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How Tinder’s Software Glitch Broadcast My Private Information and Brought Me 4 Creepazoids in Less Than 24 Hours

I’m single. I have no shame in saying that I’m looking for a meaningful relationship, ones that have a better chance than not of evolving into the ridiculous and inconvenient kind of love I feel we all deserve to experience (if not once, but many times in a lifetime). I’ve used online dating since 2002 to connect with men — and I have to say, I’ve had pretty decent results! Which is why I decided to give Tinder a go when I moved to Chicago.

If you’re not familiar with Tinder, it’s like Mr. Miyagi designed a dating app. Wax on (swipe right) — you indicate that you like the looks of someone. Wax off (swipe left) — it’s a pass. The app only allows people who both “swipe right” on one another to start communicating through the app.

I dug it! It seemed to me a bit more like meeting people out and about. You see someone, you like the looks of ’em, you smile (swipe right). While it started out as a hookup app (its cousin is Grindr, an app used primarily by gay men to find hookups), I’d heard from many a new Chicago friend that they were meeting great people on Tinder — men and women alike. They especially liked it because you didn’t have to fill out an online profile resembling a chapter of Anna Karenina. Shit howdy, color me curious. So I downloaded the app.

Until last week, I was in love with it. I’d met several men for coffee or cocktails and had some lovely dates. A few I’d even seen more than once. But given that my free time was dwindling, I saw the app on the second screen of my phone and said — meh, I should delete it. I’m not using it and iPhone memory is at a premium.

Where shit starts to get weird

When I went to delete the app, I got an error message. It said there was an error in deleting my account and to try again shortly. Huh. Shit happens. Mkay. So I kinda forgot about it. And then my assistant forwarded me this email sent through the contact form on this website:

tinder software glitch creates stalkers

I felt chills. My heart started racing. How the fuck did this guy find me. My website. And…did he really threaten to keep after me until I got a restraining order?

This reminded me immediately to try to delete my Tinder account again. So I opened the app, deleted the account, and got the confirmation of deletion.

And then I went into my RedheadWriting Facebook page, found this doucheasaurus rex, and banned him from the page.

Note the time on the email — around noon-ish.

Where shit gets fucking scary

Precipice averted, right? I go about my business. I had a date with a lovely man that evening to look forward to and a business to run. And then this happened (note the times, too):
tinder stalker

And then this:

tinder stalker 2

Oh, and then there was this:

tinder stalker 3

This had never happened before. I’d been using Tinder for 3-4 months on and off and NO ONE had ever hunted me down outside of the app before. Jesus chocolate Christ on a Lorna Doone cookie. Color me one freaked out woman.

I even re-downloaded the app, reinstalled it, and it showed that I had no account.

So where the shit-on-toast were these creeps getting my contact information?

The last straw

So, I blast off two emails to Tinder — one to their press contact and the other to support. I also send Tweets to both the app account and the Support account. I even cc’d the CEO of Tinder, Sean Rad. I’m thoroughly freaked out at this point and frankly, scared.

Here’s what that looks like:

tinder stalker 5

Needless to say, I never heard from Sean Rad.

I also sent this:
tinder stalker 6

At 8AM. At 2pm in the afternoon, I get this from Tinder “support”:
tinder software dangerous

I’ve never heard another word from Tinder. It’s now over a week later.

The mystery unravels

So this guy with the vegan banana milkshake…he blames me. He says that if I didn’t want people to contact me on my Facebook business page, I shouldn’t have put that information on my Tinder profile.

WHAT. THE ACTUAL. FUCK. I didn’t. Nor would I ever. I am meticulous in all of my online dating efforts to not disclose what I do for a living or where to find me online. I’d much rather men meet the person, Erika, before the meet the persona.

It’s impossible that this information was in my Tinder, as that profile was a mere 3 sentences long. So here’s the continuation of vegan milkshake dude’s exchange:

tinder software dangerous

And suddenly, I think I know what happened.

When you install Tinder, it integrates with Facebook (which is always super fucking creepy). In some ways this is good, as when you view people, you can see if you share mutual friends. I loved that feature. It also pulls in your profile pictures, letting you avoid the BS of uploading pictures to the app. LOVELY! Simple. Easy.

It also pulls in every gnat’s ass detail from the About section of your personal Facebook page. When I saw this, I promptly deleted every ounce of that information (as it had my websites, brand Facebook page, and more on it) and wrote a short 3-line bio that had something to do with a sense of humor, cats, dogs, and my match should probably like all three of those things.

Apparently when I went to delete my account and got that error message, a glitch in Tinder’s software pulled back in every ounce of the information I had purposely deleted (and was only visible to confirmed friends on Facebook) and made it visible to the creep elite of males on Tinder in Chicago.

Fantastic.

It also apparently kept that erroneous profile visible long after I deleted my account. Up to 12 hours, in fact.

So, here’s my sad wrap up

In 24 hours, I had to deal with four men who:

  1. Found me on Tinder.
  2. Chose to ignore the mutual match safeguard in that system and contact me outside of the app.
  3. Received all of my private information due to a software glitch in Tinder, information that I had purposely deleted as I had no intention of sharing it with anyone in a dating capacity. Who DOES that?!?
  4. Caused me to write two emails and send two tweets to Tinder, none of which ever received a response.

I felt unsafe. I felt watched, stalked, victimized and more importantly — insignificant.

I shared this story on my brand Facebook page as it happened and got several unhelpful responses. Like I should create a dummy Facebook account for stuff like this. Like I should never use the same photos for online dating that I use anywhere else (which doesn’t matter as Google’s image search can take most any photo and find others of you based on that single photo — also FUCKING CREEPY). And the saddest of all were from the men and women who thought all men and women were like this — creepy.

Which simply isn’t true.

When I use a piece of software, I expect it to work. I expect it to use the permissions granted for good, not evil. I expect that information I’ve deleted remains deleted and not broadcast to the weirdos of the world.

I expect to be kept a little safe.

So, the ultimate sadness is this:

No response from Tinder on why my personal information (which I deleted) was broadcast to the public.

An app I enjoyed using brought me a guy who openly said he wouldn’t stop contacting me unless I got a restraining order in addition to 3 other men who just took up my time in my place of business — all by no fault of my own.

I’ve gone into my personal Facebook profile and removed every website link and ounce of biographical information. I’ve removed my Facebook profile from search engine results. I’ve curled up in a ball to hide my personal life, the small bit I can keep private while living the rather public one that’s an inevitable byproduct of my career.

I have no confidence that this glitch with Tinder’s Facebook integration has been rectified. I’ve received no apology. No acknowledgement. And it just makes a single girl sad.

Because I wasn’t (and nor have I ever been) looking for the hookup. I was just looking for some great guys who were looking for some great girls to see if we would have a great time together.

And now, I don’t want to do any of it.

Whether you’re a woman or man who uses online dating, there is an expectation for safety. To be treated with respect, as a valued customer, and as a human being.

So, Tinder: I liked your app but there’s a serious glitch in your software that doesn’t keep your users safe. And I know you have bigger issues to deal with right now, but in a single day, you ruined dating for me.

It took me 3+ years to return to dating following a love’s death. I’ve put a metric ass ton of work in to become a happy, healthy, and whole woman who’s ready to be a partner. And in 24 hours, you brought me 4 creeps and made me feel more unsafe than I have since a drunk guy showed up on my doorstep with a gun many years ago.

So thank you. Thank you for ignoring me. For making me feel as if I don’t matter because I’m but one user.

And most especially, thank you for making it clear that you could care less about the integrity of your technology and the experience — which I officially rate as HOLY FUCK levels of creepy — you offer your users.

Update at 11:28AM CT

Now I have the man who informed me that he saw all of this information in my Tinder profile — the one who gave information that actually made me piece this all together — threatening me with legal action. Mostly because he didn’t read the post above. This is super duper. Thank you, Tinder.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.25.26 AM

 

The Bitch Slap: Fuck You and the Form Letter You Rode In On

and the horse you rode in onMaybe I’m overreacting.

Maybe you’re just an idiot.

Maybe I’m an idiot and this is OK with some people.

Who cares. I will hop on the bus of batshit crazy and say it: you can shove your form letter straight up your ass.

Every now and then, I lose my goddamned mind and think, “Hey — I’m kind of a recluse. I’ll try the online dating thing again and see what’s out there!” Nevermind that my previous forays into the world of online dating have enjoyed a success that rivals none. From being berated for eating a slice of cake to being accosted by careless slingers of the English language and drenched in the backsplash of those who have peed in the dating pool, it’s obvious I can’t get enough of the petri dish “let’s see what crops up” online dating shenanigans. I did, however, have a mostly brilliant 3-year relationship with the guy who told me (rightfully so) that my ass looked like a rectangle — all thanks to Matchmaker.com from 2002-2005.

But like him, aren’t you and I both looking for the exception — both in business and in our personal relationships? Nobody wants to get on the bus with The Rule. The norm. The usual, everyday pile of mediocre.

The search for The Exception got me thinking about some stupid shit you’re doing with your business.

Which is sending form letters.

Let me ask you a question…

Did you ever give anyone your business (or even a random chuckle or flip of your hair) because they made you feel…anonymous? Insignificant? Unremarkable? Plain? Unworthy?

The answer is no. You didn’t, you haven’t, and you won’t. Because you have a pair of balls, breasts (maybe both — not judging), and a brain and you know that you deserve better than that.

My experience shopping for sex toys is more personal than the form letters some guys send me on Match.com. Christ, at least EdenFantasys understands personalized recommendations and offers discretion and a rewards system. Guys and gals alike — if you don’t want to be replaced with automation — in both the bedroom and in your business, it’s time to ditch the automated sales pitches. Some examples to prove my point:

 

Match message 3

Match message 2

Match message 1

None of these make me feel…special. Or inspired. Two things critical when you’re looking to spark a conversation that could lead to a relationship.

A little analogy…

When I get up at the metric ass crack of dawn to haul myself to a spin class, measure out portions of chicken tits on a food scale like they’re gold bullion, and feel super squeeeeeeeeeee when I look all slinky in a little number I picked up at BCBG MaxAzria, it would be nice if you noticed. A simple compliment can make me melt. My head turn. My eye twinkle.

But I can smell bullshit from a mile away.

Isn’t it the same with your business? It’s your baby. You’ve raised it since birth and you bust ass to make sure it fits into the business equivalent of a pair of skinny jeans or that rad button-down that makes the ladies swoon. And you want people to notice what’s special about what you’re doing.

You want people to notice, not hand you a line of bullshit. Form letters, dear friends, are bullshit. When all you have to do is rock a cut-and-paste and hit print or send, you’re essentially sending out insults in bulk. Hell, even Ann Coulter handcrafts her insults. So quit it with lazy and start looking for ways to make your message — and you — shine.

So let’s fix this shit.

Maybe you think I’m a raving twatmonger for laying into the digital gents on the dating web. Fine. You’re not my target demographic. But maybe you think I’m on to something. Maybe it’s time that you upped your communications game and started writing words that garner the results you want from the people you most want to give you those results. If you’re game and ready to fix this shit, let’s go.

Holy shit, I need to contact someone about something. Where do I start?

Easy there, Padawan learner. Don’t blow your Fritos just because you want to put your fine face in front of someone else’s. Start simple and ask: what is it that attracted me to this person or business? Make a little list. Whether it’s the way they arrange their collectible Star Wars figurines on that shelf in the picture where he’s standing by the Christmas tree or that you’ve been reading their blog forever and it’s the number one resource you recommend to clients who need a solid e-marketing strategy — these things are personal. And attractive. And they’ll earn you a whip-around of the proverbial pretty girl’s head when you use them properly.

Fine! I’ll write the letter/email. But I’d really rather just write one and copy and paste. Can I do that? It’s just dating/business/a communications transaction.

I will Tanya Harding you quicker than Tanya Harding. Building relationships is not a transactional activity. So yeah, it’s going to require a little work. Why? Because I want you to imagine yourself on the other side of this courtship. Would you want to feel as if you were being lumped in with every other guy/girl/web development firm/life coach/consultant/PR agency/journalist on the planet? Again, no, you wouldn’t. So take those things that you found attractive above and let’s build a communication with them.

OMFGBBQ I CANNOT WRITE I HATE YOU, ERIKA. I CAN’T DO THIS.

Please — get the Fritos under control once again. You can. And you don’t have to be motherfucking Shakespeare, either. Here’s a simple formula.

[Name]

Why you love them. What you’re asking for. Personalized exit.

[Gratitude or frivolity as the case might demand]

Your Name

In reality, it’s as simple as this.

Gloria~

Your blog post back in October titled, “Six Ways You’re Screwing Yourself With Email Marketing” prompted me to make a fundamental shift in my own email campaigns and I wanted to thank you. I’d like to profile on my blog so I can further introduce you to my small, but growing readership. Would you have time in the next few weeks for a brief interview call?

Thank you (from both myself and my email marketing campaign),

Bob

or this

MatchDude1972***~

I really like your smile in that picture of you with your parents in Venice. If you’d be interested in smiling at one another over coffee or a drink sometime, let me know.

Thanks for a great smile~

Susie

***please stop using your birth year in your usernames. Everywhere. Please.

or this

[Journalist name]~

I’ve been a long-time follower of your stories. In fact, the first one I recall reading was your piece on X, which I promptly shared to all of my colleagues because I loved your take on why X was the cause of Y — you prompted quite a few thumbs on my Facebook wall that day.

Given your interest in X over time, I wanted to drop a bug in your ear about a client of mine, XRYX. In short, they’re the [nifty tagline] and they’re prepping to launch [cool shit]. I have no doubt you’d have a rollicking conversation with the CEO [Name] and if I might make that introduction, let me know. I can also direct you to their press page and send a draft release for your review, but since I hand craft each email I send to journalists, I don’t want to weigh this down with pitches, attachments, and links.

I appreciate your time, and more importantly, your writing. I look forward to hearing from you!

Erika

Seriously? This shit works?

The the messages above took me a whopping 8 minutes to craft. All three of them. Total. And that’s not because I’m a writer. It’s because I knew what I wanted to get our of the communication (and it wasn’t the delete button or Circular File).

But a message should have two goals and two goals only in any sort of sales process, whether selling yourself or your services: (1) To make the recipient feel appreciated, recognized, and worthy, and (2) Inspire them to respond. Form letters do neither.

So if you’re single in the dating world or a businessperson yearning to do kickass work for kickass people, you have to make the people you’re approaching feel appreciated, recognized, and worthy and…inspired.

Because why would any of us do any kind of business, sexy or otherwise, with anyone they found uninspiring?

So fuck your form letters — you heard me. If I want automation, I’ll get what I need from Google or an online purveyor of toys for my naughty bits.

But if you want to attract a more ideal match in both your personal and business lives, be inspiring. Be personal. And take a whopping 8 minutes to say what you mean and feel. You might never (and probably won’t ever) get a second chance.

You’ve been slapped…and here endeth the lesson.

PS: And you can avoid the, “Hey Erika, maybe blog posts like this are why you’re still single” comments below. Because if you’re not offended by form letters and think being personal ain’t the ticket — you’re not my target demographic (in my personal life or in business).

On the Prowl: A ‘Cougar’ Scratches Back at the Denver Post

“You and I here all alone/Sunday morning here at home
The sky is blue as the coffee’s strong/It’s true
But then I open my eyes/To this dream realized
In front of me
Oh and I haven’t got a clue/What in the world is happening to me
I think I’m happy.”

“Happy” – Martin Sexton

Special note: this blog is being posted on a day where I have sworn to forego caffeine, Twitter hash tags, the f-bomb and all online conversations about food in order to benefit Autism Speaks.
********



cougar denver postDear Douglas –

That’s my brother’s name. I like it.  Just wanted to dash you a little letter about the article you published in the Denver Post on May 28. Yeah – the one about “cougars.” I believe it had the clever title “Cougars on the prowl in Colorado nightclubs.” Did you think of that yourself or did your older girlfriend help you with the overused play on words? Nevermind – it’s really not important. The last letter I wrote was to Chris Brown after he slapped Rihanna around. Congrats – you’ve made it to the big leagues on Redheaded Fury.

Just wanted to give you my elderly wisdom on a few things before I popped a Geritol and settled in on my couch wrapped cozily in my Snuggie for re-runs of Golden Girls. Won’t take but a sec – I can’t stay awake that long. After all, I’m 36. A cougar, by your definition. An “older woman.”

Now, being a twice-divorced and presently single woman, I think you’ve pegged my “breed” pretty well: running around town, looking for strange and preying on young, unsuspecting boys. Granted, it’s tough for me to find a place to park my electric scooter when I come rollin’ up to the clubs, but the doormen here in Denver always jump to help an old gal and then I’m parked in pretty short order. Now that I’m parked, I can put my teeth back in and have both hands free to flip you the bird.

Your article has done nothing to promote any sort of “investigative journalism” or alert the good citizens of Denver to a wrong in need of righting. What you have done, however, is heartily promote the stereotype of the “woman on the prowl” and put out some pretty jaded human nastiness in the process. Personally, I think your article belongs in the obituary section, as it’s merely a eulogy for the death of human discovery and the collective citizenry’s ability to evaluate another human being based on (deep breath) qualities other than age.

I found the woman in your article who described men her age (44) with a blanket label of “fat and gross” to be simply charming. An iconic example of what the average 44-year-old woman thinks and feels. Wherever did you find her? Ah yes – it was the Entitled aisle at the Safeway in Cherry Creek, I’m sure. Honestly, I don’t know where she’s looking as I see men of that age DAILY who are stunning specimens of what a good dose of testosterone can achieve. Then again, I’m old and my eyesight might be going.

What occurs to me is that your article has successfully achieved the creation of a complete caricature. A caricature of everyone in your article and those to whom you apply the tasteful age-restrictive labels of “cougar” and “manther.” (Personally, I’d always heard the term “Silver Fox” used, but no matter.) From the description of your subjects’ clothing to the venue and the pretty yet vapid boys, it’s all nothing but a superficial take. One thing I’ve learned in my old age is that if people are in search of the superficial, it’s what they’ll find. And honestly, they don’t quite care what designer label it’s wrapped in because it’s bound to end up on someone’s bedroom floor by the end of the evening. But maybe I can shed some light on “cougars” beyond the dim one at the bar at which you conducted your investigation on the mating rituals of the urban feline.

Riding my bike this morning along the Cherry Creek bike path, I found myself purposefully steering into every possible rain puddle I could access. Water splashing up on my legs, my face … I giggled and even openly laughed once. When I took a good look at myself upon arriving back at my car, the sight was laughable. And certainly not “pretty.” I was completely un”hit on”able. But you know what?

I had fun. Fun at 6AM this morning playing in rain puddles. And then I summarily went back to my house, hopped in the shower, got my girl on and headed into the office. Today, it’s a fabulous denim pencil skirt accompanied by a Calvin Klein wrap top and a pair of kick-you-in-the-nuts Charles David strappy sandals.

I’m your cougar.

The people in your article aren’t looking for love. They’re looking to hook-up. And what you fail to mention in the stunning examples throughout your article is that it takes two to tango and it ain’t about a “cougar on the prowl.” If an older man/woman is looking for fun and fun alone, they’re generally going to turn to a younger mate. Why? It’s the “fun factor.” And the fact that they’re not looking for anything serious. Have I done it? Oh, most certainly. And it was fun.

But at 36, I’m looking for more than the “fun factor.” Yes, fun is a huge consideration in the men with whom I choose to spend my time, but it goes beyond that – it’s humility as well. The humble process of opening yourself up to learning about someone (and allowing them to learn about you in return) – their history, their loves before you, their life. Their quirks.

The endearing quirks and idiosyncrasies that take a person from being someone who tells a good joke at a bar to being the person you want to laugh with on a Sunday morning in bed.

Your article brazenly bypasses any and all mention of the things that make us each human, painting a pathetic, two-dimensional view of dating after age 35 for those of us who refuse to settle. I think your piece is the weak antithesis to that Lori Gottlieb rib-tickler in The Atlantic last year (Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough) that chides women for not settling for any one of a slew of Mr. Good Enoughs and holding out for Mr.Right.

But I won’t settle. The lyrics above – one of my favorite songs ever – are what I’m looking for. The daily surprise of discovering something new about the man I’m learning to “fit” with, not really knowing where it’s all going to go but embracing the childlike laughter that escapes my lips each time we splash through one of my aforementioned rain puddles. And laughing even more each time I see him laugh back.

That’s why I’m single. Not because of what “society’s handed me” (as your character Ms. Spuelher believes). I’m lucky enough to have had two men in my life whom I’ve loved enough to take a swing at “forever.” While they didn’t ultimately end up with the fairy tale ending, I’m delighted. The gift of being 36 and single is that I learn more each day what I love, what I want…what I don’t…where to compromise. Why, looking back down my life’s hallway, even two years have changed my perspective on a lot of things. Time is a gift and not the curse or something to battle as your characters purport. I think the man to find me today is a lucky one, and he’ll be grateful for the time I’ve taken to be with myself, to explore my demons, revisit them and emerge a better person.

I’m the cougar you speak of, along with every woman out there who enjoys time with her friends – regardless of their age, gender, looks or financial status. We go to bars on occasion, we carouse and engage in mischief…and we’re delightfully embracing the value of friendship and self-discovery while we look for our own “Happy.”  So take your kitty-cat labels and characters shaped with your superficially glazed pen and step aside. This cougar is looking forward to the day she has a man in her life whose lap she can curl-up on, soaking in a sunbeam as it glides through a window on a lazy Sunday morning. As he strokes my hair, it’s likely I’ll even purr. And I look forward to doing the same for him.

There is one thing you DID get right in your article, however:

…Cougarism is more complicated than the reductive picture forged in TV shows, comedy monologues and the snide commentary of office e-mails.

It’s about being 36, loving my life, and having enough balls to tell you your article was the most ridiculous piece of pulp I’ve read since Gottlieb’s abomination on the inherent value of “settling.” We cougars – we’re snappy little cats, ain’t we?

Now excuse me – I have to pay my bar tab and get my scooter out of valet.

Yours Truly,

Erika D. Napoletano

Resting My Case: Online Dating…someone peed in the pool

After the blog post “Common Fucking Courtesy: Grammar, Usage and Online Dating” went live earlier today, I get THIS gem in my inbox.

I rest my case.

what-the-fuck

 

Common Fucking Courtesy: Grammar, Usage and Online Dating

grammar online datingOnline dating. Yup – we’ve been here before. If you missed my post on my professional blog (Online Dating: A New Way to Think About Branding, SEO and SEM), have a gander at that once you’re done with my weekly diatribe.

Having utilized various online dating sites over the years (and with statistically wondrous results – no shit), there’s one thing for which I’m a complete sucker: a well-written profile. A man who can write an intelligible profile and introductory email is, by far, enough to make me drop hundreds at Agent Provocateur in anticipation of meeting this rare, elusive and delicious beast.

That’s right: RARE.

In a sense, I owe this blog to a man I recently met on Match.com. Our initial phone conversation went the way of profiles and our mutual agreement of how difficult it is to find one that:

  1. Reads as if it’s written by an adult with some functional grasp of the English language;
  2. Isn’t laden with a litany of usage errors, punctuation nightmares or smiley-fucking-face emoticons;
  3. Gives you a hint as to the personality of the computer operator writing said profile and isn’t merely some generic iteration of Joe or Jane Anybody.

Said gentleman inspiring this blog shall remain nameless at this juncture. However, our conversation on the subject ended with his statement that, “Good grammar – it’s just common courtesy, isn’t it?”

Why, yes…yes, it is.

That said, school is now in session. Whatever the hell it is you might have forgotten since you last took English composition, we’re going to run over it now so you can stand a chance of getting a date. Well, a date with someone who doesn’t live in a home that they (proudly) “just took the wheels off of.”

The Redhead’s Rules of Online Dating Communications: Profiles, Emails, and (for fuck sake) WINKING/POKING and other Offensive Practices

  • Spell Check – It’s What’s for Breakfast. For the love of all that is holy, cut and paste. While MS Word can occasionally offer useless advice, it’s generally pretty spot-on about the whole spelling thing. Just follow the little red squiggly lines! When writing your online profile or an introductory email, drop it into MS Word (or some other product that’s not a spawn of the satan that is Microsoft) and click on that little icon that checks the spelling. Members of the opposite sex will THANK YOU. It blows my mind as to why online dating sites (not a freakin’ ONE of them) never have a spell check in their messaging or profile building applications. Maybe they believe in Darwinism. But I say see the beginning of this blog. I’m offering to go lingerie shopping for men who can SPELL. Seriously – make me spend.
  • Capitalization – Use It. Your online profile and initial emails with a prospective mate are nowhere to be sloppy. The first word of a sentence is Capitalized (like that…see?). There are no exceptions here and unless you’re a published author with a New York Times best-selling novel and you want to go toe-to-toe with me on this, sit the fuck down and hit the shift key. Oh, and profiles and emails are also NOT the place to use text messaging lingo. It’s mind boggling how many emails I’ve chucked from would-be suitors (urp) who have written me emails saying something to the effect of, “UR gr8. Wuld u like 2 chat?” (uh, no.) Use whole words. Real words. Fo schizzle.
  • Usage – It’s Not a Crime. I can forgive a simple slip up between “its” and “it’s.” Once. But when a profile is riddled with poor spelling and horrific usage, I throw up just a little bit and wonder what I (a professional writer) am doing looking for love in a place where it all begins with images and the written word. I’m likely a masochist. However – let’s have a simple usage lesson that can serve as a gentle (shin kicking) reminder for use even beyond the glorious realms of online dating:
    • It’s vs Its – One’s a contraction…one’s a possessive pronoun. No, that doesn’t mean a noun “in favor” of something. Check it out:
      • It’s (it is) likely that The Redhead is a masochist.
      • The Redhead has lost its (possessive) fire.
    • Your vs You’re – Again, it’s hell on earth to determine the difference between these two words that sound so much alike, but it’s contraction-versus-possessive pronoun time again:
      • Pardon me, but your (possessive) car is on fire. Is that your ex-wife I see running away?
      • You’re (you are) going to be my next ex-husband. I can feel it.
    • There vs TheirHoly crapola. This one’s a doozy. Well, not really. One indicates a location and one is a (shocker) possessive pronoun:
      • After realizing her reaction to his collection of belly lint, he picked up his coffee and decided to end the line of conversation there (location).
      • On their (possessive) first date, it was clear by the second drink that they were going to bone.
    • Too vs ToI’m all for letter conservation, but sometimes ya just gotta buy a vowel, Vanna. One indicates direction and one “additional.”
      • Aw, honey…I think the chicken fingers at Applebees are great, too (as well/additionally).
      • I gave the house to (loss of mine/gain of his) my ex-husband in the divorce.
      • Actually, “to” has a plethora of uses. Check ’em all out here, Walt Whitman.
    • Moot vs Mute – OK, this one’s just really a pet peeve.
      • Moot – means “doubtful,” as in a “moot point.”
      • Mute – means silent, incapable of speech…or DUMB. Anyone who confuses these two is just…dumb.
    • If you confuse any of the above, please go to the bookstore and purchase a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
  • Winking and Poking – Just Fucking Quit It Already. You…yeah, you with the finger stickin’ out. Don’t even THINK about poking me on Facebook or Winking at me on Match.com. Here’s the rub: write me a goddamn email. If you wink, I’ll think you have something in your eye and hand you a bottle of Visine. I would personally rather have my ass slapped by a random stranger on a street corner than have a “wink” or “poke” thrown my way online. Why? Because I’m a woman. I want you to be a man, not some pansified oh-my-god-will-she-write-me-back-shudder-in-the-corner-after-I-dip-her-pigtails-in-the-inkwell girlie boy. Ladies, I think that in general, men like a woman who’s not afraid to make the first move. Why? Because from what I’ve heard from my dates as well as male friends who partake in the petri dish of online romance, IT’S RARE. Make the first move. Read my profile. Say something witty, strike up a conversation. After all, we may actually meet one day and if we can’t talk…boy, are we fucked. (and not in the “I bagged the hot guy/gal on the first date” way)
  • Extra Credit Assignment – Use the Buddy System. Before you go releasing that profile out into the wild, you virile guys/gals, grab a pal and get some weigh-in. Do you sound like an ass? Is your profile a psycho magnet? Are you coming across as a “listmaker” who won’t reveal your income but wants to date a man who makes at least $150k a year?

Now, in all honesty, I’ve made errors with both grammar and usage. I make them daily, but hopefully my audience never sees them. The point of this blog is that proper grammar and usage really are common fucking courtesy. They’re like opening the door for a woman, being on time to a scheduled appointment, sending your mom a card on Mother’s Day or bringing your buddy a six pack to his backyard barbeque. When you take the time to spell check, use real words, capitalize, write complete sentences and treat online conversations more like real world conversations, your online dating experiences will improve drastically. Don’t hide behind the online shield or think that, “Oh, it’s just an online dating profile. This stuff will never work.” Whether you’re on a free site or a paid portal, take the time to show the men or women out there that you’re concerned about your appearance…in writing. After all, you never get a second chance to fuck-up a first profile view.

Online Dating: A New Way to Think About Branding, SEO and SEM

Online dating: spending money to find love online?

I’m a serial monogamist. The “dating” thing eludes me. Perhaps that’s why my list of clients remains long and my list of suitors short:

It’s by design.

See, my clients are after a target customer or demographic. Just like me when it comes to dating. After having been a paying customer or lurker on several online dating sites (’cause “it’s OK to look”), a conversation this week brought me to the realizations below about how I’ve handled my online presence in the world of romance. I was practicing my own best advice to my clients when it comes to branding, SEO and SEM practices — and I didn’t even know it.

For those out there reading this who aren’t savvy in the fields of marketing-speak throughout, have faith. I’ll give you fancy pop-ups and definitions to go with my online dating advice. And I guarantee, none of the links will lead to porn sites.

Shall we? Let’s put on our cybersuits and delve into the online dating pool.

Online Dating and Branding

You’re unique. Yeah, you’re real unique.

Everyone is “unique.” So why the hell are you so special?

A company that puts out a product or service that doesn’t differentiate itself from the competition is poised to fail from the get-go. Once in a blue moon, you find the rare instance of a wanna-be that ekes out an existence, but is that why you went into business in the first place? To eke?

Successful companies have a clear identity. A clearly-defined brand. Customers know what to expect, what they’re buying and the terms and conditions under which they’re acquiring that good or service. It’s no different in online dating.

Ladies:

  • Every one of us is “just as comfortable in a cocktail dress” as we are in jeans
  • We’re all looking for someone to laugh with
  • We all “work hard and play hard”
  • And everyone (well, I think most everyone) is looking for a man who will love them and, on occasion, make them feel like a princess.

Gents:

  • Most of you like sports, cars and beer
  • You’re all looking for an “honest, loyal” woman (i.e.: one that ain’t gonna cheat on you, and if she is, at least not with your best friend)
  • You want a girl you can “just hang-out with”
  • The majority of you don’t spend hours at the mall and would prefer that’s what a chick just went and did without you, leaving you to a day with guys doing whatever you feel (or DON’T feel) like doing.

Those are givens.

Since women aren’t looking for an overweight ogre who will use them merely as an automatic beer dispenser every time they head for the kitchen and men aren’t looking for clingy, psycho Glenn Close/Bunny Nemesis type, it’s time to do some research.

There are a multitude of online dating sites that let you scope-out the competition, so why not start running your personal life and search for Happily Ever After more like a business? Successful businesses understand their competition, so get online and do exactly what Match.com says is perfectly acceptable:

It’s OK to Look!

Get in there and take a tour of your “competitors” – the other people in your age, physical stature and life demographic. See what those folks are saying about themselves. I think you’ll be surprised how similar most of the profiles appear.

Now for the tough question: what makes YOU different?

Are you an irreverent smart-ass?
Do you collect 19th century coins?
Have you climbed Mt. Everest?
Are you a stark-raving Led Zepplin fan with a portrait of the entire band tattooed across your chest?

Your online dating profile should reflect both your core qualities and your quirks (ever read a bottle of Smart Water?) This is your love life, folks. If you’re going to actually go to the trouble of paying a membership fee (or not…lots of free sites out there…ew) and actively search for someone to share your valuable personal hours with, why not actually get something that resembles what you’re looking for?

A fair and honest representation of your personal brand – your personality – is the beginning of a more rewarding online dating endeavor. When someone checks out your profile, let them know what they’re getting, what your personal brand represents, and what they can expect if they actually earn the opportunity to meet you. And don’t get me started on photos. Post current photos that look like you, because when I go to the car dealership to buy a 2008 Honda Accord, I’m looking for the Accord I saw in the Saturday paper … not an ’86 Ford F-150 with the left side made entirely of bondo.

Truth in advertising. A key element of any successful brand.

Online Dating in SEO Terms

Truth in Advertising: photo by Natalie Dee

So, you log into your dating site du jour and it gives you a gazillion search options. Age, marital status, kids, eye color, hobbies … the list is endless. Guess what: those are keywords. Just as if you were on Google and shopping for the latest Star Trek boxed set of DVDs or the best deal on that indispensible Fendi purse, online dating  sites are nothing but glorified search engines for sex. (there, I said it)

In addition to those nifty “long tail URLs” (threw that one in there for the SEO geeks like me), your entire profile is a collection of keywords. When you sit down to write that “In Your Own Words” section or whatever the heck the dating sites are calling it these days, think of the words that describe the core of your person:

Irreverent Smart Asses: who are your favorite comics and TV shows?

19th Century Coin Collectors: uh, say you collect 19th century coins or list a favorite coin or something

Mt. Everest Climbers: words like alpinist, mountaineering, climbing, snow and hiking could be key

Tattooed Led Zepplin Fans: maybe mention the band by name and the fact that you have tattoos

Why is this important? Because several sites allow you to search by keyword.

If you think of the run-of-the-mill profiles you came across in your Research Phase (see Branding section above), who goes into an online dating site and searches for nice, cool, funny, or cars? Just as if you were in a regular search engine searching for something specific, make the words in your profile ring specific.

For example, when I would do keyword searches, I’d use terms like “rock climbing,” “mountaineering,” “alpine” and “climbing.” Found several nifty men with whom I had quite a bit in common, a few of with which I’ve enjoyed multiple dates and enduring friendships. A hell of a lot EASIER and MORE PRODUCTIVE than just putting in age and other general demographics and then having to trudge through the search results with a fine-toothed comb.

Optimize your dating profile for the same reasons businesses optimize their websites:

to attract a better-qualified lead.

Online Dating in SEM Terms

The majority of online dating sites have a membership fee. Personally, I like the minimum level of commitment that it takes a person to fork over whatever-ninety-nine a month to engage in the whole process. Kind of a low water mark, if you will.

So if you’re going to spend the money, why ya gonna screw around?

You’re online, you’re web-savvy. Perhaps you found the online dating site from a search engine query in the first place. You know those 3 listings in yellow at the top of the Google search results and all those little listings down the right-hand side of the page? Well, companies pay for those ads. Those are called pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

When someone clicks on one of those ads, the company who posted the ad pays a “per-click” fee to the search engine. In other words, those companies are paying to be seen at the top of the search results by consumers like YOU who are searching for what THEY sell. Companies also budget for these PPC campaigns in their monthly or annual marketing budget.

Just like online dating.

Your monthly membership fee is your PPC ad spend, or monthly advertising budget.

There’s a reason that Campmor, North Face and Patagonia come up in the paid search results when you search for “outdoor gear” – because these companies feel people searching for the term “outdoor gear” are a good spend of their advertising dollars. They’re consumers searching for something specific, something they have to sell, and it’s possible you could be a qualified lead and convert to a customer.

It’s time you started thinking of your online dating site membership as your monthly Pay-Per-Click advertising budget.

If you’re going to spend the dough on putting yourself out there for others to see in the online dating marketplace, wouldn’t it behoove you to have your marketing dollars attract qualified leads?

Wrapping it Up

Here are some tips that can help you make your online dating experience a well-crafted one from a Branding, SEO, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) perspective. These all go back to the previous points I’ve mentioned and bring it all together in one convenient, vertitas-laden package of personal experience:

  • Build an accurate profile. Who are you? What drives you? Represent your personal brand well. There’s no one that brings to this world what YOU do, so put it out there and be proud. Post current photos, keep your profile updated if it’s taking longer to find Mr. or Ms. “Right Now.” Understand your competition and set out to represent yourself as the dynamic individual you are. Hell, even if you’re a twin – I guarantee you bring a floatie to the dating pool that your biological cohort doesn’t! Fair and accurate representation of your You Product ensures that, once your customer (i.e. date candidate) arrives, they’re entering into a fair business situation and not the “bondo dog” pictured above. Deception is NOT a great way to begin ANY relationship.
  • Don’t be afraid to be specific. Specific is GOOD! Successful companies and their associated brands understand that not every human who walks the face of the earth is the most qualified customer for their service/product. Be clear about what you’re looking for, keeping in mind what’s worked and hasn’t in your previous relationships (just like when making business decisions). Understand as well that if you’re looking for a 6’6″ Pacific Islander millionaire with three children from a previous marriage who collects lint from Arab princes, cooks like a five-star chef and watches 60 Minutes every night without fail – that’s going to limit your results. Being specific isn’t synonymous with being so narrow-minded that you’re setting yourself up to fail. Successful SEM and SEO tactics take into account the specificity of the market they’re approaching, and while Ford might be looking for truck buyers in general, they ain’t lookin’ for (and nor are they going to pay for) people who are looking for planes just because it’s “all transportation, right?”
  • Indulge in some good ‘ol A/B testing! Ever heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Not only should you review your profile on a regular basis, but if you’re not getting the results or traffic from people who fit what you’re looking for – change things up. Go in and edit that pain in the ass “about me” section. Add a new movie you’ve seen. Post a new profile. CHANGE YOUR PROFILE IMAGE! This is the oldest trick in the book, but it’ll often get you a second glance by someone who’d looked at you before (and maybe some new glances, too). Successful PPC campaigns undergo a certain level of A/B testing to fine-tune tactics so that dollars are spent in the most profitable areas and halted in those that aren’t performing.
  • Pay attention to keywords. Many online dating sites allow users to search member profiles by keyword. Me? I’m looking for a dude who is into the outdoors, alpine sports, rock climbing … all sorts of nutty activity. You bet your sweet ass those words are in any profile I write – because those folks are probably looking for me as well and they’re VERY important things in my life. If you think of your online dating profile as the business plan for your PPC campaign, abide by one rule of thumb: a PPC campaign is only as successful as the keywords associated with them. By using targeted and specific keywords, you’ll likely attract a more qualified contact and one that’s got a better chance of surviving your scrutiny. Wouldn’t it be great to have a date for that whatever-ninety-five a month instead of an inbox full of people who are 180 degrees from your target customer with no chance of converting?

I’m sure there are a ton of other parallels I could have drawn here relating the online dating game to these various marketing concepts and practices, and I’d love to hear what you have to say. Bottom line is, when you start treating online dating more like a business than a scratch-off lottery ticket from a 7-11, I think you’re going to be a lot more satisfied with the results.

Who the heck am I to talk? Well, as a subscriber to various online dating sites since my divorce in 2002, my endeavors with

The Head Redhead – your blog author

profiles where I did exactly what I’ve enumerated above have netted me:

  • Two long-term relationships totaling well over 4 years
  • A handful of wonderful men who have remained friends though not romantic interests
  • A clearer understanding of what’s important to me from a relationship standpoint
  • Money spent in the online dating arena wisely with better-than-average (I feel) results
  • Endless fodder for drinks with the girls

And apparently, the desire to write this blog and encourage feedback from the other folks wandering around out there in the online dating/social media world. Lay it on me, folks. I’m listening (in my best Frasier Crane voice).