Pictures have always been a critical draw in every online profile. Recent figures bear out the trend; profiles with pictures get ten times more views on PlentyOfFish, and seven times more on LinkedIn. But increased views are only the beginning; attraction is what drives that next click, profile scan and message initiation in the online dating world. Profile-writing consultants do abound and help daters avoid common mistakes, but oftentimes no amount of profile content optimization can replace the split-second impression a picture alone creates.
For better or worse, snap judgments become a necessary filtering mechanism used to efficiently focus dating efforts, whether online or offline. Dentyne Gum captured this reality exceptionally well in their 2012 “Elements of Attraction” Canadian marketing push, highlighting the perceived personality traits that underpin surface-level looks. This first impression can certainly be shaped through subsequent conversation or a deeper profile read, but the preliminary visual impression is what drives action.
Nowhere is this now more evident than in the meteoric rise of Tinder (and similar mobile dating apps like Blendr, Skout, AreYouInterested and the like). With over 1 billion average “swipe-rates” per month since launch, the app eschews traditional written profiles, allowing users to take the next step almost purely based on their first impressions of presented pictures.In this sense — by necessity of the nature, volume and ubiquity of social networking interactions — the profile picture has become the profile itself. So what are the implications? Much in the way that profile-doctors comb a first-draft dating profile for areas of improvement, so should online daters become more cognizant of picture elements that drive particular impressions (and subsequent actions) over others.
As a 2010 OKCupid study noted, things like “facial attitude” (smiling, flirting etc.) and “photo context” (location, objects etc.) can have myriad effects on how daters are perceived and their subsequent levels of success. To gather opinions thus becomes a necessary precursor to posting online dating pictures; but what are the options? Friends are notoriously biased (not everyone can possibly look “amaaazzzzing!” in every Facebook picture, as friends will tend to have us believe), so aren’t the best source.
A picture rating app like Waduyu.com helps fill the gap. Having evolved the “hot or not”-style rating concept, Waduyu allows users to select four criteria (such as Approachability, Likeability, Intelligence, Style, or any of 14 others) against which their pic will be rated by the public. Others then have 20 seconds to provide their true first impression (so true, in fact, that the picture remains blurred out until the clock starts) against the selected criteria. Users can put up multiple pictures and find the ones that best convey desired characteristics, before posting them on dating sites.
Whether using a tool like Waduyu or talking to friends, online daters will need to place greater weight on profile picture optimization efforts in their search for love.
By Yuval Roll, founder of Waduyu
Twitter ID: @YuvalRoll, @waduyu