The Bumble Domino Affect: Bumble Wants To Change The Way We Network

Ruby Feneley
on 18 February 2019

What would it be like to watch your social media platform come to life? Women Love Tech contributor Ruby Feneley found out.

Celebrating female empowerment has always been at the heart of Bumble. And now Bumble’s team has hopes that freshly launched Biz and BFF platforms will take Bumble from the second-largest dating app in the world to the next hot social network.

International Marketing VP Louise Troen said the concept for Biz and BFF’s expansion was “user pattern-driven.”

“It’s difficult to decide where you’re going to be until you see what your users want to use you for,” Louise explained.

She said users who found romantic relationships on Bumble didn’t necessarily want to leave the app. Instead, they wanted to continue using the app to network and meet new people platonically.

Bumble is looking to capitalise on this pattern. They hope Bumble could be the next Facebook or Linkedin – just for people who haven’t met yet.

Valentine's Day at the Ivy with Bumble.
Valentine’s Day at the Ivy with Bumble.

The trouble with love is: Do women and men want different things from Bumble?

The party was advertised on the Bumble network as a “female-led event.” In fact, many women I spoke to were surprised to find men there at all, and few had come in hopes of finding a date.

Most were influencers at work, or women looking to make friends with Bumble BFF. We spoke to *Katie – a 27-year-old Account Manager from London. Katie had moved to Sydney only a week ago. She said she was using BFF because she needed “a strong group of girls.” Katie has a well-paid job in a male-dominated industry. She said it’s easy for her to meet men but challenging to meet women, particularly women who are actively looking to make new friends.

She said it’s easy for her to meet men but challenging to meet women, particularly women who are actively looking to make new friends.

As we spoke to Katie, numerous men approached us, causing awkward lags in the conversation. Two men, *Tim, a voice-over actor, and *Mark, a marketing manager, were exasperated when we said we were there for work and BFF respectively. Mark seemed particularly irritated by the number of unavailable women at what he had thought was a dating night. He said: “I’ve spoken to so many women tonight who are married, BFF doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like guys only bother using an app if we’re looking for love, or you know, a connection. All these women I’ve spoken to are like ‘yeah well my husbands at home’ – why aren’t they with their husband on Valentine’s day??” I suggested that some couples don’t care about Valentine’s Day to which he replied hopefully, “So you think they’d cheat?”

To Mark’s credit, he looked only mildly disappointed when I clarified that I meant they simply don’t celebrate it. He conceded the project was interesting from a marketing standpoint. And that despite his doubts, he appreciated the free booze and cheese board.

Another man, Tim, a lawyer, expressed similar skepticism and frustration. “I’m here for a dating party, all the girls here are either working or looking for friends, who can be bothered with that?”

I suppressed the retort “apparently all the women you’ve spoken to tonight.” Instead, I nodded and confessed that I was also at the event for work and in a relationship. Tim narrowed his eyes and quizzed me about the publication I was representing as if trying to catch me in a lie. Like Mark, he was also suspicious that I wasn’t with my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. When I explained that my boyfriend lives overseas currently, he emitted a short bark of laughter and said: “Well, that’s a good excuse.”

On Bumble, you can instigate a conversation with someone you’re interested in and simply delete them or stop replying if they fall short of expectations. The Domino Party had no such filter. Men hovered at the edges of groups,  passively waiting to be acknowledged or making loud interjections. I noticed the way that conversations reset as men joined us. We would stop talking about work, ex-boyfriends, and friends to interview the new male subject. Inevitably he would disappear once he realised nobody in the group was looking for romance.

Social Media Brought to Life

Ruby Feneley and Nicola Maglione at the Valentine’s Day Bumble Event.

In many ways, the Bumble Domino Effect Party felt like observing the dynamics of social IRL. Instagram models and influencers floated around posing for photos. By the end of the evening, the VIP section was full of models hunched over iPhones posting content, transformed from a decadent party space to a remote office for the spectacularly photogenic and well-dressed. Meanwhile, groups of nervous professional women mingled while men flittered from group to group like the app’s proverbial bees.

We checked back in with Katie before we left. She had paired up with *Lucy. Lucy was originally from Glasgow but has lived in Sydney for five years. She is aged 33 and works in advertising. Lucy said she’s open to dating but primarily looking to network and meet friends. We laughed at how irritated some of the men seem by the concept of BFF. Lucy added, “I like the idea of female-only business networking as well. Every time I go to networking events, I’m the only woman in the room. I spend the evening having guys with less experience than me speaking over me”. Katie nods emphatically, adding that it’s “hard to make networking worthwhile when you can’t make yourself seen or heard.”

I asked Katie if she felt she’d made friends. She said she’s definitely got “some good leads” and had exchanged numbers with several women. Most of them she said, were transplants like herself. We follow each other on Instagram and walk to the bus stop together. Katie opens her phone, “Oh my god” she rolls her eyes. “Just got a happy Valentine’s Day message from my ex-boyfriend” she sighs, “typical”.

The Bumble Valentines Day Phonebooth
Off-line: One of the many Insta-grammable props at the Bumble Valentine’s Day party.

Based on my Bumble-fied February 14th, it seems to me women are setting less and less store by the traditional romantic promise of Valentine’s Day. Most women at the event had left husbands and boyfriends at home, seizing the opportunity to expand their social networks. Many of the men and women I spoke with had recently arrived in Australia. I wondered if the global workplace we operate in has aided the normalisation of apps that have been historically stigmatised. No longer the remit of the socially awkward,  networking and dating apps have become necessities in the transition to a globalised workforce.

If there is anything to be learned from the popularity of Bumble’s BFF, it is that dating should feel friendlier. After all, why shouldn’t dating be as fun and friendly as meeting a new acquaintance?


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