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According to market research, 1 out of 6 marriages that are happening in the US right now originated online, and these days nearly 30% of couples meet on the internet. But, as great as those stats sound, online dating is also utterly time consuming and competitive.
The authors of “Freakonomics” discovered that 56% of men that create an online dating profile do not even get one single message while Jupiter Research found that 97% quit within 3 months.
Scott Valdez, Founder and President of Virtual Dating Assistants (ViDA VirtualDatingAssistants.com) advises that informed decisions yield better results. ViDA is an online dating management agency that uses data — both internal and external — to ensure efficient use of online dating sites for its clients. Internally, the company tracks 19+ variables related to every first message they send out on behalf of their clients. They also measure the effectiveness of different profile elements.
Externally, they pay attention to discoveries by others key players within the market, especially OkCupid. OkCupid, an online dating site with over 3.5 million active users, taps into the massive stats that are collected in its server. On its blog OkTrends, which has attracted over 1 million unique visitors, the site makes intriguing observations about user behaviour. Most people tend to rely on their gut and past experiences to guide them in their quest for love. But, if you’re one of those people, considering the following data-driven dating tips may help to maximise your success online:
It Usually Pays to Pay: Virtual Dating Assistants found that each message they sent on a pay site (i.e. Match.com) was two times as likely to result in a date as a free site (i.e. Plenty of Fish). Scott Valdez suggests, “It makes sense that people who are dropping $20-60 per month for memberships are more serious about arranging a date offline.” He did recognise that there are some bad paid sites out there too (do your research before you open your wallet), and OkCupid is becoming a highly effective free site that can compete with high-quality paid sites like Match.com in terms of the overall site and selection quality.
Avoid Flash: According to data analysis by OkCupid, flash adds 7 years to your age. So a 37-year-old using flash has the same attractiveness level to the opposite sex as a 30 year old that does not use flash.
Men, Smiles are Out of Style: OkCupid discovered that men who look away from the camera and don’t smile have a much higher chance of getting a response than those who look directly into the camera. OkCupid CEO, Sam Yagan, guesses the reason that guys who look at the camera get less messages than those who don’t is because it’s intimidating to women. Valdez says this could be the case but believes it may also have to do with the fact that a typical “customer service photo” pose makes you look like you care too much and are seeking approval. “By not looking,” he said, “you appear stronger and more challenging while simultaneously building aura and mystique.”
Women, Smiles are In Style: It’s more inviting, and the data shows it will get you better results.
Per Usual – If You’ve Got It, Flaunt it!: Women in their early 20s who use photos that show cleavage get around 24% more responses, according to OkCupid. Surprise, surprise. But what’s more interesting is that that number jumps to 79% by age 32. Similarly, men who show their abs also do better, but it would make sense that only men with nice abs are showing them off online. Scott Valdez recommends that men only give women a glimpse of their six-pack if they do it in a way that doesn’t make them look like they’re deliberately showing them off… For example, you could be diving into a pool or jumping in the air to spike a volleyball.
Let Your Target Market Determine Your Best Photos: Choosing the photos to use can be really tough but last year OkCupid released a user-driven web app called MyBestFace that will help you to quickly narrow in on the keepers and eliminate the duds. The app allows you to upload photos for the other members to vote on. You can then use their input to select your ‘primary photo’ and two to six additional shots. Think of it as rapid market research for one of the most important elements of your campaign. As Scott Valdez puts it, “Online, you’re only as good as your worst photo.”
Focus on the Most Active Users: According to Scott Valdez at ViDA, if you email someone who was last active one to three weeks ago then your response rate will be 60% lower than if you message one that’s ‘online now’. And good luck getting responses from those who haven’t accessed their profile in more than three weeks; here your response rate plummets to almost 0%.
Tailor Your Approach to Your Audience: Data collected by Virtual Dating Assistants revealed that while women of all ages respond well to humour, women in their early 30s and above responded well to longer, more thoughtful emails that expressed genuine interest. Women in their 20s rejected these more serious emails, preferring even some slight cockiness – or what some dating coaches call the “Cocky & Funny” approach. In fact, one particular email that is long (over 150 words), expresses interest, draws commonalities (it’s always customised), demonstrates humour as well as a sense of ambition and adventure received a 9.7% response rate from women in their 20s, a 20.5% response rate from 30-somethings, and a 50.3% from women 40 and above. This email, according to Scott, was sent to over a thousand women of different ages, so it’s pretty clear, based on these numbers alone, that a one-size-fits-all approach to online dating is a bad one.
Increase Your Visibility by Keeping Your Content Fresh: Virtual Dating Assistants realised that there was a correlation between updating client profiles and receiving unsolicited winks and emails. They discovered that when you make a minor update to a profile that is then sent to review by a site moderator then you are moved to the top of some of the sites’ search engines. Think of it as the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of online dating. On Match.com, the default search ordering is called “Original Order,” which has no real meaning in and of itself. “Basically, they’ve got an algorithm,” Scott revealed, “that puts some serious weight on the freshness of the profile content.” ViDA’s clients received four times as many “winks” when they started doing daily profile updates. And according to Valdez, building traffic to your profile is key… Messages sent to people who had simply viewed a client’s profile were just over 80% more likely to elicit a reply.
Running regressions and analyses to determine how to increase your “hits” may appear to strip the romance out of digital dating. However, taking into account data-based conclusions may enhance your chances. You roll the dice.