Abby Israel held up her iPhone case and pointed out her favorite sticker, which reads “Make the first move,” the dating and networking app Bumble’s popular mantra.
“When they’re choosing ambassadors, they’re choosing all of us from different walks of life. Not all of us are in the same sorority or the same organization,” Israel said. “So, people are definitely able to hear about it. Even if they don’t know me, they definitely know someone who’s an ambassador.”
Israel is one of several students at Syracuse University who represent dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, organizing paid-for events and flexing free apparel around campus along with posting sponsored posts on Instagram.
In the second semester of her freshman year, Israel became a Bumble Honey ambassador as a way to meet people and become more involved after spending her first semester in Florence, Italy through the Discovery Program. The Georgia native said she first heard about Bumble Honey through her friends who attended colleges in southern states, where being an ambassador for dating apps is a big trend.
Israel grew up in a very Christian family and was nervous to tell her parents she had started working for Bumble because of the negative connotations associated with dating apps. She explained to them that Bumble goes far beyond just dating, she said.
Now, as a sophomore, she is entering her second semester as a Bumble Honey director, managing the other ambassadors on campus. The ambassadors have a monthly meeting to brainstorm events they could hold for students that would be sponsored by Bumble.
When Bumble was founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd, she was looking to create a feminist dating app in which women made the first move. The Bumble Honey program is guided by principles such as kindness and inclusivity, among others, a Bumble spokesperson said in an email.
“We are intentional about the college students who are a part of the ambassador program,” they wrote. “Becoming a Bumble Honey (ambassador) involves a meticulous application process so that we can ensure our field marketing representatives embody our mission and values.”
The dating app Tinder has also adopted the student-ambassador business model, but the students have a slightly different role. Tinder ambassadors on college campuses represent Tinder University, the sector of Tinder that works primarily to connect university students and helps to “kiss those crosstown rivalries goodbye,” according to their website.
Alivia Cioffi, an SU junior majoring in psych with a minor in addiction studies, said that Tinder reached out to her via Instagram this past fall. Tinder asked her to be an ambassador because of her public business Instagram profile and her substantial Instagram following, she said.
Cioffi’s first ambassador deal with Tinder U included eight Instagram posts — four in-grid posts and four Instagram stories. In total, she earned $500 for the eight posts and free merchandise, she said. She said ambassadors earn about $50 per Instagram post.
“I think in a generation that is so internet-based and social media-based, it’s such easy money, and people are just trying to figure out a way of how to gain money by living their daily lives,” she said.
When Cioffi started working with Tinder, she was sent guidelines for what was acceptable content to post. Some of these restrictions included no alcohol or nicotine in photos associated with Tinder U, she said. Additionally, before posting she is required to send the image and the caption to a supervisor for approval.
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All of the posts had to include #Tinder_ambassador and #TinderU and could not include any references to “swiping.”
Leah Gibson, a junior studying communication sciences and disorders, had never used Tinder before she became an ambassador last spring. She had to make an account to put in her Instagram biography while she was an ambassador, but that was her only experience with the app, even though she was promoting it.
“My mom was kind of like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and a lot of my family that’s older follows me so they were probably just like ‘What is this?’ and would associate it with the bad parts of Tinder,” said Gibson, who stopped being an ambassador after last spring.
Joseph Fanelli is a retired teacher in the David B. Falk School of Sport and Human Dynamics School at SU but has remained on campus to teach the class “Love, Lust & Relationships.” He is also a licensed marriage and family counselor. Fanelli sees the ambassador programs created by Tinder and Bumble as a way for these apps to market a new dating experience that appeals to a certain geographic location and age group, he said.
When scrolling through the #Tinder_ambassador page on Instagram, Cioffi and Gibson both noticed that there were no male Tinder promoters. Fanelli said that this is probably due to the notion that women are “safer” than men because men have a connotation of hookup culture.
This isn’t to say that these apps are only used by people who are looking for hookups, Fanelli said. Through his classes, he has seen that the majority of college students are looking for a romantic relationship, not a hookup.
“If you’re just looking to hookup, that to me is a totally different phenomenon, and I don’t know that apps want that reputation,” he said.
Bumble has three different divisions: Bumble Date, Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF. Bumble Date is a dating service in which women have the power to start relationships. Bumble Bizz offers career networking, and Bumble BFF is meant to help people create new friendships.
Israel couldn’t share how much Bumble Honey ambassadors get paid, but she added they all have a base salary, with hers being slightly higher because she’s a director. They are all required to complete tasks such as posting once a month on Instagram and helping market Bumble around campus.
Professor Fanelli said that these ambassador programs are not a “bad thing,” as they embrace the way that social media and technology are changing the dating experience as a whole.
Beyond its commitment to connect people, Bumble has also made strides to diversify the ambassadors that it recruits. According to an email from a Bumble spokesperson, the company works to create a safe space for people of all different racial, sexual and ethnic identities and backgrounds.
Looking back, Israel was drawn to work for Bumble because of how intersectional the company is and how well they represent people of color and minorities, she said.
“I think it’s genuinely reaching out to different communities and spreading the message of Bumble,” Israel said. “And not that it’s just a dating app — it’s a networking app, and you can meet people, you can meet your best friends, or your boyfriend or your future boss.”
Published on February 13, 2020 at 12:06 am
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