What Dating Apps Can Teach Us About the Importance of Creative Storytelling

May 17, 2017 Nicola Brown

creative storytelling in online dating

In August 2016, I entered a realm I never thought I’d set foot in: the world of online dating. I hadn’t anticipated how much creative storytelling would play a role in this unfamiliar digital landscape, but it quickly became clear that when it comes to forging connections online, carefully considered storytelling techniques are paramount—whether you’re an individual looking for love or a company looking to engage your audience.

online dating

Image attribution: Greg Raines

The rise in popularity of online dating is staggering. According to Statistic Brain, 49 million people in the US have tried online dating (and the industry rakes in $1.7 billion annually). Pew research found that between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of Americans aged 18 to 24 who used online dating shot from 10 to 27%, and usage doubled among those aged 55 to 64. In 2015, 41% of Americans knew someone who used online dating and 29% knew someone who met a spouse or long-term partner that way.

There are still many mixed opinions about the online dating world, and a quick browse through sites like eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, or Tinder reveals that it’s a crapshoot when it comes to meeting someone online. In my own experience, the content of profiles and conversations run the gamut from cringeworthy (or downright terrifying) to Pulitzer-level brilliance.

Here are some insights drawn from eight months of research, if you will, into the online world of dating that marketers and content creators can use to build successful creative storytelling campaigns.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Personalization

Personalization is one of the biggest buzzwords in the marketing world today, and for good reason. Audience expectations are rising when it comes to the desire to feel communicated with directly and personally.

It didn’t take long for me to start recognizing the mass-deployed, impersonal copy-and-paste messages in online dating apps (especially when they were accidentally sent twice in a row!). The type of language and content of these messages became familiar to the point where I wouldn’t have to read the whole thing before dismissing it. This is exactly what happens with audiences who receive a barrage of content and communications on a daily basis. We start to recognize stale language and boilerplate appeals and will turn away faster than it takes to finish the first sentence.

Audiences like to know you’ve taken the time to understand them as best you can. In the online dating world, this equates to responding directly to something I’ve written in my profile. For brands, this could include personal outreach via social media that shows customers you’re listening to their individual comments and sentiments.

Narrow and Specific Beats Broad and General

If I have hundreds of options, inevitably those that don’t go out of their way to differentiate themselves from the competition won’t be memorable. Instead of telling me you like going out for drinks (who doesn’t?), tell me you enjoy checking out new cocktail bars or craft breweries. This kind of specificity gives me a much better idea of your personality and an image of what a date might look like.

Some brands err on the side of being general to try to be as inclusive as possible, but it can backfire when you end up sounding boring. It’s better to engage a smaller subset of potential customers than put a lot of them to sleep. Try A/B testing different specific descriptions and kinds of content to see where the greatest engagement happens.

When you start crafting a specific story to communicate what you are as a company or what your product represents, it sounds more real and believable than pushing vague platitudes. Don’t be afraid to narrow the scope of your brand image slightly; leaning the opposite way is unlikely to grab attention in our noisy online world.

Branding Should Be an Open, Two-Way Conversation

Whether it’s personal or professional, the way you brand yourself or your company or your product should be open and interactive.

two-way conversation

Image attribution: Anna Vander Stel

I get it—it’s your online dating profile, of course you’re going to talk about yourself. But the more you talk about what you’re looking for in someone else and ask intriguing, open-ended questions, the more it feels like you’re seeking a two-way relationship rather than simply luxuriating in the brilliance of your own existence. I don’t just want to hear about you. I want to hear about what you think and how you relate to other people (friends and family for instance) and the kinds of questions you have yet to answer (nobody has all the answers). Finally, who are you looking for and how will we be compatible together?

Brands ought to be thinking in exactly the same way. Audiences no longer want to be advertised to; they want to have a relationship with companies. They want a two-way conversation that seems real and authentic. It’s OK to not be perfect—in fact it’s probably beneficial. We’re not expecting our favorite brands to be gods of infinite wisdom, and we would prefer honesty and imperfection over deception.

It’s truly eye-opening what online dating can teach us as content creators and marketers. When we see what people are looking for when it comes to what might be the most important relationship of their lives, we uncover the creative storytelling techniques that build some of the most fundamental human relationships. We’re lucky to have such a window into the psychology of relationship building in 2017, even if we haven’t quite ironed out all the kinks yet.

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Featured image attribution: Henri Meilhac

The post What Dating Apps Can Teach Us About the Importance of Creative Storytelling appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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