Candidates from the Dutch political party Democrats 66 (D66) have been using Grindr as part of their local elections campaign in Amsterdam. It makes perfect sense, considering politicians are already all over social media, but the internet went wild for this story because Grindr is generally better known as a platform for sharing dick pics, not political policies.
I gave Jan-Bert Vroege, one of the D66 candidates using Grindr, a call to ask him why he took to the app to reach out to potential voters.
VICE: Hi Jan-Bert. Why did you decide to use Grindr as part of your campaign?
Jan-Bert Vroege: We have a small event coming up next Sunday about gay issues in one of the districts in Amsterdam, and a few members were wondering how we could get some attention for it. Then we came up with the idea to put it on Grindr so people could find out that way.
Were you already on Grindr?
Yeah, I already had a profile, so all I did was change my photo to a big logo of the D66 party and change the headline to "Let’s have a date on March 19."
Some people have said it’s a great way of attracting attention to our party, what with the election coming up. Others had lots of questions related to all sorts of issues—not just gay ones, but general things relevant to the people of Amsterdam, like lack of housing or problems with car parking. They started to ask questions, and it turned out to be a very good medium to communicate with the general public.
Have you been messaging specific people?
I don’t send messages out; I just reply when I receive one. It’s not just about getting your message out there; it’s more about listening to what people want to say to you.
How long have you been using as a promotional platform for the party?
We started on Monday night this week. The first night, everybody was asking me why I was on my phone the whole time, and by the end of the evening I'd received between 35 and 40 messages. I was thinking, Woah, what’s happening?! Every day I get between 30 to 50 messages from different people.
Are there any other political candidates using Grindr to attract voters?
Yes, we have six gay candidates all over the city, so everybody can contact them. There are two elections coming up—one for the neighborhood and one for the city council—so we want to reach out to everyone.
Why did you target the gay community specifically?
It’s not just gay issues we want to talk about; it’s all of them. We wanted to show that the D66 is a party who are into new technology. We wanted to show that we understand the gay community and that we're the party that has a long history of tackling these issues. We were the first party to work on gay marriage, and we’ve been working on equal right for gays over the past 25 to 30 years.
It’s a big issue for D66, and most of the gay community know where we stand on gay issues. People on Grindr aren't only gay; they’re citizens of Amsterdam, and they have the same problems as everyone else in the city. Most of them aren't even into the gay problems.
Since it's a dating app, I imagine you get some messages that traditional political campaigns wouldn't?
It’s mostly politics. People sending us messages to say that they like the campaign and that they’ll vote for us. But there are an awful lot of tourists in the city who use Grindr and don’t know who the D66 are. They don’t know about the elections, so they have other types of questions.
Yeah. So do you see this as a political technique that could become more popular? Will you carry on using it after the elections?
I don’t know. Maybe. It’s good to do it once. Somebody told me that we are the first in the world ever to do this. But imagine it in a few years: If everybody uses Grindr for political, marketing, or advertising reasons, it won't be as popular as it is now. Perhaps if another new piece of technology came along, then we’d use that.
We’re always finding new ways of communicating with people, but Grindr is the most popular at the moment.
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