It’s that time again on Soup du Journalism… we’re back on everyone’s favourite topic, online dating! This time, however, we’re not scrutinising any websites (though watch this space as I have a special one up my sleeve). I’ve been speaking to the people behind some of the biggest online dating sites to find out what you should be doing for a better success rate when you look for love on the internet.
A picture speaks a thousand words
For most people, the very first thing they’ll look at on a dating profile is the profile picture. “You want a variety of different images to show off the all encompassing you,” says Shannon Smith from Plenty of Fish, “not just the same head tilt shot from the same night out at the bar.” BeautifulPeople founder Greg Hodge, who I previously interviewed, stayed true to form, and said that pictures were, of course, the most important aspect of a dating profile. “Beyond all else the most important aspect of people’s dating profiles is the picture.” However, BeautifulPeople comes with an additional caveat: “Unlike all other dating sites, everyone on BeautifulPeople is attractive – no sifting through riff raff, no annoying mails from the aesthetically challenged.” BeautifulPeople’s verification system means that each member is manually checked to make sure they look the way they do in their application photo, a fairly unique concept in the online dating world. Match.com says that providing inaccurate photos is one of the biggest mistakes daters make, trying to trick potential dates with old photos and deceptively flattering poses. “A good guideline would be a picture of you wearing the sort of thing you would choose to wear on a first date.”
… but the words should speak a thousand words too
By that I’m not saying you should be literally writing a thousand words. Nobody will read it and it’s a bit self-obsessed. A couple of paragraphs should suffice. One of the cardinal sins made on dating profiles, says Shannon, is an abundance of negative statements. “Instead of “don’t message me unless you have a job”, why not opt for something like, “looking for someone who is ambitious and driven”. Greg describes the profile description as a ‘sales pitch’, saying that “online daters are selling themselves. If they want to be successful they need to advertise themselves successfully!” All three of my dating website gurus agree firmly on one point, though: don’t lie. Greg gives us some wise words on the topic: “Truth-slaying trolls do not last long on serious dating communities.” Shannon agrees with this, saying that two of the most important things to be on a dating site are ‘honest and upbeat’. However, there’s honest and there’s TOO honest. Match.com advise that you avoid handing over too much information on your public profile, such as ‘relationship history, negative thoughts and [being] too specific in what [you’re] looking for’.
How do I get more dates?
So you’ve written a witty, charming profile description and you’ve chosen your recent, representative photos. Your profile is all set up and ready to go… but your inbox remains empty. Why? “Online, you have the opportunity to talk to lots of people,” say Match.com, “and therefore cast a wider net and narrow down to who you think you’d most like to meet.” The idea here is to be proactive. Don’t expect messages to come to you. Shannon recommends starting conversations about mutual interests. “The more someone thinks they have things in common with you, the more they can visualize spending time with you, the more they’ll be enticed to send you a message.” This means no tedious ‘Hi, how are you?’ messages. Show you’ve read the other person’s profile and have something to say about it. “Users should be articulate, humorous, disarming and sincere,” says Greg. The point about being articulate is particularly important – as Match.com point out, you don’t have the benefit of body language and actions to get your point across, so you need to rely on your linguistic ability to charm potential dates. “Online, your first impression is through your words, so it’s important that you pay careful attention to your spelling and grammar.” Don’t get hung up on it if grammar isn’t your forte, but at the very least, think about what you say. Tailor each message to the individual, and don’t send a reply in haste.
If you’re thinking about signing up…
“First-time online daters need to approach the whole thing with an open mind, and try not to feel intimidated!” says Shannon. “Our matching algorithm also removes users we’re confident you won’t date. For example, if you say you will never date a smoker, we won’t show you any!” Plenty of Fish works by matching users based on their preferences and interests, so if you want to find someone compatible in terms of hobbies and values, join the site’s 55 million users to find out if the love of your life is waiting for you online. If, however, you’re thinking more about what your partner is going to look like, and you’re happy to undergo the rating process yourself to gain access to the site, BeautifulPeople is the site for you. “When using online dating sites the first thing any potential love interest looks at is the picture,” says Greg. “BeautifulPeople.com has been successful because it embraced this fact.” The thing to remember here is that it’s all about the photo. Users voting on whether or not you’re allowed membership will barely glance at the minimal profile information available, instead focusing on your choice of profile picture, so choose extremely wisely, but don’t try to cheat the system as the authentication process will catch you out. The Match approach is to be thoughtful and take advantage of the online environment. “Offline, you would have to answer questions instantly, and you may not come across how you want to. Online, you have more time to consider your response to questions, so you should use this opportunity to put real thought into what you’d like to say and how you’d like to be perceived.”
And this, really, is the most important thing to remember: you should present yourself in the best possible light. As Greg says, it’s a sales pitch. You’re advertising yourself. Leave out the bad points, don’t over exaggerate or lie, and be smart with your photo. Make it friendly, approachable and above all, real.