onenightfriendfree – Meeting people live

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At onenightfriendfree we are focused on getting people together, or “facilitating real time social interactions” as the boss says. One of our key differentiators from the more traditional dating sites is that users interact with each other – live – on the site in messaging and in video chat. This results in a range of requirements of the product, and of the infrastructure, that are quite different than most other players in the space. It is essential that the people who are online get to interact with other people who are online now, and communication between people happens fast.

Equally important are the social issues associated with getting people talking online. Dating of any sort is a nerve-wracking business and on the whole people – male and female – much prefer to be approached than to initiate. The trick, if there is one, to onenightfriendfree is to get that first interaction out the way and encorage people to start talking. We employ a range of strategies to get online people talking to online people as soon as possible. I don’t think any trade secrets are being exposed, here are the most important ones we use:

Real time chat session: We have a video speed-date-like system within the site that allows you to ‘book’ a seat in the next session and get face to face with 3 random people in 3 minutes. This is our most effective way of ice breaking and it really does get people talking, but it still takes a reasonable level of confidence for people to take the plunge.

Initiate chat sessions: Lots more people are willing to join a chat that create one, at periods of low site activity we sometimes create empty chat sessions to encourage users to get on board.

New users and online users “prioritized” in searches: Real time is all about the people who are on the site now so its crucial that the users who are around can see other users who are around. We push users who we’ve seen recently (in the last few minutes) to the front of search results

Active users prioritized in searches: We’ve seen dating sites who promote profiles that are years dead – we try very hard not to do that. We monitor activities on the site that users undertake and we use that to help promote users who are doing stuff.

Profile view notifications: coming back to that trick of wanting people to feel they’re responding rather than sticking their neck out, we note the profiles you linger over, and where their gender and orientation are appropriate we let that person know you were looking.

Icebreakers: After a user “friends” someone, we pop up 6 “other people like him” and the user can select up to 6  people to “say hi” to. Again, we try to focus on 1) relevance and 2)  online now in populating those suggestions.

VIP icebreakers: Our VIP users get a paid feature to have an automatic greeting sent to a group of users we think would be a good match. This is really popular, because again it allows the user to not feel they’re personally sticking their neck out – they can always blame the site if they don’t like the person they’re introduced to. It also increases the chance you’ll find someone interested in chatting.

We also cap the amount of proactive engagement users get when they come online; we want them to feel wanted, but not swamped. For that reason we won’t show a popup telling an attractive girl EVERY time a user looks at their profile, and we wont keep sending the same people for consideration in ice breakers.

The subject of money: I know this is the Internet and we’re a web2.0 company but I am not embarassed to admit that we intend to make money. To do that we have to sell something. Some things we do to make money involve making sure that some of our more useful features are available to paying subscribers only. This is the way of the world.

All of these techniques are specifically designed to get things going between users and to create a successful business; We know we’re getting it right. We regularly get contact from couples who’ve got together and hear of onenightfriendfree-created weddings, and we’re watching our engagement metrics grow as the site gets better and better at getting people together in real time.


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