This is the second in a series of musings on PR and Online Dating, originally posted on October 14.
Part two – The Nickname and Tagline
For those who have never perused online dating sites, the nickname is your user handle. You don’t want to use your real name and if you ask, “Why not?” I strongly suggest you avoid the Internet forever. A tagline is a one-sentence introduction about yourself. Don’t make it a pick-up line; this is why women don’t like going to bars.
When coming up with your profile name and tagline, it is best to think of it in terms of branding. Your photo is your logo, your nickname is the name of your product (you) and your tag line is your slogan. All are meant to create intrigue and interest. Much like you do with your hair and clothing, you want to take those extra few moments to make sure everything is in place. Or you risk this:
Uh oh. (Source: The LogoFactory.com)
Have you ever been asked to come up with one word to best describe yourself? It’s an exercise in frustration. This one word is supposed to encapsulate and communicate the essence that is YOU. Which is why choosing a nickname for your online dating profile is the trickiest and most discouraging chore you can go through. How do you come up with a moniker that captures how funny/well-read/cool you are? Some say it can’t be done; I say it can, with imagination, some creativity and a little help from your friends.
The “Nickname”. We all have nicknames bestowed upon us by others. Some are pet names given to you as a child, while others are handles you’ve picked up as you’ve gone through adulthood. No doubt there are more waiting for you in the future.
Using your nickname in your profile is a good idea. However, if its etymology needs to be explained to those outside your social or familial circle in order for it to be understood, don’t use it.
Case in point: Your broheems call you Stubby because of your fondness for those old Molson stubby beer bottles. Cute, yes. But on a dating site, “Stubby” takes on a whole different meaning. Sure, you can explain your nickname in your profile, but most women won’t even bother getting to it. They’ll be too busy laughing.
Characters. This is easy – just take your favourite character from a book, movie or television show. This works if you’re targeting your audience to find someone with interests that match yours. But if you want to broaden your horizons and attract as many women as possible to your profile, proceed with caution and note these caveats:
- Anything from Star Trek/Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica. As much as these shows have made strides into mainstream culture, calling yourself Picard, Boba Fett or Starbuck automatically labels you as a nerd.
- Comic books. With all the inner personality conflicts afflicting superheroes and their foes, tread carefully here. Calling yourself Harvey Dent – do-good lawyer or a maniac with a facial deformity? Superman or Batman – a loner in tights. The Joker – another psychopath with facial deformity. Remember, women read comic books too.
- Don’t be a smarty-pants. People aren’t going to rush to their dictionaries to look up your name, Hephaestus. Same goes for you, Beowulf. Names like these are foreign to most people – they’ll just scrunch their noses, scratch their heads and move on to Optimus Prime’s profile. I’m not suggesting you have to dumb it down; just keep in mind it is a dating site and from what I heard there isn’t a high representation of Mensa types on there. My nickname was Circe – very few men got the irony.
Names with “69” or “XXX” in them. The man who has this nickname is the kind who watches way too much porn and has several restraint orders filed against him. It can also scream, “I talk the talk but never get to walk the walk. MOM! Nooo, don’t come in! Why don’t you knock? I soooo have to move out. Oooh, new Number 6 fan fiction!”
Boring1234. If the name you chose is taken, most sites will suggest the same name, but with numbers at the end. For example, Casanova3453. A name like this tells me you either lack imagination or are too lazy to come up with another name. Try again.
Some confuse this with a pick-up line you would use at a bar. Again, It’s more like a slogan. Like an ad exec you be should be creative and sell yourself. Just avoid any advertising clichés like “Over 1 million served” or “Servicing women since 1975.”
“Hey Ladies…” No matter what your intention or affectation is, this always comes across as sleazy. Are you looking for one woman or a harem? If it’s the latter, good luck <snicker>.
The Egoist. Online dating sites are full of these arrogant pricks. “Hey, don’t look any further!” or “I’m what you’re looking for!” Unless you can back that claim up with third party endorsements, lay off the spin. And if you ARE Mr. Right, why hasn’t some lucky lady snapped you up yet?
I actually saw a tagline that read: “Hey! You’ve just won the lottery!” Really? I guess no one wants to claim you. You are the equivalent of the Free Ticket prize I get on Encore: high investment, low yields.
Pop culture references. See “Characters”, above. But with the following caveats:
- No Scarface quotes. “Say ‘Hello’ to my little friend!” No, thanks.
- Avoid chick flicks. Unless you want to meet a woman who can recite every line from Pretty Woman and will drag your ass to the latest romantic comedy pukefest. She also has a ton of stuffed animals on her bed and puts sweaters on her cats (note the plural tense). Here’s a tip: Princess Bride works for a lot of cool chicks.
- No poetry. Unless you’re Lord Bryon or Smokey Robinson, avoid including your own work. Seduction through words is best left to the pros.
- Song lyrics. These can be open to interpretation or ambiguity. Choose wisely or go for the completely blatant (Spinal Tap’s “Lick my Love Pump”).
The Eeyore. “No one’s gonna read this” or “Yup, I’m still on here!” Being self-deprecating to the point of cringe-inducing is not going to bring women to your pity party. The concept of “reverse psychology” is so overused that it doesn’t work anymore. Unless you’re Bugs Bunny.
Duck season, fire!
Coming soon: The Profile
Here’s a little tidbit about me: I was once an online dater.
I am not ashamed of my admission, nor do I regret my actions. I made a few friends through the process. I also have a collection of funny anecdotes I can depend on to liven up pauses in conversations.
Earlier this year, I decided to remove all my dating profiles, despite being bombarded with eHarmony ads. (Clearly, their ads are targeted to people who have never dated online.) I did so for two reasons: one, online dating can take up a lot of one’s time, which I don’t have much of anymore; and two, online dating can be a humiliating process – your self-esteem can only take so many beatings, no matter how strong you think you are. (There is a third reason I give when the question is asked by smug marrieds: “Yes, I AM still single and childless. Why ruin a good thing?”)
All this begs the question: why does online dating have to be so hard? Before the Internet, people would meet each other at bars, parties or through friends. That was truly a WYSIWYG situation; you could size up your potential mate in as much time as it took to drink your beer. But that meant making the effort to put on makeup, venture outside and spend time with countless knobs before you found a decent bloke with nice breath and more than two words to string together.
When I discovered online dating, it was like manna from the heavens. I could scroll through hundreds of men, in the comfort of my home and pajamas, and delete the undesirables with a click of my mouse. It was like picking fruit in a grocery store – I could toss aside the dented, moldy apples to get to the shiny, juicy ones. How can that be a bad thing?
But like most web applications, it’s only as good as the people who use them. There are users who see the tool as enhancing their lives, e.g. increasing their chances of meeting a nice person. And there will be those who see it as a means to their nefarious ends, e.g. how many women can I dupe, date and dump? You can probably guess which group I encountered the most.
I was recently sharing my online dating experiences with a girlfriend. Between the two of us, we accumulated many stories of, to quote the Lowest of the Low, salesmen, cheats and liars. We came up with some basic guidelines on how to decipher a man’s online profile. (For example, using “Tony Montana” as a profile name. Is it their real name or a shout out to a murderous, cocaine-snorting movie character? Answer: they probably have a Scarface poster over their bed.) Conversely, these same guidelines could provide men with tips on how to best market themselves. Then it struck me – online dating is a lot like public relations! My cohort didn’t see the connection but I sure did. The idea may seem ridiculous at first, but bear with me.
PR is about building relationships with your audiences. It involves developing a positive relationship with the public, with the goal of getting them to view your organization in a positive light. It also includes building a strong brand that will attract the right audience, instill trust and confidence and help you avoid pitchfork-wielding mobs.
When posting a profile on an online dating site, aren’t the goals very similar? You want to build a strong brand (profile) that will attract the right audience (women). It should also be an accurate and honest portrayal of what you have to offer; if your brand does not reflect reality or you can’t back it up with quality product, your success rate will plummet. And you will be chased by pitchfork-wielding women.
According to Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada 37% more men than women use online dating services. That means for every woman using online dating services, there are more than two men. So not only do you have to attract women to your profile, you have to compete with hundreds of other fellows at the same time. How do you make your brand stand out? I called it the 3H factor – honesty, a little bit of humility and a dose of humour.
So as a public service announcement, I decided to embark on a series of posts on marketing yourself through your online dating profile. What do women look for? And what do your profile choices really say about you? (My experiences with online dating are limited to men, so the focus will be on male profiles, ‘natch. Any male visitors to my blog are free to post their own musings about women and online dating in the comments section. Or write a post on your blog about the subject; remember to link to mine to create a lively discussion.) I would also like to thank all my lovely girlfriends who contributed their own suggestions via Twitter.
Part one: The Photo
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and brother, they ain’t kidding. This is the make-or-break item in your profile. It is what makes a woman decide whether to read your profile or block you from ever appearing on her screen again. The following are the types of photos commonly used and why they give credence to the old notion that pictures can steal your soul.
Standing in front of your car. It’s nice that you’re proud of your souped-up Honda Civic. In these times it is impressive that you can afford to drive, what with the high insurance rates and soaring gas prices. And kudos to you for being able to get your entire car in the photo with you!
What it says about you: That sure is a nice sheen on your chassis but you’re so far away that I CAN’T SEE YOUR FACE. It also tells me you’ll probably be more into your car than me. I expect our dates will include trips to the car wash, street racing and a request for a Tawny Kitaen-pose on the hood of your car because you are more than likely a Whitesnake fan.
Tawny Kitaen, 80s video vixen. She'll put a shine on your chassis!
The Usher Shot. No, I’m not talking about the singer. It’s that one photo taken at your buddy’s wedding. You’re in a dapper tuxedo and you look absolutely, incredibly handsome.
What is says about you: You look good in a tuxedo. Big deal, most men do. But unless you’re James Bond, don’t bother using it as your main profile photo. Yes, it shows that you dress up real good, but what about the other 364 days of the year?
Group shots. Wow, you have a lot of friends. And they all seem to like you, you party animal!
What it says about you: You’re actually going to make me look for you in the photo? Is this what I’ll be doing every Saturday night when you’re out partying with your buddies – looking for you? In my experience, men who post the group shot are usually the ugliest ones in the photo. While this may not be true in your case, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. Next!
Pictures with attractive women. Wow, those are very attractive women you’re with! You’re such a stud!
What is says about you: So you got a Hooters waitress/Budweiser girl/auto show model to pose with you. Sorry to tell you this, but they’ll pose with anybody. That’s what they are paid to do. And if you are such a chick magnet, why are you on a dating site? You can get women to pose in pictures with you, but you can’t seal the deal?
Dude! They are SOOO not going out with you.
Cut and paste shots. Aren’t you creative! You’ve taken a picture of yourself with an ex-girlfriend, cut her out and put “This could be you!” in her place. Awwww.
What is says about you: You think women are all the same and easily replaceable. You’re also a big nerd.
The shirtless man. You’re smoking hot. You must spend every day at the gym working on your six-pack.
What is says about you: You’d rather spend time at the gym instead of snuggling in front of the TV with me, a pizza and a six-pack of beer. You also spend more time in the bathroom than I do. You shave your chest more often than I shave my legs.
You are a walking Backstreet Boy video.
The traveler shot. Wow, you climb mountains, scuba dive and visit exotic locales. Nice shot of you waterskiing/in front of Mayan ruins/snorkeling.
What it says about you: You’re never home long enough for a relationship. And you have no job.
Firemen. Ah, yes, 9/11 has been bery, bery good to you, hasn’t it? What a cheeky shot of you wearing nothing but your, er, hose.
What it says about you: You want a one-night stand. Women of substance do not get a fire down below just because you slide down a pole. (This rule also applies to cops and military personnel.)
Firemen NEVER look like this.
“Private” or hidden photo. You have to send me your photos first before you see these goods, baby.
What it says about you: You’re cheating on your wife.
No photo at all. You haven’t got a scanner. You haven’t had time to upload photos from your digital camera. You’re probably better looking in person, anyways!
What it says about you: You are a lazy, ugly Luddite.
It’s simple, really. BE HONEST. Don’t post any photo of you that is more than five years old. The picture is supposed to sell you. Think of it as truth in advertising; we will meet you at some point – do you really want us to be disappointed? Do you want us walking away thinking we’ve been sold a bill of goods? Remember, women talk. I had girlfriends who used the same dating sites I did, and we would warn each other about certain men. If I only had a blog back then…
Here’s another way to put it: You want to sell your car and post an ad in Auto Trader. You are selling a Pontiac Sunbird; you wouldn’t post a picture of a Cadillac, would you?
I know it’s hard. A lot of women will flock to the generically handsome men who make all the above mistakes. But be patient – these women will be continuously disappointed with “Romeo243” and “PrinceCharming4567” that your nice photo and funny profile will win them over. You may not look like Brad Pitt, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are women who aren’t sold just on flash and style; we look for substance behind the brand – wit, charm and intelligence.
Coming soon: The profile nickname.