9 out of 10 dating sites fail not because they cannot get traction, but because they cannot spark interactions. It doesn’t take a genius to get young hormonal men signing up onto a dating site, especially in regions where the gender ratio is already skewed in their favor. It’s much more difficult getting women to sign up at a dating site.
Dating sites are a great example of two-sided markets which, often, rapidly build out traction on one side but fail to get any uptake on the other. Typically, such markets are asymmetrical with one side that is harder to attract (the ‘hard’ side) and the other which is relatively easier to get traction on (the ‘easy’ side).
Members of the ‘hard’ side are more likely to not show up
Given the lack of quality interactions on most dating sites and the general stalker tendencies that seems to take over some members there, women are a lot more careful about joining.
Getting the ‘hard’ side in almost guarantees the ‘easy’ side following in, while getting the ‘easy’ side in won’t guarantee the other side
One might say that since it is so easy to get the ‘easy’ side in, why don’t we get them in and then attract the hard side purely on the basis of numbers. Here’s the dating: Since it is easy to get the easy side in, a lot of other people are already doing that and creating noisy destinations.
You won’t find women signing up just because there is an army of raging men all stacked up on the site. A dating site with real women, on the other hand, almost always attracts men.
The ‘easy’ side desires quality and it is often difficult to get that quality
A great way of solving The Mutual Baiting Problem in such a scenario is to incentivize the ‘hard’ side to join in. Some common incentives could be:
Monetary/Standalone: Chris Dixon outlines this in his article on the “Ladies Night” strategy. Bars and pubs often hold a weekly ‘Ladies Night’ where women get free drinks, tapas, something… to gather a critical mass of women which would then get men coming in all the more. What works for a singles bar works for a dating site!
Better Experience: The ‘hard side’ would literally pay for a better experience. Since it’s so easy to get men to sign up on a dating site, most dating sites end up getting chock-full of stalkers with poor grammar and (if there’s a video chat component) inappropriately angled video cameras run by inappropriately clad men. The bulk of online dating networks are just so irrelevant that women value relevance a lot more than they would a monetary incentive. CupidCurated is trying to solve for this by letting ‘real women’ curate the membership and determine who does or doesn’t get access to the site. This has helped seed the ‘hard’ side well despite the fact that the initial launch was in a highly single-male-dominated geography (the Bay Area).
While the dating market is a classic example of an asymmetrical market, this strategy works equally well for other markets with a ‘hard’ side. E.g. Luxury Commerce. Targeting high end consumers, especially with niche interests, is difficult. Magazines on luxury travel etc. assemble a market of high-end consumers and use that to attract advertisers. Advertising, of course, suffers from negative network effects but the principle of incentivizing the ‘hard’ side works equally well.