If you’re single and looking to meet that special someone, technology could be your greatest ally. Online dating sites may be the source of your next romance, maybe even in time for Valentine’s Day!
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with Julie Spira, the Cyber-Dating Expert, to find out her secrets to successful online dating. Spira is the:
- Publisher and Editor-in-Chief at Cyber-Dating Expert
- Author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online
- Online Dating expert at datingadvice.com
She also runs a website about couples who met on Facebook called Facebook Love Stories.
About Online Dating
Online dating can be an exciting and effective way to connect. “We’ve never had so many tools to meet so many new people that didn’t exist 10 years ago.” Spira points out that when your friends are no longer fixing you up and you don’t want to be single anymore, online dating can be a very attractive option to meet new people.
Spira has been involved in the online dating world for over twenty years and has seen the industry shed its stigma to become widely accepted as an efficient way to meet people with similar interests. “The stigma started to dissipate three years ago, coinciding with people embracing mobile apps and Facebook. Because so many singles were logging on to their Facebook accounts so frequently, they were spending more time online in general which made it more comfortable for them to join an online dating site.”
As much as people are connecting online through social media sites such as Facebook, Spira says that the online dating sites are where people are finding romance. “If people are really serious about meeting someone, they’re going to join a dating site.”
Many people are choosing to join two online dating sites, both a free site and a paid site. “Match.com did a recent study that showed that online dating was the number one way that people meet, even more popular than through friends or in bars. It’s a lot more cost-effective than $50 dates or going out to a different bar every night hoping you might get lucky,” said Spira.
Niche vs. General Dating Sites
Online dating sites have expanded from the general dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony into niche dating sites such as ChristianMingle, JDate, and Farmers Only. “Because it’s so hard for new companies to compete with an eHarmony or Match.com, the easiest way to create an online dating site now is to create a niche site.”
There are plenty of niche dating sites for those who want to target a group with a certain interest. Spira gave examples of these niche dating sites:
- Stache Passions, a free dating site for those with a passion for mustaches
- Veggie Date, if you want to date a vegetarian
- Trekkie Dating, for Star Trek fans
- Geek2Geek, for geeks to connect
- Women Behind Bars, if you want to date an inmate
“They may make you giggle but they really work for some people. At the end of the day they don’t have as many members as the large, general dating sites, but they’re flavorful. I always say, ‘There are 64 colors of crayons in the Crayola crayon box and there’s certainly a dating site for everyone,'” said Spira.
Secrets to Online Dating Success
In many ways, the secrets to online dating success are new to the genre. Learning about a person online is very different from meeting them in person. Spira has lots of helpful tips to increase your chances of successfully meeting someone special online.
Make Your Facebook Page Datable
Spira strongly suggests setting your relationship status as “Single” on Facebook if you’re looking for a relationship. “Advertise it! It’s like free advertising to say, ‘I’m available for a date. If you think I’m cute then connect with me on Chat.’ If you have no relationship status listed on Facebook, change it immediately to ‘Single.'”
Spira points out that you never know who might have a silent crush on you but didn’t think you were available. By doing something as simple as changing your Facebook status to Single, you might be opening the door to a new relationship.
See Spira’s article: 7 Ways to Make Your Facebook Page Dateable.
Make the Most of Your Online Dating Site Profile Pictures
Spira shared lots of advice for people who want to create profiles for online dating sites. Choosing which profile pictures to use becomes very important. She suggests using three to five pictures on your profile.
— Use a close-up photo with a smile
Your primary profile photo should be a close-up of your smiling face. “They want to see what you look like, they want to look into your eyes and imagine giving you that first kiss.” Spira advises against wearing sunglasses in your photos because you look like you have something to hide.
— Don’t wear your Little Black Dress/Wear Red
Spira advises keeping your favorite Little Black Dress in your closet for your profile picture. “When a guy is scanning through 500 thumbnail photos of women in his target demographic and his location, he sees black dress after black dress after black dress. Then he sees that smiling face with a red top on. Boom! She gets all the hits.”
Red and hot pink are Spira’s two favorite colors for profile pictures. “There have been studies that have shown that women who wear red actually get more hits and women who wear red on first dates get more money spent on them.” Spira attributes this to two factors: men being visual and red being the color of romance.
— Full Length Body Shot
In addition to using a close-up photo, you should add a full length body shot to your profile. Spira says not to worry if you’re not model-thin and points out that many men prefer women with more meat on their bones. She says the full length body shot is the time when you should pull your Little Black Dress out of the closet if you want to appear thinner.
“A man will automatically think that you’re hiding something and you’re significantly overweight if you don’t post a full length body shot. Truth in advertising: you are who you are.” Spira says that when comparing profiles, men will choose the woman with the body shot, even if it isn’t the ideal body, over one who doesn’t include that photo in her profile.
— Include an activity shot
Your profile should include a photo of you doing an activity you enjoy. This helps show your personality and helps a guy envision what you two will be doing on your dates, Spira reasons. If you enjoy golf, use a photo of yourself on a golf course. Spira points out that some guys are on dating sites because they were divorced by women who didn’t relish being “golf widows.”
— Use “Yoga” in your profile (if you do yoga)
Spira says lots of guys look for women who do yoga because they will be in better shape. She recently advised a client who was a yoga fan to add “yoga” to her profile and she got many more hits after that keyword was added.
— Don’t use a group shot
Spira advises against having other people in photos on your profile. You can give the appearance of being too into partying, plus potential dates have to figure out which person in the picture is you.
Getting Started with Online Dating
Spira suggests reaching out to five to ten people a day with the hope that one or two will write back to you — you may get three dates a week with three different people. “The more you date the better a dater you become. If you put all of your eggs in one basket you may come away empty-handed. Eventually, in time, one person is going to rise to the top and you may want to date him exclusively.”
Be careful, don’t become a serial dater who always expects the next person to be smarter, wealthier, more attractive, etc. advises Spira. “Sometimes, if you have a really great date with someone, be happy and just look forward to the next date.”
Be a Cyber-Sleuth
Spira recommends looking at a person’s other social media accounts to find out more about them. Check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts. Spira explained, “I know a woman who checks out a guy’s Instagram account to see what kinds of photos he posts before she accepts a date. If he’s a foodie, that’s great, he posts pictures of food. But if he has his arm around a different girl in every Instagram shot or on his Facebook page, she’ll think he’s a player. It might be his ‘kissing cousin’ but she’ll think he’s a player and pass on that date.”
Social media sites can also give clues about the photos people use on their online dating profiles. Some people use photos that are out of date or touched up enough to be unrecognizable. Spira says it’s important to check that the photos on the dating site match the photos on other social media sites. “Someone who looks too good to be true may be using a stock photo of a model. That’s such a red flag but people still get sucked in because they want to meet a good-looking guy.”
You can also see whether you have friends in common with that person. “Women want to feel safe and if they see that you have a friend in common on Facebook then they can check out that guy.”
Spiro advises that by checking someone out you can decide whether you are willing to date that person. If so, you can initiate contact. If not, just move on to someone else.
Don’t Seem Like a Cyber-Stalker
Although Spira recommends checking out social media profiles, she also suggests not revealing the information you learned from being a cyber-sleuth.
“I tell people not to ‘kiss and tell’ and not to search and tell. There’s nothing worse than going on a first date with someone and have the guy say to you, ‘Hey, I Googled you and then I went to your Facebook page and I saw you in that hot red dress, who was the guy in that photo?'” People can get defensive if you share the fruits of your online research, Spira advises.
What to Expect with Online Dating
After you’ve connected with someone via an online dating site you should generally have 2-3 emails and then a phone call to chat. Spira considers this phone call a pre-date where people can talk and get to know each other better. If the conversation is forced or awkward then you won’t have to spend an entire evening figuring out that you’re not compatible. If the conversation flows easily then you’ll feel more comfortable moving on to a real date.
“Any phone chemistry is good. It doesn’t have to be off the charts. You just want to know that you can have a conversation with someone.” Spira suggests that the phone pre-date last only 20 minutes and at the end people should set up a real date.
Spira advises against using Skype with someone before the initial date, “Meet in person first. No one looks better on Skype.” After you start dating, then Skype can be a very useful tool to keep in touch.
Meet in a Public Place
Spira says that the most important thing with online dating is that people feel safe. She suggests that people meet each other in a public place for lunch or after work for drinks, not late at night. She advises against drinking a lot of alcohol so you can keep your wits about you and so your judgment doesn’t become blurred.
Consider People Outside Your Geographic Region
Most people start out wanting to date someone local but if that doesn’t work, people soon want to broaden their horizons. People don’t intend to begin long distance relationships, but Spira says that’s often what happens.
She points out that most people would be willing to move for the love of their life. “In online dating it’s easy to cast a wide net. If someone would say to you, ‘You’re going to be single for the next five years if you only want to date within five miles of your geographic area. Or a year from now you are going to meet the love of your life: one of you is going to have to move but you are going to have the most extraordinary relationship with your best friend and soul mate who lives 3000 miles away.’ What would you do?” She points out that most people would choose the latter.
As the Online Relationship Progresses
The fact that a couple started dating online can have implications as the relationship develops.
When to Put Your Online Dating Profile on Hold
One of the issues is when to withdraw your profile from dating websites. “This is absolutely the trickiest part,” said Spira. “The women always want to take it down first and then want the men to take theirs down.” Spira points out that men might just be curious about who is checking them out but women may get jealous.
“Having the profile take-down conversation is really important and needs to happen when you want to be dating exclusively.” She suggests that planning a trip together may be a good time to agree to date exclusively. You don’t want your partner checking up on the online dating site while you’re on the trip. If your partner isn’t willing to take down their profile, then maybe you’re not ready to take a trip with them, Spira explained.
Spira points out that taking down your profile is really an act of good faith and she advises against using it as a bargaining chip. What you don’t want is for someone to agree to take it down, but the re-activate it in the middle of the night to check in while his partner is sleeping.
She also suggests putting your profiles on hold for a temporary three-month trial period instead of doing it permanently. “That way people can give the relationship a try without it seeming like a life sentence.”
If both people agree to take their profiles down at the same time, you can even have a romantic date to celebrate the event.
Trouble in Paradise/Don’t Panic
Most dating websites show you the most recent date when a person logged on to the site which can cause problems as relationships progress. Spira advises against checking up on people you’re dating to see the last time they logged in.
If you see that your partner logged onto the dating website after you had both agreed to take down your profiles, don’t panic. Spira says there are reasonable explanations why that could have happened including someone accidentally clicking through a link in an email.
“Don’t jump to a digital conclusion just because someone logged on to the dating website. These are things that make people have meltdowns. Until you have the conversation that both of you are permanently disabling your accounts, the relationship isn’t exclusive,” said Spira.
Take Your Time
Spira advises that people take relationships slowly so they can enjoy the courtship. Relationships that soar too quickly can crash and burn just as fast. The longer you take to get to know someone the greater the chance that you are seeing the real person instead of the person you want to see.
“I believe that the best relationships are ones that start off as friendships because that’s the glue that keeps things together when the inevitable bumps on the road occur,” said Spira.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
Some things are constant, whether the dating starts online or not. “Guys still love the chase. If the guy gets the girl too fast, they get bored and they look for someone new to chase. Caveman behavior is still rampant in the digital world,” said Spira.
Valentine’s Day Ideas
As Spira is a dating expert, I asked her for great date ideas for Valentine’s Day. Spira pointed out that this year is ideal with Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday of a three-day weekend. If you can’t get together on Friday night you can still celebrate over the weekend with a romantic date.
Spira suggests using Facebook’s Graph Search to find just what you’re looking for. For example, you could search for “Restaurants in Philadelphia” to see which restaurants are Liked by your friends. She also suggests posting a question on Facebook to get immediate feedback from your friends such as asking for their favorite recipes or gift ideas.
See, Facebook – Your New Search Site? for more information on Facebook Graph search.
She also suggests using Pinterest to get ideas for recipes and romantic gifts. You can also make a Pinterest wish list board to give your special someone a hint about what you like.
Spira even suggests having a first date on Valentine’s Day. So long as you keep the date light and fun, nothing too serious, you could just enjoy each other’s company and begin something new.
Do you think of online dating sites are a good way to meet people? Do you know any couples who have met using online dating? Do you have any advice for online dating that you’d like to share? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Dropped Heart photo by Kevin K courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons
* Find Love Keyboard photo by UrbaneWomenMag (edited) courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons
* I U Candles photo by Doug Wheller courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons
* Candy Hearts photo by duncan c courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons