Recently at the Mashable holiday party, I spoke with good friend and fellow blogger David Berkowitz about the intersection between social media and online dating. I proposed a new social network that would allow you to “rate” your dates similar to a Zagat® guide. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that David had actually met his wife on JDate and scored an exclusive interview with him on his top dating tips for the lonely hearts out there.
As the President of a social media marketing agency, I am intrigued by how social media intersects with personal branding. It is more critical now than ever before to create a cohesive brand identity between all of your social networking sites, because one of the first things that people who meet you on dating site will do is look you up on other social networks. With the advent of social media and the Google™ indexing of real-time tweets, it is imperative that you clean up your digital footprint and are well aware of what information your date will find about you before they search for you. If you think they aren’t performing online searches of you, then think again.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is creating very separate identities on all of their social sites. For example, someone could write that they are looking for a “long- term relationship” on their JDate profile, then after you connect with them on Facebook® you see that they are friends with 500 girls and have pictures posted of them partying every night. If you say you are looking for a relationship, you need to make sure you are backing this up on your other social sites. Conversely, it is also important to remove pictures of your exes if you truly are looking to meet someone new. It sends out better vibes to your prospective mate that you are serious.
Social media is rapidly changing the world of dating – both online and off. David Berkowitz recommends not connecting with people via social media until you are absolutely ready to take the relationship to the next level. He thinks social media can encourage virtual “stalking” prematurely and that it can create unfair biases very early in the courting process.
The other problem with connecting with someone too early via social media is that you are able to see all of their recent updates since your first date. For example, if they have not called you but are tagged in other pictures with new girls or guys, you may jump to conclusions that they are not that into you. This is why it is extremely dangerous to become virtual friends with someone before you have gone on a few dates with someone – it can end up ruining the relationship prematurely. The same is true for becoming Blackberry® Messenger friends with someone before you are in a serious relationship. It encourages casual texting and does not force a man into the courtship process. If they know they are always connected with you it cuts down on the level of suspense.
My top tips for creating a cohesive online identity:
2.) Remove pictures of your ex on your social networks if you are serious about entering into a new relationship
3.) Do not post status updates about your dates as new privacy restrictions may make your updates visible to everyone including your date (social media is not as private as you may think)
4.) Be creative with your profile! Create a profile that is unique and sets you apart from the rest. However, don’t make it so “creative” that if someone looks you up on Facebook, Twitter® or LinkedIn® they will think you are several different people.
5.) Once you have taken the “virtual” relationship offline, do not connect online during your date! Stay off your phone, it is the easiest way to kill the chances of a second date. Courtship is still very much alive, despite the rise of social media.
Below is my exclusive interview with David Berkowitz, a fellow social media enthusiast and blogger. David Berkowitz met his wife “virtually” on JDate on New Year’s Day in 2006 and has been married to her for two years. He credits meeting his wife to a “technical glitch.” She works in government relations for a social services agency in NYC.
Kris: How did you meet your wife on JDate?
David: JDate has features where you can favorite people. You put a heart around them and if they do the same to you then you are a match. It is a way to pre-screen and “stalk” each other and show someone that you’re interested. I communicated with her, emailed her through the site and met her four days later.
Kris: What was different about your wife’s profile as opposed to all the rest?
David: It is easy to tell one’s personality from their profile and having a real authentic personality shows quite a bit. Cara, my wife, was very worldly, had many interests. Specifically, she mentioned reading, travel, Netflix and attending cultural events throughout the city. These were outright appealing because it showed that she was someone who has a lot of her own interests, as opposed to more standard profiles.
Kris: What is the worst thing you could do from a personal branding perspective on JDate?
David: Mis-represent yourself. This typically happens when someone only shows one photo – always ask for more because a lot of times people appear very different in person than they do in their one photo.
David: My best tip is to have fun with it! JDate should not be a resume – it is not a LinkedIn profile! Be sure not to contradict yourself. I would see people write “I like staying out but I also like staying in.” A lot of time people are hesitant to show their real personalities because they don’t want to be seen. A lot of the information gets very redundant – if you want to stand out, set yourself apart from the rest and get creative with your profile.
Kris: How did you get creative and secure your personal brand on JDate?
David: I created a multiple-choice quiz designed to be a compatibility test. For example, I would write “add or subtract points if we have this in common.” It was only at the end of my run on JDate when I really loosened up and let my personality shine through. I didn’t care about being too serious anymore and learned that it actually helped my personal brand when I showed that I did, in fact, have a personality. It was also a great icebreaker.
Kris: What would you say is the kiss of death in personal branding on dating sites?
David: The kiss of death is being dishonest – intentional or not. Put up good pictures that truly represent who you are not the glamour shots that put you in the best light. Also, if you know you want to meet a religious guy you can’t then expand your search to people who don’t share your same observance level.
Kris: Do you think social media can get in the way of creating personal branding on dating sites?
David: Yes. The best thing I did was take the conversation offline as quickly as possible. You can tell so much more from a phone call than an online profile without knowing someone. My wife was a lot quicker to stalk me online than I would stalk her.
Kris: Everyone is searching online through Bing™ or Google™ for information about their dates now. Do you think this is detrimental to the online dating process?
David: You have to be ready to know how your brand is being represented. If someone knows your name it is easy to find something about you very fast. Personal branding matters a lot more now than ever before and you should assume someone will be digging up information about you. When it comes down to this level, it is inherently no different from the business world where you have to be ready for a potential client/customer to do background research on you. It is crucial to figure out how your brand is being reflected.
Kris: So you do not believe in pre-screening people via social media before dating them?
David: Don’t look people up anywhere! I refused to search for people because working in our field (social media) I knew if there was something out there about someone I’d be able to find it. I didn’t want to get that type of bias and handicap. I absolutely refused to become Facebook friends with someone immediately so that I would not be biased about their other previously-posted pictures, etc.
Kris: What is your top dating tip for singles?
David: Be yourself! It is so crucial and it might even require getting a few second opinion from friends. Ask your friends to view your profile and honestly ask them if it really reflects who you are. Is your profile an accurate but engaging and inviting reflection of you?
Kris: Should you become Facebook® friends with someone you meet on JDate
David: I wouldn’t recommend it until you are serious about making your relationship official. It will become weird if they are still your Facebook friend and you are both dating other people. If you decide you will never be in a relationship but are genuinely happy to be friends, then you can become Facebook friends. Most of the time many of these relationships will end within a month and you don’t want to be permanently linked to people. Then you are faced with the ultimate question of “at what point do I unfriend them?”
Kris: Do you recommend connecting with your date on LinkedIn®?
David: Do not do it! Especially LinkedIn – which is primarily a professional network – it is very hard unlinking to people – it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to do it recently!
Kris: What about following your date on Twitter®?
David: It is easier to unfollow people on Twitter, but I think that this will promote premature stalking. It can get to be too much information than you should have in the beginning.
Kris: What is the best thing about your wife?
David: Since meeting my wife on JDate, I have been married to her for over two years. She has opened up my horizons quite a bit and has given me a much broader and deeper perspective on just about everything. There is a lot that I give her a ton of credit for!
Kris: Any words of wisdom for the singles out there who are tired of looking after one too many bad dates?
David: It was a very tiring process in a lot of ways and definitely takes a strong commitment, but you shouldn’t give up on dating simply because you got burned or went a few bad dates. I have a few friends who met people right away on JDate, however, for many others, myself included, the journey takes much longer. The benefit of online dating is that it is a great way to screen people and meet people who are in the ballpark of who you want to meet. There were times where I would go on a bunch of first dates and that would be it – but ultimately I realized it was a real time investment and I was committed to finding the perfect partner. I couldn’t give up.
Your hard work winds up paying off in the long run – it is not unlike the work world where you are in the interview process. You just need one great interview for everything to work out! This is more permanent. For me, it is really funny that I have been with the same job and same person for the exact amount of time.
David Berkowitz works for a Digital Marketing Agency in Manhattan, NY
Kristen Ruby is the President & Founder of Ruby Media Group, a Social Media Marketing, Public Relations & Personal Branding agency.
GOOGLE is a trademark of Google Inc. Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc. Blackberry is a registered trademark of Research in Motion Limited. Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter, Inc. LinkedIn is a registered trademark of LinkedIn Corporation. Bing is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Spark Networks and JDate are not or affiliated with any of these entities. Zagat is a registered trademark of Zagat Survey, LLC.