OKCupid – PR Genius or Crisis Management Mess?

Jonathan Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, crisis public relations, Erik Bernstein, internet crisis management, internet reputation management, Jonathan Bernstein, online crisis management, online reputation management, PR, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

Dating site seems to be applying the dubious principle of “any publicity is good publicity”

Move over Facebook, because OKCupid just hopped on the user experimentation train! In a blog post published Monday, one of the dating site’s founders, Christian Rudder, proudly proclaims “We Experiment On Human Beings!” From the first line, Rudder appears to discredit his own service, saying, “I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing.”

He then goes on to describe, in great detail, an experiment OkCupid conducted on unsuspecting users, many of whom pay for premium memberships.

The ultimate question at OkCupid is, does this thing even work? By all our internal measures, the “match percentage” we calculate for users is very good at predicting relationships. It correlates with message success, conversation length, whether people actually exchange contact information, and so on. But in the back of our minds, there’s always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to? Like how Jay-Z still sells albums?

To test this, we took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do.

The comments section is full of posts blasting the site and its deceptive practices, with this one summing up the thoughts of the opposition:

OKCupid scomment

Interestingly enough, there is also a large contingent of people saying simply, “so what?”. So many, in fact, that we were a bit surprised.

The experimentation has already drawn mainstream media attention across the country, and the OKCupid name is on everyone’s lips as a result, but the question remains – will this be an example of “any publicity is good publicity” or has the site just put itself in need of some serious crisis management?

We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this one.

The BCM Blogging Team

Leave a Reply