After looking at race and religion, the online dating site OkCupid turns its statistical eye toward the actual content of the messages sent between participants.
It’s worth noting that the average response/reply rate is 32%.
First up,Â what to say in a first message:
- Be literate.Â Netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs. The worst six words to use in a first message: ur, r, u, ya, cant and hit. Casual laughing is OK, however: haha, lol and, to a lesser extent, hehe appear to increase the response rate.
- Avoid physical compliments.Â Sexy, beautiful, hot and cutie give reply rates from 5â€“14% less than the average. An example to show this is in how the word pretty is used:Â as an adjective it results in a response rate 2â€“7% less than the average, while if it’s used as an adverb it results in an above average rate of response.
- Use an unusual greeting.Â Hi, hey, hello and holla all produced well below average replies. Yo, hola, howdy, what’s up and how’s it going fared much better. In fact, not even using a salutation was better than saying hi.
- Don’t try to take it outside. Attempting to move the conversation away from the relative anonymity of the site in a first message decreased the chances of a response (e.g. by providing phone numbers, email addresses, etc.).
- Bring up specific interests. Mentioning a specific passion of yoursâ€”anything from literature to video games, zombies to vegetarianismâ€”increased the chances of receiving a reply.Â An especially good thing to do (obviously) is to mention one or more of the other person’s interests (i.e. read their profile and mention something from it).
- If you’re a guy, be self-effacing.Â Exuding confidence in initial messages didn’t seem to improve response rates. Instead, humbleness was what worked best. Although “be careful not to let the appearance of vulnerability become the appearance of sweaty desperation: please is on the negative list (22% reply rate), and in fact it is the only word that is actually worse for you than its netspeak equivalent (pls, 23%)!”
- Consider becoming an atheist. Mentioning religion improved response rates in almost all cases (apart from when one uses the generic term god), but mentioning you’re an atheist was the best of all; it correlated with a 10% increase in responses.
Almost 16% of first messages are over 2000 characters (roughly 400 words) with the average lying around 740 characters. But what wasÂ the optimum message length?
Now, our [data clearly show] that in raw terms, it helps guys to write longer messages. But when we factor in the actual time it takes to compose a given message, it becomes clear that in terms of time put in vs. likelihood of starting actually having a conversation, shorter is actually better.
[â€¦] the ideal first message length is 200 characters, or 1 minute’s worth of typing for the average writer.
If you’re the kind of person who spends a little more time reading a profile and thinking about your message, say, 10 minutes, then the optimal length goes up a few words (to 270 characters), but, still, short is better.
Incredibly enough, the optimal first outreach from a woman to a man is just 50 characters long!
After reading these posts I’ve become somewhat enamoured with OkCupid and now want to join just so that I can get my very ownÂ flowchart to my heart. Probably best to run this past my girlfriend first, though.
The online dating website OkCupid has a rather fascinating blog,Â OkTrends, written by two of the four mathematics majors who founded the site.
Still in it’s infancy the blog has a few fascinating posts studying data gleamed from their expansive user base.
Starting out with a brief look at their matching algorithm and the control group used for their studies, here’s data on how different religions ‘match’ on the site. Conclusions, taken verbatim from the post:
- Jews and Agnostics get along better with people. Jewish men, in particular, have an above average match percentage with every religious group. They even match Muslim women better than Muslim men do.
- Muslims of both sexes and Hindu men get along worse.
- Catholics are more universally liked than Protestants.
- The less serious you are about religion, the better liked you are, even by very religious people.
The analysts also noted how Muslims and Protestants on the site tend to be more intense about their beliefs than other religions, and Jews and Agnostics are by far the least serious.
Another sensitive issue tackled through the magic of online dating statistics is that of race and the reply rates between them. Some more observations:
- Black women are [â€¦] the most likely to reply to your first message. In many cases, their response rate is one and a half times the average, and overall black women reply about a quarter more often.
- White men get more responses.
- White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else.
- Asian and Hispanic women prefer [white men] even more exclusively [than white women].
- Men don’t write black women back [as] often than they should (statistically speaking, obviously).
- Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every raceâ€”including other blacksâ€”singles them out for the cold shoulder.
- Even though white males get the most replies, they respond about 20% less often than non-white males.
- Between 2 and 7% of males and females of all races believe interracial marriage is a bad idea.
- Around 20% of males and females of all races, except whites, have a racial background/skin colour preference.
- 40% of white males and 54% of white females have this preference.
It’s worth noting the following:
Just because a group has low match percentages, even across the board, that does not mean they are bad people. It just means that they’re harder to please. The converse is also true. [â€¦] In any event, please keep in mind that each individual has designed his own matching criteria, so the poor-matching groups aren’t failing some outsider’s imposed system. Why, for example, Hindu men would match worst with Hindu women is a mystery.
OkCupid, one of the biggest online dating websites around, has had a bit of an up and down history.
Originally called SparkMatch, itself a by-product of the once popular TheSpark, the site was one of the first completely free dating websites that now abound online. Inc. Magazine looks at the history of OkCupidâ€”it’s struggles and successesâ€”paying close attention to the marketing strategy that eventually pushed the site into the mainstream.
Now Yagan had set out to bring free to online dating, a growing market dominated by a number of, as Yagan saw them, expensive and unsatisfactory competitors like IAC’s Match.com. Yagan figured he could inflict serious damage on [his competitors] by using the same strategy he employed with SparkNotes. “Take an existing business,” he explains, “reduce the revenue that industry produces by offering a free product, and then claim the remaining revenue for yourself.”
The above quote encapsulates what appears to be the founders’ business model, but it’s the Experts Weigh In section that I found most interesting. With advice from the CEO of the guerrilla marketing agency Interference (don’t depend on journalists to write about your company) and a partner at the private equity firm Accel (be more creative in monetisation), there’s also this from the founder of Match.comâ€”their direct competition:
Focus on women. A dating site can succeed only if it attracts a lot of women. [â€¦] For any dating site, women, not men, are the customers. Women don’t want a crazy blind date; they want safety and security, and they don’t want to feel embarrassed. I would take the money they’re spending on PR and put it toward affiliate marketing to women. Yagan and Coyne are clearly smart guys: They should start thinking about how to lower the cost of customer acquisition and build a differentiated audience.