How to Get More Matches on Dating Apps
Originally published 2019 and it’s still good advice!
It was a steamy August night, and I told “Andrew, 31” I’d meet him at a bar three blocks from my house. I was feeling lazy, and my expectations were right about where they always are before a Bumble date. Teetering on the brink of extremely low, but not quite at rock bottom.
Because I (“Taylor, 34”) am still a hopeless romantic.
When I walked into The Garret East and laid eyes on my date, I didn’t do my usual “low-key no-teeth-smile plus ‘what up’ chin hello” thing. No, instead I smiled with all my teeth showing. And I did a short spastic wave where my forearm was too close to my chest—I looked like an absolute dweeb. I guess that’s better than the alternative, though, which was the way this extremely thirsty, not-suitable-for-children cartoon wolf greets his love interests.
Because you guys. This guy. Was. So. Cute! Tall, too. And wearing a cool striped t-shirt. And had an adorable swoop of blonde hair I really wanted to touch. I was smitten before I’d taken a sip of my first Negroni.
Now before you’re like, “Great, you met a hot guy on a dating app. How does that help me, a man who is trying to date women like you on the apps?” Let me back up the truck and pick up my point.
“Andrew, 31” did not advertise himself well.
His photos did him absolutely no credit. His bio said something so bland I cannot recall it now. He asked if I wanted to text after like two messages over the course of 15 minutes once we matched. He went radio silent for two weeks before he asked me out.
When he finally did, he suggested several terrible bars in my neighborhood, so I ended up making the plan myself.
If he was so terrible on paper—err, my phone screen—why did he get the date?
Well, frankly, I was staring down the barrel of an entire month of travel and I wanted to make out with someone before I was too busy to pencil it in. It was dumb luck that he turned out to be sweet and curious and we clicked in-person. And by clicked I mean we totally made out. For like, 20 minutes. Outside my apartment. On a Wednesday.
My point, dear readers, is that it’s 2021, and I can’t understand why you bozos (sorry, I love you!) who bring so much to the table are out here with terrible dating app technique!
It’s time to upgrade your dating app game.
Guys are still repping blurry photos, rocking blasé intro lines, and engaging in terrible ask-her-out etiquette. We have portrait mode now! You have no excuse! Dating apps are what we’re doing. They’re what we’ve been doing for a minute now—so you’re out of excuses not to step it the f up.
And now you’re like, “But why would I bother, Taylor, if guys like me still get dates with babes like you?”
Well first of all, thank you, but second of all, no.
If you want to go on dates with women who aren’t thirsty bitches with lowered standards looking to scratch an itch (ahem), you’ll benefit from putting in the Big E—effort.
With just a little bit of effort, you’ll date more, you’ll date better, and you’ll stand a much better chance of connecting in whatever way you want.
That’s advice we stand by, no matter which apps you use.
I saw on the Today Show just last week that Match.com says one out of every three relationships starts online. (I’m aware this is lazy journalism but I just need you to believe me, okay?)
So get your swiping and typing thumbs ready, it’s time to reboot your dating (app) life.
Below, check out #SGapproved tips on how to get more matches on dating apps:
Profile Photo Do’s and Don’ts
DO: make your first photo your best.
Now, this is apparently… Not obvious? Looking at some of your profiles out there (“Andrew, 31” I still love you but like, wow) it seems like you could use a reminder that your first photo is your billboard!
Your first picture is your ticket in the door, so make it count!
“Make sure your #1 photo is one where you are clearly identifiable,” says Jenna Birch, author of The Love Gap and CEO of Plum dating app and one of our favorite go-to sources for dating advice.
“Also, make sure your angles are well thought out. Even if you’re taking a selfie, watch how celebs take them! You need a straight-on angle or even slightly above your face, not an upward angle.”
Can I just say…co-sign, guys!
A photo of just you (cropped in is okay), not wearing sunglasses or a hat, facing towards the camera is a great place to start. You want to showcase the things that women love and notice first, like your eyes and your smile.
Again, I can’t believe I have to say this, but please don’t include a selfie of you buckled into your seatbelt in the car. (You guys are really doing this, and it’s so weird!)
Mirror selfies should be nixed too. Same with professional headshots. This isn’t LinkedIn or Models.com.
Oh, and please, not a photo of you skydiving where your face is so distorted by your speedy fall to Earth that you look like an alien.
DO: use auxiliary photos to showcase hobbies, travel, and social life.
I want to see who you are, what you spend your free time doing, where you’ve been and who your friends are. Like me above! I fly fish! Did you know that? I bet not.
Use these photos as a way for us ladies to fantasize about being a part of your awesome life.
Include an adventurous photo or two if that’s your thing—but mix up the scuba trips and mountain tops with more everyday stuff like weddings, tailgates, backyard barbecues, day drinking with your buddies or like, I don’t know, you sitting on a park bench looking cute for no reason.
Too much adventure porn is just that—too much.
DO: include at least one full-body photo.
Okay, okay, so we can’t all pose like Crazy Rich Asians‘ leading man Henry Golding, above. But be inspired! Great outfit? Check. Cool location? Check. The full package? Check.
You can’t fake your height and physique in person, and you don’t want to date someone who can’t get down with your looks anyway, right? So, pick a flattering, current photo in an outfit you like.
Bottom line? No one wants to be catfished.
Again, this should be obvious, but here we are. Whether you feel really good or more “I’m working on it” about yourself right now, your odds of attracting someone who will really dig you are way better if you’re upfront and confident.
If you don’t have a good profile picture to use, or aren’t sure, ask a female friend (we’re experts at this!) to help you.
Trust me, I’ve helped my guy friend with this plenty of times!
If your female pal has a good Instagram, she’ll know exactly what to do.
She can set up a “natural” photo of you just being yourself—laughing over a drink, sitting in front of some gorgeous scenery, whatever, that’s flattering and playful and perfect for the apps.
DON’T: include a picture of you with a celebrity.
It’s tacky. This is an example of a photo that’s great for Instagram and bad for the apps! Like this #tbt of me and SJP.
So, congrats on winning those meet and greet passes, but nobody thinks you’re, like, friends with Cardi B, so don’t include that photo in your dating app profile line-up.
DON’T: use old photos.
Contrary to what some of you apparently believe, a blurry picture of you playing lacrosse in high school isn’t helpful to us ladies.
Nor is a photo of you with a clean-shaven face if you’re currently rocking a (totally) excellent beard. I want to imagine you building me a cabin in Idaho. Show me the beard. And, by the way, I should be able to identify you immediately when I arrive at the bar exactly three minutes late.
DON’T: use too many group photos.
In a sea of people, it’s hard to recognize a stranger! Your profile is about you, so don’t be bashful about making yourself the star.
DO: figure out how the image shows up in the app.
You don’t want a button right over your face, or to have the photo cropped in a way that doesn’t even include you (I see this a lot). I’m probably going to swipe left (aka ‘no thank you’) if I feel like you don’t even know how to use basic technology or put in the *tiny* amount of time to make sure your first picture has you, y’know, visible.
How to Improve Your Dating App Bio
1. Definitely don’t leave it blank.
A blank bio blurb is an indicator to women that you’re not taking this seriously. Whatever your intention (maybe you want to seem..I dunno, mysterious?!) it telegraphs laziness, disinterest, and perhaps worst of all—apathy.
This is where you put the personality goodies that are hard to photograph, and the stuff that really matters to you. “If it’s of high importance, put it in your bio,” says Birch.
“You want people to know directly what you value — whether that’s marathon training, dietary preferences, travel, entrepreneurship, or something else.”
This is why my Bumble profile calls out Old Fashioneds, mountain sports, and making playlists on Spotify. High importance, guys!
2. Give us something to chat about.
Your blurb is a great opportunity to share those lay-up conversation starters like: your hometown, the neighborhood you live in, your hobbies, a sport you play, your favorite cocktail, the next trip you’re taking, the motorcycle license you’re getting next week… (Hey “Andrew, 31” this whole article…is for you?)
3. Know your audience.
This bio is for women you want to date—not your buddies, not your ex-girlfriend, and not your own ego.
Create a profile you’d proudly, no-shame-in-your-game show to your best female friends or your sister.
Be respectful, be goofy, be witty, be honest.
And be brief! Your audience is here for a good time not for a long time, so get to the point. Leave a little to the imagination, but sell yourself! If you’re having doubts, go ahead and show it to a Trusted Female Adviser (sister, buddy’s wife, etc) and get their input.
4. Go easy with the emojis.
They’re fun, they’re easy… and they should be used sparingly. I love a guy who’s got good texting game—which of course includes deft emoji use—but it’s great to know ahead of time that you can string actual words together correctly. Putting a bunch of airplane emojis in between airport call letters does not make you seem cool and worldly. You guys know who you are, and you need to stop. It’s not cool. Or worldly. It’s extremely lame.
Dating app conversation starters
Take initiative with the conversation.
No matter the app, no matter the technicalities of who can say hello first, remember that women still want to be wooed.
Embrace that opportunity. You’ve been vetted and approved up to this point, so you should feel great about taking the step that really gets the conversation going. It shows confidence and that you’re at ease in this weird world of app dating, which in-turn puts us at ease.
With an app like Bumble, for example, where she has to say hello first, reward that effort with some of your own. Unless she just says “hey,” in which case you’re allowed to thank u, next right along to someone else.
If it’s anyone’s move to get the conversation going, like on Tinder or Hinge, I highly encourage you not to rest on your laurels, smugly marinating in the fact that you “love a girl who’s not afraid to make the first move.” Please, please just muster up that chill confidence I know you have and go for it!
There’s no need for power moves.
There’s a great episode of Friends where Rachel is interested in her neighbor Danny.
He’s having a house party and doesn’t invite her until the last minute, so she says she can’t come because she has a regatta gala. (Just watch the montage.)
Then, Rachel coincidentally arrives home as the party is in full swing, and Danny greets her but then disappears. Rachel and Monica keep referencing the ball being in someone’s court and debating who has the power…
And in the end, well, Rachel doesn’t not move to Paris for Danny now does she?
We’ve all come to the apps for the same reason: To meet people!
We’re all here, exposed as the single people that we are, so there’s really no need to try and appear above what it’s about.
What I mean is, acting disinterested, being short with your replies, asking a woman how long she’s been on the app (true story, woof)—these behaviors are pointless if you want this app dating thing to go well.
Instead, be fun and kind and down for the banter and you might just find yourself making out outside some cute girl’s apartment in the middle of the week and maybe also fall in love.
Ask her questions!
“One of the biggest mistakes in online dating is just not popping off the page,” says Birch. “While maybe not everyone is witty via text, anyone can ask awesome questions.”
I’ve brought this up before, and it cannot be stressed enough. People just want to talk about themselves. And they want someone else to care.
Ask questions, and then ask follow-up questions.
It’s so simple it should be a given, but anyone who’s currently single knows what it’s like to heave a conversation over your shoulder and walk three miles uphill with it—and it’s the worst.
Share the weight and responsibility of keeping up an animated exchange. Engage in some back-and-forth, and if all else fails, just ask another question.
But..alert! There’s a caveat!
I must temper my enthusiasm for questions with a gentle reminder that too much of anything is not great on an early date.
Too many questions feels like an interview, and too many stories about yourself feels like a documentary nobody asked to watch.
You and your date both want to walk away at the end of the night with a good sense of who the other person is, and a few things you’re still dying to know.
Oh, and if you’re bad at questions (hey, no judgement here) the Plum FAQ has a handy list of fun and playful ones that will help get things going.
MAKE. THE. DATE.
DON’T wait too long to make plans.
I asked Birch about the “right” amount of time for banter on the apps before you need to either reel it in or cut bait. She advised that, “two to three days of messaging in the app is appropriate to determine whether or not you might click in real life.”
Just about every women I’ve talked to about the app-to-IRL journey feels the same way.
There’s something about this magical two-or-three-day window. It’s long enough to allow you to get to know the person a bit, but not so long that you’re worried about being catfished or added to some weird digital pen pal service. Take the note.
Also! If you are about to leave on a three-month hiking journey through Africa, or moving to another city in two weeks and can’t meet up before you leave, please don’t strike up a convo.
Get off the app entirely, in fact.
Wait til you’re back or settled in your new spot! No one’s going to remember you in three months or appreciate being strung along for nothing—so you might as well just skip it.
Go ahead and ask for her number… And maybe offer yours in exchange.
Many times in my dating life, I’ve taken the step of saying to a guy on a dating app, “Hey, you seem cool and fun. Here’s my number if you want to get a drink sometime.” That’s fine, I guess. (Cue “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.)
Except, ugh, I actually hated it!
My move to progress things was almost always a sign that I was going to be the pursuer throughout our courtship. Remember that thing I said earlier about being wooed? Yeah, it’s still true. Be proactive and eager and get those digits—or suggest an exchange of numbers—first.
I asked a few of my girlfriends about this, and we all pretty much agreed that you guys should really take ownership of the number exchange and make first contact.
If that annoys you, I’m sorry but let me lay it out for you:
When the next step is on us, ie you give a woman your number and leave it up to her to text you, it makes you appear lazy, or like you’re not actually that into her.
If you’re worried about seeming too pushy or that a women might feel unsafe giving her number out to a stranger (fair points, for sure) my best advice is to suggest an exchange of both your numbers. That way you’re signaling a little vulnerability on both sides. Once you do so, just be sure to be the first one to say hi, please!
FINALLY, HOW NOT TO BE “JUST ANOTHER BOZO” IN THREE EASY STEPS
I hate to ruin the beautiful loves story that you were probably dreaming up in your head, but “Andrew, 31” did indeed turn out to be just another bozo. We had two killer dates, he sent me some extremely “save for later” shirtless selfies, I got the stomach flu, and date number three never happened. He deleted his Bumble profile and alas, I never heard from him again.
Don’t be like “Andrew, 31.” Let me (and Jenna Birch!) show you how.
1. Skip the non-committal dance.
If you can’t tell by now, Jenna Birch has become something of a dating deity to me. Sometimes she says something and it speaks directly to my soul. When I asked her what kinds of dating app behaviors she hears complaints about the most from women, her answer was definitive: “Flakiness and noncommittal behaviors are absolutely the top things people complain to me about.” Huh. Where all my ghosty bois at??
She went on to say that part of the reason we all feel a bit burnt out as we head into 2019 is because we’ve become accustomed to a terrible cycle. “I think a lot of folks are a bit gun-shy about app dating right now, because they’re used to a string of people who they get excited about for a few weeks, but then cool off the moment something gets a little more serious.”
Sound familiar, “Andrew, 31!??!”
“There isn’t always something easier and better out there;” says Birch. “Don’t get so obsessed about instant, new sparks that you forget why you’re dating. Lean into your excitement about a connection and actually see where it goes…”
That’s why it’s a good idea to sit yourself down (with a glass of whiskey, maybe?) and think about what you really want to get out of your dating app adventures. If you’re in it to meet someone with long-term potential, you might need to go easy on the swipe monster status and be a bit more thoughtful about your matches. If you’re looking to get over an ex by getting under someone else, well, that’s all good, and it brings me to my next tip!
2. Try being honest about what you’re looking for.
“If you’re frustrated with your results, the clearer you can be, the better,” suggests Birch. She advises that if you’re not sure when to bring it up—before you sleep with them is usually a great window. “Usually, that’s when people tend to feel misled or hurt. So, if you’re not looking for exclusivity or a relationship, just say that upfront.”
If you’re not getting what you want, you probably need to communicate more clearly. For example, if you’re just looking for a casual hook up but keep getting unwanted texts from that girl you slept with last week about when you’re going out again? She’s probably totally confused about why you’re ignoring her. Let’s be frank. “Confusing” moments pretty much only come up when one person wants “nothing serious,” while the other person has no idea they aren’t on the express train to Relationshipville, USA. Population: you two.
“Engaging on mutually agreeable terms is the best way to navigate any kind of dating situation,” Birch adds. Meaning? Don’t be a bozo, just be honest. Even if the truth is disappointing to us, we women want to hear it.
All that said, don’t forget that…
3. There’s isn’t always “someone better” waiting for you.
“Dating for a relationship or genuine connection is not about ease, it’s about investment,” says Birch. I love this so much, and I think it’s part of why dating apps are so challenging. It’s really hard to invest when it’s so easy to meet someone new, who might be being better-looking, more successful, funnier, less into Settlers of Catan… You name it.
“If people are presented with nearly endless options, they start to make worse decisions or they don’t even know how to choose,” says Birch. (The Paradox of Choice, anyone?)
You’re going to be presented with a lot of options, that’s just the way dating apps work. And options are great, as long as they don’t transform you into The Peter Pan of Dating. (Remember how sad and out of place Robin Williams was in Neverland before he found his smile in Hook? Yeah, like that.)
Listen, dating in 2021 is (at times) tough for everyone. When you’re feeling discouraged or extremely single, it’s hard to know whether it’s the apps that are broken—or if it’s you.
But I’m telling you, it doesn’t have to be this way!
We can game the system that’s trying to game us! If you just do the exact opposite of everything our boy “Andrew, 31” did, you’ll all be better daters this year.
So, put forth some effort. Don’t be afraid to stand out, and to sparkle a little. Banter and be confident. And then, when the opportunity arises, say yes to portrait mode and upload that shit to your profiles immediately.
Feature image: Etsy
Taylor Davies splits her time between NYC and Sun Valley. She loves writing about menswear, overpriced martinis in dimly lit hotel bars, and cross-country skiing. Not necessarily in that order.