Put your heart into marketing

If trying to hook up online, sell yourself

August 04, 2005|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Looking for love online? Or like, us, simply hooked on "Hooking Up," ABC's documentary series about online dating that airs tonight? Next Thursday, we'll share another tale, as told to us by a reader, of the good, the bad and the ugly of online dating.

As a marketing specialist at an architectural firm in Washington, and as a seeker of an online love connection, Marcia Calhoun knows all about the need for self-promotion.

Just as all companies need to advertise their best attributes and abilities, so do men and women who search for love on the Web. Just as companies pitch to a target audience; so, too, do men and women online who cast their net in a self-selected pool of potentials.

"I look at this as a marketing effort," says Calhoun, a 42-year-old resident of Alexandria, Va., who has been looking for Mr. Right on Match.com for more than a year. "There are lots of people in my demographic, men my age, professionals, who are looking, too. Match.com is kind of like a people store. You take someone off the shelf, you try them on and see if they fit. If they don't, you put them back on the shelf for someone else to try. It's a very impersonal process to connect in a very personal way."

As Calhoun sees it, the men and women who are buying and selling should keep in mind some lessons from the marketplace, such as:

Call attention to your best qualities.

"There was the 56-year-old who sent me a picture of him in a Speedo bathing suit standing on the Jersey shore," Calhoun recalls of one non-match. "He also sent me a picture of his Corvette and one of his all-terrain vehicle."

Avoid muddling your message.

"One guy e-mailed me and said he wanted to get to know me better," Calhoun says. "So I wrote back a long e-mail and told him everything about me."

She shared with him that she's tall, attractive and has never been married. She loves independent movies. She's interested in going out with a professional who enjoys the arts, wonderful conversation over a bottle of wine in a nice restaurant, and time to devote to having fun.

"He wrote back that he has two dogs: one golden retriever and one black Lab," Calhoun says.

Maintain a good image at all times.

A friend of Calhoun's revealed to her recently that he was also a member of Match.com. When she pulled up his profile, "He had a picture posted that showed him inline skating, shirtless and with a mane of long, blond hair swooshing out behind him," she says. By comparison, he now had "his shirt untucked, [a] receding hairline and beer belly protruding out. He's a sweet guy, but that must have been a very old picture."

Buyer beware.

A banker who wanted to meet her sent a photo of himself in a tuxedo and one of him on a boat, wearing sunglasses and a hat, sporting a nice physique and full head of hair. He said among other things, he enjoyed wineries and dining out - fulfilling many of the qualities Calhoun was searching for.

"When he showed up, a man walked in who was about 5-foot-7, very heavyset, and he was completely bald except for one tuft of hair that stood up straight from his head," Calhoun says. "He was extremely pompous and spoke with a fake British accent."

If you don't succeed, try, try again.

"I did meet a guy who was very much my physical type," Calhoun recalls. "He was my age. He was a great conversationalist. As we were talking, I thought, `Finally. This is the beginning of a great relationship.' I started thinking of my wedding and the children we were going to have.

"At the end of dinner, he said, `Obviously, there's not a connection here. It was nice meeting you,'" Calhoun says.

But perhaps the most important lesson of all, Calhoun says, is that, "You can't take things personally. For every bad pick, I've met some really nice, very honest, wonderful people out there who are just out doing the same thing I am. I've met some great people, and sometimes, I end up with good stories for the water cooler the next day."

Hooking Up

When: Tonight at 9

Where: WMAR (Channel 2)

In brief: An addictive and revealing look at online dating from the team that made Hopkins 24/7.

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