opinion

User Engagement and Dating Sites

Stewart Tongue

User Engagement is a term that gets used a lot to describe interactivity and ‘traffic hooks’ intentionally put in place by all kinds of digital properties in their effort to increase their audience online. Nowhere is user engagement more important than on community driven websites focused on fostering interaction among members, and in the case of dating sites it may well be the single most important determining factor in the success or failure of any site marketing campaign. With so many webmasters shifting their focus toward the dating segment of the market from other aspects of adult entertainment, XBIZ World reached out to several of the most successful companies in the space for their insights on how these factors will continue to evolve.

“User Engagement is everything when it comes to online dating,” said Darrell, program manager of BeSocial.com, a leading dating community recently acquired by PIMPROLL. “Like the growing free2play games market, users come back because of the experience and the investment of time they make with the brand. Their profile becomes an extension of themselves, giving free registrations greater value. At BeSocial, engagement is paramount and is achieved with a balance of solid branding, gamification, targeted messages and a coin based economy that entices registrants to engage in the community. This in turn draws upon the nature of online free-to-play games, keeping users engaged and giving serious affiliates solid long-term earnings.”

The importance of user engagement is universally accepted by key players in the dating segment because it impacts so many aspects of online dating and due to the fact that it is one of the areas where sponsors can positively impact the conversion ratios their in-house traffic and affiliate traffic is likely to generate across entire networks of sites.

Gamification is a term that has gained plenty of steam recently in marketing circles. Dating sites, webcam companies, paysite owners and virtually everyone else online is attempting to capture the allure that the gaming niche has contributed to the success of major social networks like Facebook. As it turns out, large demographics of users really don’t want everything done for them by automated forms and computer scripts on autopilot. Many users prefer the sense of control and identity that comes with having access to the kind of surveys, tools and settings capable of allowing them to differentiate themselves from the masses in repetitively incremental ways that parallel leveling a character in a game.

The importance of user engagement is universally accepted by key players in the dating segment because it impacts so many aspects of online dating and due to the fact that it is one of the areas where sponsors can positively impact the conversion ratios their in-house traffic and affiliate traffic is likely to generate across entire networks of sites. The level of engagement and methods of engagement are what vary widely from one company to another.

“I feel User Engagement is such an important aspect of online dating marketing because it really is the livelihood of any good dating or social network site” said AK of DatingGold.com. “As one example, Dating Gold provides daily email notifications to remind users to come back to the sites — even if it’s just a happy birthday message or reminder to check out new features. Smart Revshare and PPS affiliates want to know their sponsors feel strongly about user engagement because it’s an element of promotion that has a major impact on how well all of their traffic converts and retains.”

In the past, email was thought of as a lead generator predominantly but these days, in the opt-in world of email advertising, utilizing email as a way to provide a personal touch that makes the focus of the entire site feel centered on each user is a great way to engage customers directly. While dating sites feature thousands or millions of profiles about individual dating enthusiasts, the best approach to marketing is one that casts your potential customer as the lead protagonist of the story and everyone else as someone seeking a date with them. Being the bachelor and handing out roses to potential mates is a much more powerful marketing scenario than leaving customers to feel as if they are just one in a cast of thousands being set adrift in generic pool of dating enthusiasts.

One of the advantages of direct marketing is that it can be formulated to appeal to each specific user rather than the mass audience. Another component of that approach is the ability to offer text in a variety of languages and provide a dating site experience that lends itself to native tongue of each person as a simple form of user engagement. “User Engagement starts with the audience being able to understand the content in a way that is comfortable for them,” said Colin of TranslationsXXX.com. “The same is true for dating or any other online niche.

Having people who speak one language attempting to utilize a site written in a language foreign to them is a sure way to send them quickly looking for another site competing with yours. Of course having your site in hundreds of languages may be cost prohibitive, but simple due diligence, to check which languages are most commonly spoken by your visitors and members can narrow the focus down to the languages that matter most and help you monetize your traffic much more efficiently. In fact, public research data has shown that web users will stay on a site twice as long if it is presented in their native language and become four times more likely to purchases goods or services from sites that communicate with them in their native tongue.”

Some dating sites have decided to narrow their focus and target individual markets more effectively as a way of engaging specific user demographics.

“We always work to keep the ladies of GirlFriendsMeet engaged” said Amber, the community manager of GirlFriends Meet.com. “Our community is special because other fascinating outlets for Lesbian Dating can be few and far between. We draw upon our niche experience and try to strengthen the community by bringing likeminded women together online, especially in regions where it might be more difficult for same sex female couples to meet or flirt in real life. Finding matches, making connections and giving affiliates more flexibility in their promotion is key for the long term success of the whole GirlFriendsMeet community and our brand.”

The fact that a site like Girlfriends Meet is solely focused on the lesbian dating population may give it a significant advantage in attracting new members.

Another important aspect of user engagement is the continual need to update and evolve the user experience as a way of keeping sites fresh and staying ahead of the competition. “At Dating Factory we are always in the process of revamping the members area with new innovative improvements,” said Mo of DatingFactory.com “We redesigned the entire interface and continue to apply fresh elements of modern sleek design. The platform also adds daily dating tips and daily comics designed exclusively for our customers, but the most important thing to remember is that our member base is real!”

Across the entire dating segment, from new white label affiliates to companies that have been entrenched in this space for many years, bridging the gap between users and creating a sense of community for members is the foundation of having a working ecosystem of user engagement. Marketing to new members and retaining existing customers is all about the challenge of making everyone feel welcome, included and fully engaged in the process of finding their own soulmate while using subtle techniques to cast each user as the star of the show. Gamification, direct marketing, limiting the feeling of commercialization and giving your customers a sense that it really is all about their own interests not only improves your chance of successfully marketing today, it is also the safest bet for building brands that can continue to succeed in the future as well.

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