parts of their life.”

Where the company will push success stories is through women’s magazines, with people that are happy to talk about them. However, Krayenhoff says this doesn’t work that well for men who are “more practical” and want more information on how they can change their love lives through dating and sex columns.

The company also uses the data it collates through LinkedIn and Facebook to increase sign-ups, by building character profiles and finding out where its users hang out, went to university and go on holiday. This has helped the company to plan its events, including its annual Summer Polo, global networking events and its annual ski trip to Austria.

“We find pull and engagement from events is strong and word-of-mouth is a key factor for us,” Krayenhoff says.

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