Inside Facebook’s Dating Experiment in Colombia – Erika Ramos signed up when Facebook announced that it would launch a dating service in Colombia in September.
She was tired of some men on Tinder making sexual advances and the app constantly asking her to upgrade to its premium services, Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold. She was single, 35, and lived in Bogotá.
So she built a Facebook Dating profile and became an early adopter of a service that is now being rolled out in other countries and can change online dating given Facebook’s large user base.
“I like it,” she said, noting that it is accessible through the Facebook app on her phone. “I get the feeling people to spend more time on it than on Tinder, simply because they’re on Facebook anyway and rarely use the dating site, while Tinder needs you to open a separate app.”
She went on to say that, although she was in touch with two or three guys, she had yet to go on a date. “It has a little bit of everything on it. “I have friends who use it for hookups, but you can also use it for friendship or longer-term relationships,” she said.
Some people were perplexed by Facebook’s decision to launch its dating service in Colombia. Internet usage and cell phone possession were lower in the Philippines than in North America or Western Europe.
However, with a relatively young population of nearly 50 million people and several large urban centers — Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, and Barranquilla all have populations of more than one million people — Colombia was large enough to be a strong testing ground but not so large that it would cause a stir if the service failed.
According to the company, Facebook Dating is “a dedicated space inside the Facebook app.” It is distinct from your main profile and news stream, so your dating background is kept secret from your peers, who are also excluded as possible matches.
At first glance, it seems to be similar to other dating systems. Users create profiles, upload images, and write about themselves. They specify an age range and a travel distance for the people they want to meet. It is possible to choose between people who have children and those who do not.
Instead of swiping left or right, users can show a profile by tapping on a profile picture and then selecting “pass” or “interested.” Tapping on “interested” forces a user to leave a greeting, even if it’s just a short “hola!” before proceeding to view other profiles.
Facebook has stated that it aims to move away from the simple “yes/no” model to provide more thoughtful service users. The app recommends dates based on your Facebook behavior and interests, but users can also find a match via Facebook Events and Groups.
For example, suppose Erika signs up for a salsa concert on Facebook Events. In that case, she can then toggle the event on Facebook Dating, which will connect her with other people attending the same event.
Facebook is staying quiet about how many people are using the service three months after it launched. Still, it stated it got “many valuable reviews” when it rolled it out in Canada and Thailand in November.
According to a spokesperson, “people there are highly social and tech-savvy, with more than 24 million people in Canada and more than 51 million people in Thailand on Facebook every month.”
It strengthened the service as it grew into its second and third countries. There is also a “Second Look” feature that encourages users to re-evaluate individuals they previously declined, as well as a “Pause” option that momentarily prevents dating recommendations without deleting a profile entirely.
Facebook’s launch in Canada enters an online dating industry that has expanded at a rate of 5% per year over the past five years and is projected to produce $142 million in revenue this year.
This rise was due to “fading social stigmas” and increased cell phone use, according to IbisWorld, a market research firm that specializes in the North American dating industry. It claimed that “using the internet and matchmaking services is no longer taboo.”
A quarter of Canadians have pursued online dating, according to Eharmony, which has a 15% market share in Canada.
Match Group’s stock has fallen by around a fifth after Facebook announced it would launch in Canada. Match Group owns OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, and Tinder and has a 31% market share in Canada.
According to observers, the greatest obstacle to the service’s growth is Facebook’s confidence issues, which have arisen as a result of a series of complaints regarding the company’s use of the data it gathers.
However, for users like Erika, love triumphs above everything, including questions about online privacy.
“Of course, you must exercise caution. There are a lot of mad people out there, and Colombians aren’t known for trusting one another,” she said. “However, this is true of all ways of dating, not just Facebook dating.”