OkCupid: Another Big Data Success Story

Nov 19, 2013

I recently spent an afternoon going down a podcast rabbit hole. It started with the DoubleX podcast from Slate, which led me to an episode of Dan Savage's Savage Love podcast, which pointed me to--of all things--the OkCupid blog. I was more surprised than anybody when I discovered we could all learn something from OkCupid about analytics and all the very scary things websites know about us.

Now, I'm not going to lie, the stuff OkCupid--an online dating site--knows about its users is way more interesting than just about anything you or I will ever know about anyone who visits our site, downloads our white papers, or signs up for our newsletters. (Although, it would be kind of funny to throw in an unexpected question every now and then. If you want to download this white paper about social media marketing, you have to tell us your name, your company, and your idea of the perfect date.) For instance, according to one infographic, people who use Twitter every day tend to have shorter relationships than everyone else. (This explains Kim Kardashian's marriage to Kris Humphries.) One chart even compares the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of the country that users live in to the portion of users who are looking for casual sex.

But it isn't what OkCupid knows about its users that is important-though it is certainly fascinating. It's what it does with this knowledge. OkCupid users volunteer a lot-and I do mean a lot-of information about themselves in the hopes of finding love (or a decent hookup), and the site uses that information to suggest possible matches. Users can make their answers to questions public--so that potential matches can see how they answered--or private (probably so your employer can't accidentally discover that you binge drink and do drugs regularly). That's all well and good, but the folks at OkCupid have gone a step further. They used the information that has been volunteered and scraped the profiles of users to come up with more interesting and in-depth correlations that they then turn into fascinating, engaging, and often salacious blog posts. And if you're a careful reader, you can even learn a lot about the people who may be hiding the answers to some of the more sensational questions (or who chose not to answer them). The site also dives into user information--and it conducts other surveys--to create blog posts that provide relevant and helpful tips for dating.

One post about the best questions to ask on a first date is not only funny, but it also delves deep into the process involved in coming up with the list. Apparently, if you want to know whether or not your date will sleep with you on the first date, you should ask if he or she likes the taste of beer. If so, there's a damn good chance you can get lucky! If you want to know if you and your date have long-term potential, you should ask about horror movies, if he or she has traveled around a foreign country on their own, or if he or she thinks it would be fun to drop normal life to go live on a sailboat. If you agree on these things, you're apparently very likely to have a successful relationship. Who knew, right? Well, OkCupid did because it compared the profiles of people who left its dating site after getting into a relationship with another site member. 

What intrigues me the most about the OkCupid blog is its ability to find meaning in what would seem to be a mess of Big ... no ... Huge Data-and then turn it into great content marketing. It's pretty obvious what its users are interested in, and the company uses the massive data at its disposal to tell them just how to achieve those goals. And the information isn't just useful for current users. If you're a single guy trolling the internet for dating tips and you come across the helpful hints that OkCupid drops in each blog post, you're probably pretty likely to sign up for its service and start looking for girls who share your view of sailboat living (or maybe just for a gal who likes the taste of beer).

In many ways, OkCupid is going a step beyond just spinning Big Data into marketing gold. It's delving into the psyches of its users and using it to help/lure them into the fold-telling them what they never would have realized on their own.