Header photo by Hamish Grant. Used with permission.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Twitter-pated: Finding Love on the 'Net with Match.com

"We met online."  Three words that would have once elicited a "tut tut" from Grandma are now common thanks to the ever-growing connectivity through social media and the proliferation of dating sites like Match.com.

Why should a married guy in a (mostly) PR blog, discuss online dating? Because PR involves social connectedness and the building of online communities in the place of real-life ones.

Social media has revolutionized the ways that we build relationships, and this is no more evident than in the world of online dating.

Overview:
Match.com is one of the many online dating options available.  Boasting 20 million current users, and over 20,000 more joining daily, Match.com calls itself the pioneer of online dating, starting in 1995.  For basic service, the site charges between $16 and $38 per month for users to build their online profiles.  A profile includes detailed detailed information, pictures, and desired qualities in a partner.  Match.com guarantees that within six months, you will meet someone special, and if you don't, you will receive an additional six months free to keep looking (some restrictions may apply).

I enlisted the help of a friend who is a new user to the site to give me a tour of some of the features and functions of Match.com. 

Usability and Aesthetics:
How to navigate the site was immediately self-evident.  There is good flow on the pages, and information is well laid out.  Browsing profiles is easy, and navigating between pages is extremely straightforward.  Aesthetically, my only complaint was the number of advertisements.  By collecting $20 per month for each of the 20,000 people who join each day and generating ad revenue is double-dipping and suggests an ambivalence toward the site's paying users.

Features:
The search features allow for a customized browsing experience.  One can search for a mate based on location, height, body type, ethnicity, interests, faith, education, profession, income, living arrangement, sexuality, relationship history, eye colour, hair colour and countless other qualities.  Where some other sites only show you your ideal matches based on personality tests, Match.com gives you access to all of the users who are signed up for the site.  This feature adds value to the membership, because there are so many users on the system, which increases your odds. 

Other features include integration with MSN messenger, applications for mobile devices, including the iPhone, Blackberry and Palm Pre, as well as an automated system that helps you find matches based on personality quizzes and shared interests.  When you send someone a message, the site shows you other "similar" profiles that you might be interested in - much like the "users also bought" feature on Amazon.com and iTunes.

Users also have the option of upgrading their accounts to receive additional services, including relationship advisors to help improve your profile, video intros, voicemail and SMS text messaging.  It is too bad that these features do not come standard, because having to upgrade seems to reduce the value of the overall membership.

Community:
Match.com differs from other social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube because it it isn't really about creating a community of information senders and receivers; rather it is an individual experience that seeks to be the community (or venue) that facilitates the meeting of two people.  Where other social media outlets rely on user-generated content to create value, Match.com's value is dependent simply on users populating it.  Additionally, the site gains social capital because of peoples' investment in the application.  Because members are paying $16 to $38 each month to access the site, there is a financial motivation to use the site and be successful.  This is something that we do not see with many other social applications.

As a way of connecting to a potential partner, Match.com seems to be fairly effective; however as a social media platform, it fails to capitalize on social media's vast possibilities - but then again, that isn't really what it's for.



For more information, I would encourage you to check out Neil Sareen's blog.

2 comments:

  1. I loved hearing your elevator pitch about match.com. As we discussed dating sites are so efficient and realiable now it just makes sense for people who have troubles finding love to join. I especially like how this site matches you based on a comprehensive profile you make for yourself. Match.com also employs GREAT marketing tactics to encourage membership. Their commercials are fantatsic.

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  2. Absolutely, Sarah - and I think that it's also great for people who aren't into conventional "scenes" for dating ... like bars and clubs.

    Overall, I think they're doing a good job to meet a market need and promoting the fact that they're doing so.

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