Your online dating profile is a marketing tool that has one job: get another person interested in meeting you in person. And part of the challenge is your profile is but one drop in a sea of other profiles, all trying to land dates. Your job is to make your profile sound as different as possible without sounding weird. It’s a delicate balance, and there’s no “one right way” to do it. But there are some general principles that will help you make your profile market the product (you!) more effectively.
Start with the Pictures
This seems so blatantly obvious, but it’s amazing how many people put lousy pictures on their profile. Your pictures are the first thing people see when browsing around the site, and they’re probably clicking because they they think “hey, (he or she) is pretty cute.” Do a little experiment and take note of how many profiles you didn’t click on because it had a bad primary photo.
Here is all you need:
1. A good head shot for your feature profile pic
2. A full-body shot, preferably outdoors
3. One or two shots of you doing something kinda fun, maybe with a friend or two.
Make sure they have good lighting, and that you can see your face clearly. That should about do it. Having three or four really good pictures is much better than having a dozen mediocre ones. If you’re having trouble determining which pictures are good, have a friend give you an outside opinion.
Some picture don’ts:
- Don’t put up a bunch of shots of mountains and random city buildings. This isn’t Facebook album of your backpacking trip through Europe.
- Don’t put up any picture you took yourself. Selfies are rarely flattering, and it only takes a minute to hand your smartphone to your friend while you’re out and about.
- Don’t cover up your face. It’s okay to have one picture with sunglasses, but don’t make it your primary photo. The fewer cranium accessories, the better.
- Don’t put up any pictures of you with somebody of the opposite sex. No exes. No “bestie” guy friends at the football game. And definitely no pictures where you have to crop somebody out. If it’s your sister, you’d better label it specifically (“Me and lil’ sis hanging out at the bar”)
- Don’t have any pictures older than six months. You want the most recent image you can find. Swap them out with news ones periodically.
Scout the Competition
Take a spin through the profiles of the people of your same sex. Get an idea of what other people are writing about themselves. It’s good to get an idea of the people in your age range in your area. Remember: these people are trying to date some of the same people you are. Best to know who’s saying what. Eight out of ten profiles regurgitate the same stuff, and if you’ve spent any significant time on a dating website, you’ll start to realize that the only things that really differentiate the profiles from one another are the pictures. If you see a profile that stands out (man or woman) take a deeper look into it and make a note at what caught your eye. Besides the pictures, of course.
Don’t Try to Appeal To Everyone
A lot of people are afraid to write something that might turn others away, leading many profiles to strip away the individuality. What’s left is a laundry list of online dating cliches. This is how we get sentences in profiles that appear over and over again like: “I love to laugh and have a good time.” Do you know anybody who prefers to cry and have a terrible time?
Or, my personal favorite: “I like to live life to the fullest.” As if that means anything.
These are things people say when they want to attract as many people as possible, which tends to backfire. You want to turn people away. Specifically, the people who won’t like you. Curate your profile to attract people who are interested in the type of person you are, not the type of person you want everyone on your dating site to think you are. If you never miss a Boston Red Sox game, you’re better off not meeting a partner who actively hates sports. If you don’t do well around animals, it’s probably best not to date somebody with a couple of pugs. The point, after all, is to find one person you enjoy spending time with.
Don’t Tell Us What You’re Looking For
One of the biggest errors men and women make is writing out a list of things they’re looking for in a partner. First, this tells people nothing about you. It makes you seem demanding, entitled, and unreasonable, plus, you’re wasting space. I want to read about you, not what you expect of me. You don’t even know me. Stop being so presumptuous.
Second, you might be pushing people away who don’t meet your “requirements.” You probably don’t know what you want as well as you think you do. The fact that your date voted for Romney in 2012 is not really that big of a deal once you find out what really makes him tick.
Positive, Positive, Positive
You don’t need paint a surreal picture of how you spend every day petting panda bears that crap bakery fresh chocolate chip cookies, but keep your tone positive. Limit negative comments, complaints, and sarcasm.
Don’t Describe Yourself Too Much
This is counter-intuitive. You want people to know about you, after all. But the more adjectives you use to describe yourself, the less interesting your profile becomes. Notice how quickly you skip down the body of a profile paragraph that says things like “I’m funny, smart, and loyal to a fault.”
Don’t tell me you’re funny and you love to travel. Instead, write a funny little anecdote about something that happened to you on a trip. And if you can’t write a funny story, then you probably aren’t as funny as you think you are.
Here’s an example from my old OKCupid Profile when talking about my favorite foods:
“My friends ordered this chicken dish in a restaurant in Beijing. At first, the waiter refused to bring it to us, but one of my friends insisted. I grabbed one of the wings, pounded it down, and soon discovered why. For you see, these wings were basted with the blood of Satan. Now, I love spicy food. I routinely get looks of incredulity from waiters in Thai restaurants when I tell them how spicy I like it. But this food was so hot that my brain disconnected from my mouth and said, ‘You’re on your own, buddy.’ The next five minutes were like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, just color and light and sound and HEAT. I don’t remember much after that.”
This story says a number of things about me: I travel, I’m an adventurous eater, I love movies, and it illustrates my sense of humor. Yet nowhere in this story are any of those things mentioned as character traits. I leave it to you to infer those things.
Remember What The Profile Is For
Your profile’s sole purpose is to entice somebody into contacting you. That’s it. If you approach it as the advertising vehicle it is, then you’ll find yourself with a much higher success rate in your online communications. Once you meet in person, your profile has done its job and the rest is up to you.