“And then he says to me ‘nobody reads profiles anymore’ – can you believe that?” said my friend indignantly.
He was on a roll about the superficiality and innate attention deficit of online dating apps. My friend had taken great care with his profile, but was getting hit on by guys who hadn’t bothered to read it.
If they had, they would have realised that he was looking for somebody who read profiles. Catch 22.
In this case it was Grindr, but I’ve heard much the same lament about Tinder, Bumble and Happn. Gay, straight, or anything in between, the attention deficit seems to know no boundaries.
Nobody reads anything anymore, right?
Except they do. If they didn’t, then newspapers would go out of business – even the online ones, whose articles go way beyond the supposedly shrinking attention spans. Just look at the popularity of the Guardian’s fabulous long read articles.
If people can stick with a 5,000-word article to the end, how come they can’t read a 50-word profile? Especially if it avoids the wasted time and effort of beginning a conversation with somebody they’re patently incompatible with?
The answer, of course, has to do with scarcity.
The Guardian publishes just a few long-read articles a week – enough to keep people interested and engaged, but not so many that they overwhelm. By drip-feeding the supply, they keep people coming back for more.
And even then, those articles are not for everybody. Some people simply don’t have the time, inclination or interest to read to the end. But that’s OK – the mainstream articles are long enough to keep people’s attention, and keep them clicking on those all-important adverts.
By contrast, dating apps are like most social media, with endless variety and a seemingly infinite supply.
Swipe left, swipe right, block, tap, favourite or send out virtual signals. Cast the net wide and shallow. Start a conversation, but get distracted by something more interesting. Until that conversation is itself superseded by another.
How does anybody stand out in such a crowded field?
Some people manage it very cleverly, often using reverse psychology to grab people’s attention. If everybody’s saying read profile, they say DON’T read profile (which is a bit like saying ‘Don’t imagine a red horse’, that reliable old trick that catches everybody out).
Others use an off-the-wall photo, or an arty one, or something that departs from the norm – black-and-white, sepia, upside-down, even rotated 90 degrees (my friend told me he had great success with that one, until people started copying him.)
Marketing sometimes feels a bit like dating: you’re opening yourself to the judgement and criticism of others, and can be hurt by their reaction. But by the same token, you can learn from the feedback and improve your offering.
And those who succeed know that the rules for both are petty similar:
So does nobody read profiles anymore? Or tweets, blog posts or overviews? Reports, e-mailshots or white papers? Yes they do – you just need to think laterally and fly under the radar.
That’s what all the best daters do. My friend is already revamping his profile, and this time he’s not writing it for himself, but for the potential ‘prospects’ who’ll decide in a split second whether to reply or delete, ignore or engage.
Watch out guys.