Minimum Viable Pundit - Chew the Fat 4
Our man on the scene reports back from the 3Beards event that has a panel and chattyness
The fourth edition of the 3 Beards’ Chew the Fat event went by ‘Romance Hacking: The future of love in the 21st Century’. A freshly beardless Benjamin Southworth chaired a one hour discussion between Robyn Exton, founder of Dattch, the dating site for lesbian and bisexual women; Dave Killeen, Product Lead at Badoo; and Samir El-Alami, the Online Marketing Director at Lovestruck, followed by a Q & A with the audience.
Ben introduced the evening’s discussion by explaining that he has mixed feelings about the influx of technology into how we seek love. On the one side, he explains, he’s a big geek and likes the way that the web has proved so powerful for connecting people, and that it is possible to form meaningful ties online.
On the other side however, he is a musician, a poet at heart, a hopeless romantic who feels that love is an ethereal, unquantifiable thing that has no place for modern technology like algorithms. Ben has been single for a good while, but he hasn’t sought love online. Ben does think however that being as there are 7 million people in London, perhaps he could use some help finding someone to fall in love with.
After a little aside that our conception of love has quite a storied history, Ben introduces the panel:
First up is Samir from Lovestruck, who wants to let us know that the Lovestruck couples used in their advertising are real, and that the app is most popular in large metropolitan areas like London, Hong Kong and Singapore, and is primarily accessed via the open web rather than on a phone app.
Marketed at busy professionals, Lovestruck charges £40 a month to cut out the timewasters and has a lengthy onboarding process of approving photos, and checking Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to try to determine that people are who they say they are.
Meanwhile David is from Badoo (and Samir used to work there too it emerges), which is all about ‘meeting people’, not explicitly about forming relationships (although I did once hear it described as the hook-up site). Anyway, Badoo is the all-powerful death star of online dating, operating globally with over 200 million users. They have more data than they can eat, and down the line they have consumed smaller operations like Blendr and hotornot.com.
Finally, we have Robyn, the founder of Dattch. The new kid on the block, Dattch is for lesbian, bisexual and bi-curious women which was started because there simply wasn't anything out there for lesbian women. Anything labelled ‘gay’ is built with men in mind, and what works for them isn’t necessarily ideal for a female audience. They onboard women using Facebook, because they found that this works best to verify the gender of applicants, but transgendered women can be verified over the phone if they prefer.
How do they market the sites? How did they in the early days?
Badoo’s viral growth is so huge, they decided to slow down on marketing and instead they concentrated on analysing the data they had and work out what had made them successful. Meanwhile at Lovestruck they’ve found that above-the-line advertising on the London Underground and on billboards worked best for them, which Samir suggests still works really well if you can afford it. On the smaller end of the scale, Dattch have road-tested a shopping list of online marketing techniques, but now concentrate on targeting women through Facebook, and primarily in larger cities (the site started life in London).
Can dating online replace real-life serendipity?
All three agreed that algorithms can only go so far to help forge meaningful relationships. It’s crucial to ‘take the conversation offline’, so to speak, and instead dating sites can reduce the friction of finding people you like the look of, but ultimately you must go for a coffee with them. Online dating can however, break the ice.
Samir from Lovestruck suggests that online dating can increase your odds of forming a meaningful relationship, because it’s a numbers game - go for more dates with more people and you increase the chance of meeting someone you could start a relationship with.
How has online dating changed since they started?
Using dating sites has become a shared experience. Robyn suggests that previously people wouldn’t shout about being on dating sites; they were private things, and as such their viral growth was non-existent.
Perhaps the massive success of Badoo can be traced to the fact that it’s a site for meeting new people, not explicitly about forming romantic relationships.
What does the panel make of Tinder?
Tinder came up in conversation over and over quite naturally - it’s clear that people working on dating sites and apps are very interested in it. They collectively praised its clever design; using Facebook auth for sign up, mutual approval for messaging and making dating a visual medium. All dating sites apparently struggle with messages to women being ignored without response, which Tinder has of course tackled masterfully as messaging can only begin when two people agree that they’d like to talk.
Will it lead to a price war, after all it’s free?
While the panel admit they can’t justify charging for data, Samir suggested that cheaper supermarkets didn’t kill the premium options. David suggests it’s up to the product teams of the existing dating offerings to add value, and besides, people who are dating often use multiple products because they might each be better for different things. Samir points out that Tinder’s meteoric rise has slowed somewhat recently. We don’t know what this means yet, but perhaps people want less, better dates.
‘21% of people still think online dating is a waste of time; so we have a growing market here.’
And that was that. De-bearded Ben remains a skeptic, your humble reporter remains taken, and whatever your own thoughts on the topic, it was a fascinating debate.
Where should our plucky reporter head next? Drop us a line.