Friday, July 27, 2012

A Data Driven Strategy for Online Dating Sites

Given the popularity of my prior blog on eHarmony strategic advantage, I thought I'd delve back into the mining of dating site information. While this topic continues to appear in behavioral economics books (for example Dan Ariely's Upside of Irrationality), it seems that factual information becomes more rare as insights are monetized. This is no where more obvious than in's 2011 purchase of OKCupid, which was regularly posting data driven insights publicly (many of which are cited below). 

Academic Research on Dating Site Interaction
First I'll provide a collection of dating site facts from a wide array of sources, followed by excerpts from OKCupid's OKTrends blog (which has the richest insights by far).
Dating Research from OkCupid: "Exactly What to say in a First Message"
  1. Be literate. (Using the words 'ur' 'u' 'wont' 'cant' 'realy' 'luv' 'wat' drastically reduces responses.)
  2. Avoid physical compliments. (Using the words 'sexy' 'beautiful' 'hot' 'cutie' reduce responses.)
  3. Use an unusual greeting. (Using 'hi' 'hey' 'hello' reduce response rates.
  4. Bring up specific interests. (Words that indicate interest in the other's interest increase response rates.)
  5. If you're a guy, be self effacing. (Using 'sorry' 'apologize' 'awkward' all increase response rates.)
  6. Consider becoming an athiest. (Using the word 'athiest' increase response rates but the word 'God' decreases it.)
Dating Research from OkCupid: Profile Pictures
  • Women with flirtatious faces in pictures get the most responses, but smiling pictures get nearly as many responses. Women get substantially more responses when pictures make eye contact with the camera.
  • Men get the most responses when their pictures are looking away from the camera and aren't smiling.
  • Women taking pictures from over their head using a camera (the "MySpace angle") get twice as many responses as from any other picture type.
  • Men get 50% more responses for pictures with animals, pictures without their shirt on (if in shape), or doing something interesting. Note: Pictures with shirts off decrease in efficacy between 19-30, with little affect on response rates at ages over 30.
  • Women showing cleavage see 24%-80% more responses, with the greater response rates occurring at higher ages.
  • Better responses (i.e. leading to extended communication) occur when pictures contain animals, involve the subject doing something interesting, or are travel photos.

Dating Research from OkCupid: Don't Be Ugly By Accident!
  • Using a flash makes the subject look 7 years older.
  • People are most attracted to photos taken shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset (probably because the yellow light is the best illumnination).
  • The Panasonic Micro 4/3 S takes the best photos (as judged by people rating photos).

Facebook's will become a paid Dating Site. It would be an elegant application of their data, their stock price is falling as they look for new revenue streams, and they hired Dr. Andrew Fiore 10 months ago (who's been researching online dating behavior for a decade). Plus, an Economist article pegged dating industry revenues at $3-4 billion dollars.

"How Can Anyone Use This Information" you ask? Here are my suggestions:

  • If you're male, add two inches to your height and 20% to your income. If you're female indicate a more favorable body type and reduce your claimed weight by 8.5 lbs.
  • Buy a Panasonic Micro 4/3 S camera and use it for all of your profile shots.
  • Deliberately get photographs in yellow light (dawn or dusk).
  • Never use flash in your photographs.
  • If you're male, post profile shots where you're not looking at the camera, with pets, and/or doing something interesting. If female, make eye contact with the camera, flirt with the camera and use the 'mySpace shot'.
  • Men should never wear extra clothes in pictures, and women should wear revealing clothing.
  • Grammar check and spell check your communications (I wonder why the sites don't do this for you?
  • Never compliment physical characteristics in communication.
  • Use 'how's it going?' as a greeting.


"Love, Lies and What They Learned." By Stephanie Rosenbloom.
The New York Times. November 12, 2011

"Will Facebook Kill Online Dating Sites' Girl?" By Belinda Luscombe. Time magazine. January 3, 2011.

Online Dating: Love at first bite." The Economist. December 29, 2010.

"Dating Research From OkCupid; Exactly What To Say In A First Communication." By Christian Rudder. September 19, 2009.

"Dating Research From OkCupid; The 4 Big Myths Of Profile Pictures." By Christian Rudder. January 20th, 2010.

"Dating Research From OkCupid Don't Be Ugly By Accident!" By Christian Rudder. August 10th, 2010.