The Internet Dating industry has a conference called iDate. This year, iDate 2009 is scheduled for Los Angeles, London and Miami. The event is billed as “the largest conference that covers the business management for the Internet Dating and Social Networking Industries.” iDate has launched a virtual conference to complement their physical events [see press release].
Perhaps at the iDate 2009 events, industry players can collaborate on leveraging virtual event platforms to faciliate online matchmaking. What are some of the challenges of online matchmaking today?
- Interaction is via asynchronous messaging (either via email – or, via messaging within the service’s web site)
- You never get to learn much about potential mates besides what they’ve chosen to provide in their online profile
- You’re never sure if that uploaded picture is “true” – for singles of a more advanced age, perhaps the picture is one from 10 years ago
- You don’t truly get a feel for your potential mate prior to a phone call or in-person meet-up
- The game changer: webcams – require all participants to utilize a webcam. Without one, you truly won’t know who’s on the other end of a chat window. With one, you’ll be able to discover whether the picture (that attracted your attention) matches up with the individual who uploaded it. And, you’re able to interact via spoken word to other attendees – and see their facial expressions.
- Global access, from home – the event would have elements of a physical meet-up, but attendees could participate from anywhere. That being said, regionalized virtual events may be necessary, to facilitate match making of individuals within close geographic proximity.
- Profile matchmaking – some virtual event platforms already have this feature – for online dating, this is the secret sauce that differentiates one service over another. For an eHarmony, perhaps they integrate their sophisticated algorithms into the event platform, so that attendees can be paired up in the virtual event like they are on eHarmony.com.
- Speed dating via webcam – facilitate five minute private webcam sessions between two attendees – after which, they’re rotated to brand new webcam partners.
- Post-event data portal – after the event, participants can login to a personalized web-based portal, where they can review all the interactions they had with other attendees. If you met over 20 people online, you might need such a feature to remember whom you really liked!
- Find mates by observing – topical chat rooms could be organized (e.g. Music, Sports, Food, Travel), where attendees could congregate to chat about their hobbies and interests. The chat need not be restricted to text – some platforms support multi-webcam rooms, where participants can speak and see the other participants. By observing, one might find someone interesting/attractive – and later on, you can connect with that person privately (e.g. in a 1-on-1 chat).
For the online matchmaking service providers, virtual events provide a nice up-sell opportunity to complement subscription-based revenue. To avoid canibalization of the subscription business, perhaps you only allow access to the virtual event for existing subscribers.
The virtual events could also serve to generate new subscriptions – imagine tying the event into Facebook’s ~175MM active users via Facebook Connect. Attendees could see which of their Facebook friends are in the event – and, post updates back to their Wall, driving new users into the event (and hence, new subscriptions to your service).
So, time to get moving – millions of singles across the globe await!