Dating websites are among some of the most sites difficult to launch – harder than other social websites. There are a few reasons why:
- The Chicken and Egg problem. This afflicts all social websites – in order for a site to be useful, many people have to be on it. If nobody is on it, it’s not useful – but what comes first, the users or the usefulness?
- Dating websites must have user density – enough people in any given area to make the site effective. This is unlike Facebook or Digg, where users from all around the world can connect and share. It’s much harder to get a critical mass of users in every town or city.
- If you match users successfully, they leave. Dating sites are unique in this way; if you give users what they want – real, meaningful connections that result in relationships – they deactivate.
- People don’t like to share dating websites. There is still a stigma – it’s not like telling your buddy to check out a cat video on Youtube.
- Gender imbalances and overwhelming the women. Men are more likely to join dating websites. This creates a gender imbalance that often leaves women overwhelmed with messages – and they end up leaving, making the problem worse.
- Dating websites are a magnet for spammers. Because dating websites enable strangers to contact each other, they are a magnet for spammers trying to sell something or con users.
That list is just the tip of the iceberg. Dating sites do have one advantage, however, and that is the excruciatingly powerful need for people to find meaningful romantic relationships. Many would say that finding love is one of the most important goals in their lives. And thus, we have many startups throwing their hats in the ring, and many users willing to take chances on new ideas.
Why not just spam Facebook?
Many smart people in tech say that the only way to build a successful dating website is to find a viral or innovative method of user acquisition. Because it’s so hard to build and maintain the user base, and the site is only useful with a large user base, they say that getting users should be priority #1. This makes sense, but unfortunately “innovation” in user acquisition frequently means spamming Facebook, collecting information (like email addresses) without telling people, showing profiles to people who aren’t even registered, and creating shell profiles which are very attractive but very unlikely to respond to messages…. because they’re fake.
Circl.es would never resort to these types of tactics. Besides being completely unethical, these strategies are tacky and would drive away the best single people – the ones you’d actually want to date.
The Honest Truth
Circl.es has not broken out yet, but we’ve attracted well over 1000 active users in a very short period of time, and this is just the beginning. The strategy with Circl.es is simple – honesty. We tell users upfront that we’re just getting started, and that we really need them to share. So far, they’ve been remarkably willing to do so. It’s a group effort, and every user on the site is part of a movement to make online dating better. The users will have to camp out and wait for the user density that will bring usefulness…. in San Francisco this density is already being reached.
The challenge becomes conveying the value proposition to users and turning them into advocates that are willing to share. Circl.es is so different from other sites that this is not (too) difficult. The true differentiator of the site – real names and photos – is self evident to anyone who joins.
Also, the Facebook integration brings the benefit of essentially eliminating spammers and fake profiles – each profile must have a minimum number of friends and activity to join – and the decision mechanism (saying yes/no to people to find mutual matches) eliminates the problem with overwhelming women. Counterintuitively, the site is also extremely discreet.
Like, or Like-Like
It’s all about sharing. Each user who posts to Facebook brings on at least two other users. Tweets are much less effective but they can’t hurt. So, if you’re reading this and like Circl.es, Like it on Facebook…. and know that you’ve contributed to building a simple, honest community of single people looking to find love and deactivate.