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It’s a multi-billion dollar industry built around your primal need for love, lust, and connection via the Internet. Gone are the days when we’d get mocked for meeting people online, or when online dating was solely the domain of trolls, catfishers, and misogynists.
Today, when it comes to the online dating scene, we’re pretty much spoilt for choice. To name a few, there’s Match.com, Ashley Madison, Grindr, Tinder, Happn, and Coffee For Bagels, all with specific niches and target audiences. There’s even a fair number of similar apps for the religious and the holy, which is perhaps unsurprising considering how naughty their scriptures can be.
This digital onslaught of dating sites and apps has led to increased industrial competition and the risk of an oversaturated market.
Yet, OKCupid (OKC) comfortably remains a top pick by people of diverse ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s essentially the Facebook of online dating. At present, OKC boasts more than 3.5 million active users and is consistently highly ranked in media listicles.
What makes OKC special enough to remain critically relevant?
1. Quantifying your desires – OKC uses data better than anybody else in the dating game
“We use math to find you dates.” — OKCupid
While the NSA uses big data to violate your civil rights, OKC deploys it to find us, people, to date and marry (at least that’s what it tells us). And in this analytical department, OKC remains a pioneer.
Started in 2004 by four Harvard math majors, OKC is striking, a data-driven brand. Its creators believed that data was crucial in differentiating the company from its competitors, and in optimizing its users’ matchmaking odds.
“Data,” according to Sam Yagan, one of OKC’s founders, “is key to sorting through all of these people”.
Because OKC is free and encourages its users to submit personal information on their lifestyles, the site has exclusive access to large swathes of data, which it uses to improve user interaction.
By ‘sciencing’ your love life, OKC services obtain greater legitimacy and objectivity. We’ve all had dates ruined by our very human tendency to self-sabotage. Why not let science take over the dating process?
2. OKTrends used OKCupid's data to put together some of the most compelling content ever written
OKC’s colossal dataset is also a marketing goldmine. Its wildly successful blog, OKTrends, is definitive proof of this, with every post gaining a readership and outreach of millions of people.
OKTrends’ posts are typically built around OKC’s data research, and laced with clickbaity headlines and controversial topics (e.g. “The Best Questions for a First Date”, “Race and Attraction, 2009-2014”). Each article reveals empirically substantiated trends, observations, and analyses on modern dating.
For example, when it came to dating behavior, racial identity could determine your dating success. OKTrends demonstrated that “Black people and Asian men get [the] short shrift”, thereby highlighting how race (unfortunately or not) remains a romantic and sexual factor for many people.
Additionally, OKTrends’ articles are written in remarkably readable and witty prose, despite its statistical character. As OKC knows its audience and their preferences, it was able to deconstruct its dataset into succinct stories.
The result is a dynamic blog featuring original, insightful articles primed for virality. OKTrends’ articles were widely shared by its readers and heavily (and fortuitously) promoted by the media and admiring corporate giants.
A year after its launch, OKTrends generated over 2 million new OKC users.
Equipped with exclusive data and great storytelling, OKTrends secured OKC’s dominant place in the online dating industry—and it did that without any form of paid advertising.
3. Don’t Get Eaten! – OKCupid remains relevant by avoiding direct competition with its siblings
Surprise surprise! Apparently, OKC, and its rivals, Tinder and Match.com, are owned by the same parent company, The Match Group.
As Tinder becomes increasingly popular, these three sites risk being cannibalized and overshadowed by one another. Users may quit one site for the other.
However, as company records show, The Match Group has skillfully avoided that situation by differentiating and showering equal love on each of its companies.
In this respect, OKC, as we’ve shown, has done a brilliant job in brand and product differentiation.
It does so by targeting people between the ages of 18 and 80. It also, as Yagan tells, tries to “influence the influencers” through shareable blog posts, social media, and data-driven algorithms.
- Don’t hesitate to utilize big data. If you’re a startup, there’s plenty of public datasets for you to tap into and capitalize on.
- Produce shareable content! If used carefully, clickbait, listicles, and controversial (but interesting) stories can generate great word-of-mouth and publicity.
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors. There’s always some nuance to make and some niche to exploit.