Working in marketing, I often find it hard to turn off that part of my brain.
You know, the part that is hyper aware of being slightly manipulated...at every turn. Whether it's by brands, businesses or just people in general, from where I stand, marketing is happening all the time, everywhere. Without even knowing, I'm accusing everyone of trying to persuade me to do their bidding.
Yes, I'm fully admitting I'm a crazy-over-thinker. And maybe that's probably why this next statement won't surprise you: I've dabbled in some online dating.
Wait -- the crazy-over-thinker has trouble dating? Shocker.
But that is neither here nor there. This is not a girl meets boy story. This is about an epiphany I had as a former OKCupid user and a more recent Tinder experimenter: online dating is the perfect analogy for digital marketing. And crazy enough, through the seemingly vapid experience I had on Tinder, I realized that marketing (or meeting people) doesn't have to be complicated to work. In fact, it shouldn't be.
Pick Me! Pick Me!
A few years ago, I signed up for an OKCupid account. Before I knew it, I was all up in that head of mine trying to figure out how to position myself for a preconceived target market. In essence, I was copywriting and creating a persona for myself (like I had been for clients) in order to bait the type of guy I thought I wanted. I played up my wild adventures and played down my lazy Netflix binges. It truly felt like I was editing an ad about myself.
It would follow then that on the flipside, I would rifle through profiles and deconstruct every sentence and photo selection to find the same point of manipulation. What's your deal, cute beardface?
All of a sudden, all I could notice was that I was in an inauthentic world of human branding. I was swimming in a pool of Captain Adventurers and anti-hipster hipsters. Before I knew it, my online dating days were over before they even started.
Then along came Tinder.
The Tinder Difference
If you're not familiar with the Tinder app, here's the breakdown: Your profile includes up to five photos of your choosing, your first name, age and a tiny, optional tagline.
Tinder then locates other Tinder users in your defined area and starts tossing you matches. You can then begin the most superficial process of swiping right for "oooh, cute" and left for "no thanks!" If both Tinderites swipe right on each other, you can strike up a conversation in the app.
Even though I was still skeptical of meeting a nice guy on this app, at least I felt way less manipulated and manipulative than I did during my first go at technology-assisted dating...so merrily swiping I went.
You're So Vain
With every judgmental swipe, I realized something. Putting myself on Tinder was like saying: here is my face, do you like it? Yes or no? Cool. Here's where I made a connection to marketing. Most of the time, you only have a few seconds to catch someone's attention. It's slightly sad, but no less true.
We can say we've evolved until we're blue in the face, but we all know the first layer still matters. When marketing your brand, you want to show off your best angle through beautiful design and attention to detail. Just remember that you can't be all things to all people.
So don't take it personal.
Qualified Leads Make A Difference
Secondly, clear away the riff raff.
When I was on OKCupid, I was bombarded with unsolicited messages. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was because I was Miss All That and a Bag of Chips, but mostly because there was no real filtering system. It was an open field and traffic was high but quality was low. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Only being matched by a mutual intrigue (a right swipe) is like the difference between push and inbound marketing. It's an access agreement. A hundred pre-qualified leads are better than 500 randos.
Conversation is the Crux
So you have attention and access, now what?
Crickets or conversation. The choice is yours, but my advice for dating as well as marketing is: go for it. Break the ice. Be awesome. And try being genuine right from the start.
With the exploding use of social media, brands can converse directly with their customers. There will be good, bad and awkward moments and you will feel vulnerable at times. Conversation, however, is the only way to keep that initial spark burning.
Conversions & Call To Actions
Now that you've built a rapport and rhythm, are you ready to take the next step? Whoa, slow down there gutter brains. I'm just talking about going for a drink.
Once you've earned the trust of your audience, find something of value to offer them and see if they bite. Take it slow. It's easy to want to do the hard sell and seal the deal (OK, that innuendo was kind of intended) but if you're looking to build something lasting, make your CTA/intentions clear but try a few baby steps to continue cementing that trust.
Be Bold: Comfort Zone be Damned
Now, here is when we get to high five! Not because I've snagged a great catch and you're suddenly a marketing wizard. We're high-fiving because this is where the fun really begins. There is no resting on your laurels or getting complacent.
Get creative. Take chances. Be different. Be brave.
Play the long game when it comes to marketing (and dating) and treat your customers like special someones. It doesn't have to be complicated to work. Just keep it simple, honest and fun.
Oh, and cheers, Tinder! You've been a wealth of inspiration (and a few weirdos).
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Sometimes we embellish the truth, particularly when we want to impress a possible mate. But Laurie Davis from eFlirt warns us against exaggerating. "Overplaying your lifestyle will attract different matches who, ultimately, won't be the best fit for who you really are," she says. And cyber dating expert Julie Spira agrees, also noting there is a huge difference between fibbing about your height vs. your martial status. "Single is single, and divorced is divorced," she says.
One of OkCupid's features is a "Questions" section that allows users to reveal a few more facts about themselves. These factoids are then matched via an algorithm with other people who answered similarly. Questions can be answered publicly or privately, meaning your answers can be seen or hidden. But Spira thinks some questions are best left unanswered. She tells users to be careful with those that seem too political or sexual in nature because this data is all over the Internet: "You need to think every time you push the send button." She also says for public answers, you should "only pick the questions you would tell your mother [the answer to]."
Davis says her biggest online dating no-no is complacency. "If you're not utilizing all the functionality a site offers, you miss out on the experience. Rather than complaining that you're receiving messages from matches you'd rather not meet, search and message some on your own," she advises. While this is true of all online dating sites, Davis stresses the importance of reaching out on OkCupid. "[It's]one of the fastest-growing sites, which is an advantage, but make sure you're not being lost in someone's search results by being proactive on your own as well."
If you're thinking of putting up a profile pic from 2004 -- reconsider. "They are going to look you up on Google; they are going to look you up on Facebook," says Spira of potential dates. "I think it's really important to have recent profile pictures. You're thanked a lot for being recognizable and having truth in the advertising." So skip out on that glamour shot from the '90s. And men -- most of us agree that the muscle shot in front of the bathroom mirror is an automatic "skip."
Just like in real life, there are right and wrong ways to reject someone in the virtual world. "I don't believe in burning digital bridges," Spira says. "Why should you have to email someone and say, 'Hey you're not my type.' Dont say you're not my type -- you haven't met yet!" But if you really aren't attracted, Spira says just move on. Don't message them back, or simply thank them for the communication and wish them luck in their search.
OkCupid's popular free edition of its dating service comes with a few catches, one of which includes people knowing when you check into the site. While possible soulmates won't know how long you've been online, they can view the time you last logged on. "It can be very obsessive and dangerous to your emotional health," Spira says about online daters who get addicted to flipping through OkCupid. For example, what if you go on a great date only to realize that 30 minutes after you parted ways, your date accessed the site two more times that night? Spira reminds users to "take a deep breath and don't jump to a digital conclusion."
It's important to fill out OkCupid's "About" section to receive matches with similar interests. "Skimping on details will hurt you instead of help," Davis says. "The ultimate goal of your profile is to give someone a quick snapshot of your life. The more details you include, the more interactive your profile becomes, encouraging matches to message you because they enjoy the same activities." By adding a few facts about yourself, it's easier for possible dates to start conversation -- both virtually and in the real world.
Nobody wants to read on your profile that you've "tried this once before, but you're back one last time for more!" Forgo fishing for compliments or talking yourself down throughout OkCupid's "About" section, and let digital relationships run their course. Share information concisely and positively with people who match your interests ... unless you happen to be in the market for the desperate sort.
"There is no digital equivalent of the 3-day rule," Davis says, noting our connected society has pretty much destroyed the idea of an ideal timeframe for response. "Today, responding quick doesn't necessarily mean you're pining away in front of your laptop all night. The OkCupid app sends notifications in real time, allowing you to compose a response quickly and easily, even when you're on the go." Both Spira and Davis agree responding in a timely manner is usually the best method to snatching up the right guy or girl.
If you don't want to just hook up, and are looking for a little bit more in the relationship department, how do you present yourself? "What can seem sleazy to one person might be flirty to another. Make sure you stay on the right side of the gray line by keeping your intentions in check and acting according to what you're looking for," Davis says.
There are a few instances where your friends should be involved in the online dating process. First, Spira suggest you have a buddy proofread your profile for spelling errors and accuracy. When you finally find a match, make sure a friend has the lowdown on where you're going for the evening. Online meetups in public places are common, but it doesn't hurt to have a friend know you went to see the latest movie, or that you plan on being out for a certain amount of time.
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