Great viral marketing from Mingle2

This ZombieHarmony dating site linkbait made me laugh rather a lot. I’m sure it’s gotten its fair share of links from bloggers all over the place.

Great idea, well made and bound to interest the type of people likely to have a blog and a nice social media presence.

It’s difficult to get a dating site to stand out nowadays but some sites do well at getting viral content to do the job for them. OKcupid did it well with their thousands of quizzes and mingle2 are obviously doing something right too. Anyone seen any other good ones lately?

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Creating effective banner ads for dating sites

If you own a dating site and want to run an ad campaign that will get you actual, immediate results (i.e. people signing up to your site) as opposed to branding, you’re far better off running an ad campaign online rather than offline. Online, the people you are trying to sell your services to are only a few clicks away from your site and everything is trackable, allowing you to see exactly how your campaign is performing. Online banners are interactive, giving you more options to play with compared to , say, a newspaper ad. This is not always good, though, as it seems to make some advertisers and designers lose their heads and forget the whole purpose of this exercise (i.e. getting people to sign up to the site). Manyof the world’s biggest dating sites got big not because of branding but because of direct marketing campaigns designed to bring in as many customers as possible. Direct marketing is everything branding isn’t and people who come from one discipline often find it very hard to get into the mindset. I sometimes look at other people’s campaigns and think to myself “there is no way that site is making any money from this campaign”. My campaigns, on the other hand, generally worked 🙂

Here are a few things I learned while marketing 5 of the UK’s busiest dating sites in this particular way:

  1. Never give your designer a free reign
  2. Designers are artistic, creative people who generally want to show off their design skills and make pretty things. Sadly, art and marketing don’t generally mix. The same goes for writing. As a writer, the hardest thing for me when writing ad copy is realising quite how simple it needs to be compared to what I’d like it to be. Good ad copy sometimes makes very bad English – every writer’s nightmare. The same goes for design – pretty designs won’t necessarily sell your product. Good ads sometimes break every aesthetic rule; you don’t care. Your ads need to conform to marketing and advertising rules above all else – design, art, writing are never as important. It may break your designer’s heart, so make sure you pay him or her well. 🙂

  3. Keep it simple
  4. An ad doesn’t need too many bells and whistles to be effective. In my experience, I found that flash ads with interactive animations never worked as well as the simpler stuff. Attracting people’s attention and giving them cute things to click on and make things happen is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into them coming to your site. Sometimes people won’t even understand that they’re meant to click through at all. There is such a thing as being too original.

    Don’t overload your ad with copy and too many images. One liners , a simple question and answer format (“Looking for love? Find it here!”) is all it takes sometimes to get people clicking. In a very visual, animated ad landscape, a simple banner could stand out by virtue of being understated.

  5. Know your context
  6. Depending on your advertising deal, it’s not always possible to know where your ads are showing, but if at all possible, do it. This will give you a better understanding of the advertising landscape you’re dealing with. Check the positioning so you can tell which ads stand out and which blend into the background. Also, check out the site’s colours and see if your ad gets camouflaged by them. I’ve had banners sent to me by the designer that would have completely disappeared into the background of certain sites we were advertising on. Luckily I remembered to check (at some point, la la la) and realised the colour scheme needed to be changed.
    Some sites are very busy with adverts or features and would require a whole different set of creatives if you want to get noticed. Unless you look, you may be throwing your money away without realising it.

  7. Make life easier for your potential customers
  8. The more work you make someone do between the time when s/he sees your ad and the Promised Land (i.e seeing the potential love of his/her life in your site’s search results) the more you stand to lose that person’s attention. If possible, link straight to the search page on your site. HTML creatives where users can run a search directly from the ad are good, though the fact that the Web is overloaded with fake animated gif versions means some people won’t know it’s the real deal.

    Encourage people to click on your ad by putting call-to-action buttons and phrases like “Click here to search for free now!” Not everyone online is net-savvy enough to know they should be clicking.

  9. Rigid branding is not always the best option
  10. If you have a big dating site or one that is designed to appeal to a wide audience, you may well find that some creatives perform well on some networks/sites but not so well on others. If you’re looking to bring in registrations, rather than create a strong brand-association, your best best is to tailor the creatives to the places you are advertising in and their audience. Die-hard direct marketers would go as far as saying you should even drop your logo if necessary and concentrate on selling the service rather than the brand. Personally, I prefer to use the logo in every creative, even if the general design differs from campaign to campaign. Obviously, the larger and more popular your site becomes, the easier ( and, possibly, more important) it is to start leveraging brand power and use things like common colour schemes, themes, etc. for your ad. While you are still building a database from scratch, there’s really no need to do that.

  11. ABT – Always Be Tracking
  12. Tracking a campaign as a whole is not enough. You want to track each banner and even, if possible, how each banner performs across different sites. The more tracking you can put in, the better. This way, you can immediately tell which banners work and which don’t and you can avoid wasting a lot of money by making changes, pausing underperforming banners and upweighting those that work.

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Dodgy press releases (again)

There is a fine line between creating a newsworthy, attention-grabbing publicity pieces and making your press release seem too unlikely to be true.
Dating, love, sex, relationships: they are all hot topics that can forever be used to get journalists interested. We all know that many tabloids don’t bother checking their facts, but even the laziests, greediest journos have their limits.

Here’s an example of a pretty dodgy press release.

I got excited when I saw this headline:

Half of Brits try online dating

I started reading the full article:

More Brits than ever are turning to the internet to find love, new research has revealed.

Fifty-three per cent of Brits admit to registering on an average of two dating websites and 83 per cent have been on a dating site at some point.

This is big, big news, n’est pas? This seemed like a juicy piece for me to comment about, until, somewhere down the line, the standard press release structure came through. Turns out this was a poll of 3,000 people conducted for a certain UK dating site.
Not exactly a blinding proof, is it? Crude workmanship annoys me.

Of course, I’m just being mean. Usually, at least one tabloid would pick up on something like this. It’s just that this has not exactly been a slow news week, so the papers have mostly been talking about Gaza and Paris Hilton and Barrymore. As it stands, though, I’ve not seen this picked up yet. Am keeping my eye out though!

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Promoting your dating site: the PR trick that never gets old

With online dating getting so competitive, it’s getting harder and harder for sites to stand out and get noticed. Companies resort to all kinds of silly and nasty tricks to get media attention, which always amazes me. Why do people go to all that trouble when any decent-sized dating site already has a readily available, massive PR resource just waiting to be used?

I’m talking users. Masses of them.
Come up with some questions, stick a poll on your site and within a short time, you’ll have yourself a nice little PR gem to sell the press. Here’s one plentyoffish made earlier.
It’s got everything:

  • A “shocking” revelation
  • if your poll is not shocking enough on its own, you could always fiddle with the results, although that would obviously be wrong so I couldn’t possibly suggest that.

  • A celebrity’s name thrown in for effect
  • In this case, Demi Moore. This always gets people interested. If you’re lucky, the journos will even stick a pic of said celebrity in with the article.
    To encourage them to do that, make sure you pick someone hot and preferably female as your celebrity of choice. People love celebrities. If they see a picture, they will read the article.

  • The cherry on top: a staggering number of research subjects, making the poll seem extra-conclusive.
  • Even a 1000 members make up a decent-sized poll but, obviously, the more the merrier. 50,000 users may actually be a bit much for most journalists in the UK to take seriously, though. We’re the land of understatements here. Maybe more people would buy into it in the US?

The bonus round:

Regionalisation is always nice, too. States, cities, counties: if they have their own regional papers, they’ll love free articles about themselves.

Polls are easy to do, relatively cheap and nobody will ever get tired of them. It doesn’t matter if every dating site in the world starts dishing out poll-based PR articles on a daily basis. If you can come up with good questions, journalists (and, more importantly, their readers) will keep lapping them up. Watch and learn.

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How far is too far?

Danger! In my quest for discovering new and exciting dating industry-related blogs, I recently came across Netchoice, who may be very US-centric, but seem to have a lot of good thing to say. This piece about True.com has gotten me thinking about the ethics of marketing a dating service. After all, people may be buying a subscription, but what we’re actually promising them are answers to their most intimate hopes and dreams. Sure, we all use phrases such as “get a date” and “find your soulmate” when we can’t actually guarantee all our customers will, but surely there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to actually lying to your customers?

It astounds me that legislators in the US are so easily manipulated that they would fall prey to one company’s attempt to establish its own business model as an industry standard, against the better judgement of longer-established companies. I can’t imagine it ever happening in the UK, where I would like to think private companies don’t wield that much power. You have to wonder about a company that would resort to selling its customers/potential customers a false sense of security for $50 a month, while also selling them false promises in the form of phoney icebreakers and blatantly sexual adverts. It should have really been called false.com, but then again calling yourself “true.com” is kinda like saying “trust me” and isn’t that the mark of the con artist?

Whoever does this company’s PR is an evil genius of cartoon proportions. As I’ve mentioned recently elsewhere, an effective business survives by giving people what they want, effective marketing often works by convincing people what you have to sell is what they want to buy. You can basically reverse supply and demand by creating the illusion of need in your audience. How frightfully effective it is, then, to bring about an actual law creating demand for something that is simply unnecessary and futile.

As I was writing this, I just remembered that the US has got a long, filthy history of this sort of malicious marketing. Torches of freedom, anyone?

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Shaadi.com advertising on the tube *

* That’s the London Underground, for you non-Brits

Just saw this ad today for Indian website, Shaadi.com:
Shaadi.com ad
Crappy pic, I know, but I didn’t have a proper camera on me. Click on the image for the bigger version.
It’s a bit unclear in the pic, but the woman is said to be a model into “modern art and boxing” and the guy is a “businessman” who likes Stallone and wildlife. The man is 5’11” and 29, the woman is 5’4″ and 25. Seems like some very traditional, stereotypical assumptions are being made about the preferences of the target audience. Then again, The Asian community is often quite traditional so maybe they’ll all be flocking to Shaadi.com to find their own businessmen and models.
I noted there aren’t any calls to action, nor are there any promotional codes, mobile shortcodes or any other method of tracking conversions from this campaign. Pure branding? I hope they have money to burn. I know how much these campaigns cost…

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