Zoosk Highlights Photo Verification In New Campaign

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Is there an online dating downer worse than finding out your new flame looks nothing like their profile picture? Total letdown, right? As online dating offenses go, it's high on the list.

Zoosk devised a solution to this all-too-common problem back in 2014. The feature, dubbed Photo Verification, confirms the authenticity of members' profile photos. If your photos pass the test, you receive a green Photo Verified badge.

Photos are verified under the Verification section (surprise) of your profile. Select Verify Photos and you’ll be prompted to record a short video of yourself. Zoosk’s moderators review the video and, if they feel your photo is an accurate representation, you'll receive an email letting you know that your photos are verified. The badge will automatically be added to your profile and your video selfie remains private.

The Photo Verification feature made Zoosk the first company to address this prominent online dating concern. With its launch came newfound levels of transparency, increased trust between online daters, and better first-date satisfaction.

“One of the most important concerns of online daters is going out with someone who doesn’t really resemble their profile picture,” said Shayan Zadeh, co-founder and CEO of Zoosk. “By innovating a system for our members to validate the accuracy of existing profile photos, we believe we can create better first-date experiences that will lead to lasting relationships.”

Photo Verification will now take a starring role in Zoosk's “First Comes Like” advertising campaign. “The message from our last campaign was successful in differentiating us from other sites,” Katherine Knight, brand manager for Zoosk, told Marketing Daily. “For our new campaign, we wanted to build on that and take it to the next level.”

The “First Comes Like” initiative highlights the fact that building a lasting relationship requires time, and that “love at first sight” is rare. In one ad, a woman uses Zoosk's mobile site while a voiceover explains the message of the campaign. Another 15-second spot hones in on the photo verification feature, showing a man trying to identify his date in a crowded coffee shop using the Zoosk app.

“Everybody wants love to be a big, huge fairy tale. But the reality is, before all that can happen, you have to fall in like first,” said Tony Zimney, creative director at Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer, the agency that created the campaign. “Each one of our spots highlights this moment of like.”

The commercials will begin airing nationally in the beginning of July.

Zoosk May Be Down, But It's Not Out

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It's been a year of bumps and bruises for Zoosk.

After reaching 26 million users in 2014, the online dating network announced plans for a $100 million IPO. It was major news, but now Zoosk has submitted a regulatory filing to withdraw its plan to go public.

In an email to VentureBeat, Zoosk chief executive Kelly Steckelberg offered the following explanation:

“Since the time we filed, the market condition around comparables that would be used to help value our company, like Angie’s List and Care.com, have not performed well. While the overall market might seem receptive to a public offering, subscription businesses have suffered.”

The canceled IPO isn't the only wound Zoosk has suffered recently. The company's founders, Shayan Zadeh and Alex Mehr, abruptly handed over executive control to former CFO Steckelberg at the end of 2014, leaving some to wonder what happens when a founder-led company loses its founders.

In the wake of those major developments, Zoosk implemented a new strategy focused on its customer base and on attracting fresh talent behind the scenes. The company reduced its workforce by approximately 15 percent to better align with its new strategy, leaving morale at an all-time low. The company was in desperate need of reevaluation.

Vice President of Marketing, Carol Mahoney, worked with a team of 3 human resources professionals to identify four areas of improvement. First, to serve customers better. Second, to boost engagement of employees. Third, to get clear on the company's vision and mission. Fourth, to achieve sustainable growth.

According to CIO.com, Mahoney found that transparency was a key issue. Employees were desperate to know what was happening in the midst of such upheaval and sought open communication from top-level executives.

"We realized we had to over-communicate about everything that was happening to make sure people knew we cared about their fears and their anxieties,” Mahoney says. “Now, we talk about our profits, our subscription base, hiring, attrition -- everything. People need to trust that we're honest about the ups and downs of the business if they're going to stay.”

Zoosk also highlights company culture to set it apart from the fierce competition in its native San Francisco. Dogs are allowed in the office. Weekly happy hours are hosted with beer on tap. Employees are encouraged to volunteer in the city's most disadvantaged areas. Three-day hackathons are held to develop new ideas.

Although Mahoney says there's still work do be done, she's feeling positive about the future. “We've made huge strides and we're going to be stronger than ever because of the emphasis we've placed on retaining our talent," she says.

You May Soon Be Finding Dates Using Your Smartwatch

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Online dating launched and you thought “This couldn't get any more convenient.”

Then mobile dating apps happened, and you thought “Nevermind, this is the pinnacle of dating convenience.”

Soon, if Zoosk has a say, even dating on your smartphone might seem passé. The dating service is rolling out a smartwatch app that integrates with Android Wear technology to take convenience to the next level.

The app, available for download on the Google Play store, brings Zoosk’s Behavioral Matchmaking™ algorithm to the sleek smartwatch interface, offering wearers on-the-go access to potential matches throughout the day. For now the app is free to use for browsing potential matches, but a subscription fee is charged for access to premium features like messaging.

7 Surprising Facts About Online Dating

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Online dating is hard. Dating is hard, period. What could be weirder than two total strangers trying to become not-total strangers? Let's just say the potential for comedic (and not so) mishaps is high.

With all that weirdness waiting to be unleashed at any second, it's no surprise we're desperate for any tip, trick, or nugget of wisdom that might stave it off. We've studied some seriously strange things in the name of cracking the online dating code, and although some are as weird as the weirdness they're trying to prevent, they're always interesting.

Check out a few unusual online dating facts below. You're bound to be surprised by at least one.

  1. Men aren't into receiving short messages. Forget all the stereotypes about men hating it when women talk too much. A message from a woman to a man is 40% more likely to get a response if it's longer than a tweet (140 characters).
  2. Men are, however, into women who make the first move. Women are 73% more likely to get a response if they mention “dinner,” “drinks,” or “lunch.” Speaking of stereotypes, maybe the one about “the quickest way to a man's heart” is true.
  3. Online dating has a seasonal peak. The busiest time for online dating is between Christmas and Valentine's Day. According to Zoosk, the single most popular day is January 5, when 54% more people sign up.
  4. There's an art to using smileys. Put aside emojis for a second and go back to the good old days of the classic smiley. If you send one with a nose :-), you're 13% more likely to get a response. If your smiley is lacking that key facial feature :), it's 66% less likely to get a message back.
  5. Being active is attractive. Ok, maybe this one isn't so surprising, but it's still interesting. Wired made an infographic showing 380 of the 1,000 most commonly used words in profiles. Active, outdoorsy words like “surfing,” “skiing,” and “yoga” topped the list.
  6. People actually prefer selfies. Joke about selfies all you want, but they're shockingly effective if you're looking for a date. A Zoosk study found that 84% of people favor selfies over formal profile pictures.
  7. Too much online chit-chat can ruin a good thing. Because safety is a consideration when meeting a stranger over the Internet, you may think it's best to prolong the convo for as long as possible before meeting up in person. However, a 2013 study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication suggests that too much communication could be problematic. The more you talk before a first date, the more time you have to idealize the person and the greater the risk of a letdown when you finally meet face-to-face.

New CEO of Zoosk will Save the Dating Service

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Back in December of 2014 Zoosk abandoned their IPO and hired a new CEO Kelly Steckelberg. This month she did an interview with Fortune in which she discussed the future of the dating service and how she plans to turn it around.

Zoosk earned over $178 million and was profitable in 2013. In 2014 the company earned more than $200 million, but they again slipped into the red and lost money. For this reason they let go 15% of their staff and canceled the planned IPO.

With her eye on Zoosk being profitable again, this pass November Kelly switched Zoosk to a premium model. This means a subscription is now required for Zoosk members to send messages. It is still free to create a profile and search for other Zooskers though and this is the same model that other companies like Match.com, eHarmony and Christian Mingle uses. Zoosk also plans to introduce a number of other new features for their premium service to entice more users to pay. This includes a photo verification system and a badge to identify members who have been verified.

So far it appears the turn around of Zoosk (or at least the start of it) has been a success. Kelly Steckelberg says Zoosk will soon announced that the first quarter of 2015 was profitable.

For more on this dating service you can read our Zoosk review.

Online Dating Spikes In Spring, Says Zoosk

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There's something magical about springtime. After a winter of hibernation, everyone is ready throw on shorts and venture outside for the first time in three months, blinking and stumbling into the light like survivors of a disaster movie.

Unless, like me, you live in New York City and spent your first day of spring cowering under a blanket, watching snow fall outside your window and cursing the weather gods. It's not all shorts and sundresses yet, but come May sunbathing in Central Park will feel that much more glorious.

For those of you who didn't just get pummeled by snow, the flowers are blooming and so is romance. New data from Zoosk suggests that online dating rates go up in spring, meaning “spring fever” might be a very real thing.

Zoosk's data scientists analyzed 9.6 million conversations, over 850,000 signups, and over 66 million member sessions in search of scientific evidence for spring fever. Is it real? Is it possible to quantify the condition? Do people date differently in spring compared to other seasons?

By comparing the data of Zoosk members from the first two weeks of spring to the data from a month prior, Zoosk claims to have found “conclusive evidence” that spring fever is indeed a real phenomenon.

It began with messages. Zoosk reports that 34% more first messages are sent daily during springtime. After months of online food orders and Netflix being our only companions, it appears spring brings out our desire to connect with other humans again. And it's not just about quantity. The messages sent during spring are also “deeper” - meaning that each user in the conversation sends at least two messages. 28% more messages started daily in spring meet the criteria.

Of course, in order to get to the talking part, people have to sign up in the first place. And they do. Zoosk discovered an 11% increase in daily registrations in spring.

It makes perfect sense when you stop to think about it. This is, after all, the season during which most of Mother Nature's creatures feel a little extra frisky. And it's much easier to find the motivation to dress up and go out when you don't run the risk of developing frostbite by doing so. Not to mention that the mind is much more inclined to wander when you're looking at short sleeves and skirts, rather than knee-length down coats, clunky snow boots, and balaclavas. Dress it up all you want, but “bank robber” is never a good look.