In my side job as a Yenta I’ve been asked to review a fair number of OkCupid profiles (and 0 JDate profiles1). For that I’ve had to fall back on my skills as a product guy — and whereas my product advice for your SaaS startup is expensive (it’ll cost you a beer), my online dating expertise is free:
1. Do your market research
Find 2-5 profiles that you like, a few that you hate and a few that you’re writing your profile as a response to. I’m amazed at how many people write OKC profiles as a form of therapy (if your profile mentions an ex by name: stop, erase everything and start over).
It’s so easy to take a few moments to get a first approximation of:
- What are the common mistakes? It’s a lot easier to be critical of other people.
- What are the cliches that don’t help your message? I’m really not good at writing about myself, but I love to travel — message me if you think you can keep up!2
- What is your target audience looking for? In almost no other field do you get to design a product where there are literally thousands of potential customers telling you what they are looking for.
2. Take good pictures
What makes a good picture? Well, grab a person vaguely in your target demographic, it doesn’t have to be someone you want to date, to pick your best pictures and maybe take more. You should already have this person handy since they’ve already read and edited your ad.
You did have someone read your ad, right?
3. Have someone else read your ad
You’re a poor judge of what qualities are your best, what pictures show you in the best light and just hearing a person who isn’t you read your words out loud is a terrifying experience that will have you rewriting sentence after sentence.
Free tip: Friends don’t let friends wear fedoras in personal ads; if yours do, find better friends.
4. Pay or don’t pay, it doesn’t matter much.
It’s always interesting to see what axes products try to differentiate customers on; for instance, World of Warcraft is free to level 20, since if you’re not addicted to grinding, you aren’t a target customer
OkCupid has to walk a fine line, because they can’t give too much of a leg up to people who pay or the perceived quality of messages received by women will go down. And whatever your opinions on gender roles are: most people are straight and guys join dating sites to pursue women. If the women leave because your creepy vibe is too strong, your dating site stops working 3.
I assume Match.com will get around to improving OKC’s revenue model, but right now there isn’t a lot of difference between the paid and non-paid version that I can see.
- Browse profiles invisibly and still see who visited you.
- Get special match search options (attractiveness, body type)
- See who rated you highly – get a list of people who gave you 4+ stars.
- Message read receipts. That’s kind of cool but I don’t see how that’ll help you — if you start sending “I know you got my last message, why don’t you love me” messages, you need to stop internet and go outside.
- Kill the ads (yawn)
- Change your username (yawn)
- Photo timestamps (i.e. is this a current picture?) This was a brilliant idea as a paid feature4.
- Store up to 5,000 messages (up from 300)
As a rule, I’d pay the $10 or $15 a month for any service that I expected to spend hours a week using, and I assume you’re planing on investing some time in it 5
5. Invest some time in it
If your plan is to throw something out there and have the world beat a path to your door then you’re either not charging enough or you’re deluded.
- Iterate. Tweak your profile, and pay attention to the feedback you get. If someone says “hey, I like Zombieland too!6“, keep that part in.
- Hustle. Figure out your metric and track it. For a first pass, I’d suggest you track messages replied to.
- A/B test your messages. You’re going to be doing the contacting, test short vs long, witty vs sincere, specific to that person vs something generic.
6. Answer the shit out of the “easy” questions.
This may be specific to your target audience: in San Francisco, everyone is pretty gay positive, women on a dating site probably even moreso. So find all the LGBT questions and pick the most LGBT-accepting answer because a) it’s right and b) it increases your match percentages.
On the other hand don’t answer questions like “Are you a dog or cat person?”. You’re going to pick the wrong answer 50% of the time. Also, the answer to the teethbrushing question is yes.
- This may be because I’m not Jewish, but I happily hand out advice to people of all creeds ↩
- Cliches shamelessly stolen from the obligatory Reddit thread ↩
- I was talking to the owner of an adult (i.e. casual sex) dating site once, his business model was fascinating in that the company was structured as a custom web development shop (with only one client) so the developers could look their peers in the eye. Apart from the bots, prostitutes and cam-girls, there were literally no real women looking for male casual sex partners. The signup process as a straight woman was hilarious, you got tantalizing pictures and promises of loose women, the fiction that real women signed up looking for men didn’t extend to acknowledging the gender you signed up to look for. ↩
- I assume it goes off the EXIF, so if your best picture is from junior prom and you’re hellbent on using it, you might want to tweak the timestamp…or not. I’d assume that statistically you’re a straight male and statistically 0 straight females pay for OkCupid ↩
- It’s interesting to note that I saw different prices for the A-list version depending on whose account I was logged in as so if you’re cash poor it might be worth making multiple accounts to see if they a/b test prices. ↩
- And they do, it’s the best movie in the whole Zombie Romantic Comedy genre ↩