So you’ve matched with someone spectacular on Tinder (or Bumble), or maybe just anyone at all, and now you’re wrecking your brain trying to come up with a conversation starter befitting of this momentous occasion. Or maybe you’ve seen poor response rates in the past, and you’re looking to improve your openers. At any rate, your search has brought you here. So let me tell you:
The Perfect First Message
Doesn’t exist, because tastes, preferences and opinions of the people you’ve swiped on are as varied as those faces flying left and right. But with the following guide, you should come as close as possible, all things being equal.
You can find a lot of advice on this subject, and probably you have already read a good part of it, seeing as it can get a bit repetitive. I have my own take, but I’d be remiss not to mention why I don’t recommend following the most prevalent tips and trends, before we get to my personal advice.
Writing Great First Messages – The Common Wisdom
Reference their Profile (or pictures)
This has to be the single most parroted piece of texting advice out there. And of course there is a reason for that. It’s not wrong at all. People love talking about themselves, and referencing something they wrote about themselves is sure to get their attention and show them that they have yours.
It’s just a bit… expected. It’s what everybody tells everybody to do, and people with lots of matches (so probably the matches you’re most excited by) have surely been complimented on their cute pet, or read “Oh hey, you’re into [not all that obscure band] too? That is so cool! What’s your favorite song?” before you came along.
When adhering strictly to this MO, you also run the danger of starting an interview instead of a conversation. A common complaint among disappointed users. Another disadvantage, apart from not exactly sticking out from the crowd is how time intensive it can be to find something to reference.
And what if their bio is empty, and there is nothing outlandishly interesting going on in their pictures?
Should you really resort to complimenting the beach they’re standing in front of, asking where it was and how they liked that vacation, just so you can reference something? Or give up (preventively) and move on without messaging? I suggest a different approach (see linked post, and/or read on).
Just Be Yourself
“If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re charming, be charming. If you’ve clever, be clever. If all else fails, try to be good looking.”
In other words, play to your strengths. Certainly not bad advice and useful to remember in all walks of life. Even in terms of generalized online dating messaging advice I prefer it to the above. It just doesn’t seem to make writing that dreaded first message any easier.
Of course you shouldn’t try to open with a joke, any joke, all the time. Especially if you’re not funny. And charm can only take you so far without sincerity. Trying to be good looking, however, seems wise and can only help – in most situations.
Remembering where your strengths lie, and not jumping on every fad just because others are seeing great success with a particularly clever opening seems prudent, however. I also feel strongly that you should indeed always be yourself, so that if they fall for you, they won’t be in love with your alter ego instead of you. Even if it may feel harder to get anywhere.
Speaking of fads..
Puns, Puns, Puns
Puns – especially puns on their name – may yield you some measure of success in terms of sweet sweet Reddit karma, if posted to /r/tinder, but if your goal extends beyond that hopefully hilarious screenshot, you may want to reconsider. Even if it works out well for some people, you shouldn’t take those highly upvoted posts as evidence of anything other than that they were the most popular (maybe successful) among thousands of submissions.
Because so many people think name puns are the best possible opener, and even ask the internet to help with pun ideas for various names, you can bet Alisha has already read something about putting a leash on her before and won’t be particularly impressed. I’d even wager she didn’t find it all that funny the first time. At any rate, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Unless you are a true virtuoso in the art of puns, and manage to strike a nerve and elicit a positive response with some reliability, I would recommend leaving the puns to just such masters.
Apart from countless “best openers for ultimate good time fun success”, which may work a few times until everybody is sick of reading the same thing from half of their matches, there is surely more popular texting advice we could examine, but instead, here’s what I suggest:
Coming up with First Messages – My Best Advice
I also once googled “tinder first message”. Okay, more than once. And I tried all the advice I read.
I tried my best to reference things in their profile, even if I didn’t find anything that interested me. Apart from their face, that is. Looking back, it seems obvious that such matches (and dates) were doomed to fail.
I tried to figure out who I was, so that I could be myself. When what I should have been doing was just writing whatever came to mind.
I even tried ice breakers like “would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or one hundred duck sized horses?” trying to get a response. But in the cases someone would actually reply something along the lines of “The big duck! The horses would be too cuuuute!”, we were usually right back at the beginning, with me trying to figure out how to start an actual conversation.
So, what has worked for me? On the one hand, a combination of the above. Pointing out, or asking about an actual common interest I saw in their profile, but usually not as a first message. Making a (in my humble opinion) hilarious observation about something going on in their pictures. Being natural and sincere, and not trying to force anything that wasn’t meant to be, even if I was having a dry patch and writing to my first match in a week.
That may all be rather obvious, but what should you do if you can’t find such a natural starting point?
Neither spend a lot of time and energy on wrecking your brain trying to come up with a conversation starter, nor let an opportunity go to waste. You never know how well you’re going to get along with someone until you start talking. No matter what their profile might say. Or fail to say.
Instead, come up with a canned opener to use in such situations.
Start with a greeting, addressing them by name.
Follow up with something cute, witty, charming, or funny, but stay unspecific.
Ask about their day, how they are, etc.
What has worked very well for me:
Nice to “meet” you ?
How was your day? / How is your day going?”
Yes, it’s boring. Mundane even.
Yes, it’s corny.
Yes, it’s lazy.
Yes, it’s brought me a 50% (non-bot) response rate, resulting in some of the best conversations and dates I’ve had on/from Tinder.
Yes, I’m officially recommending canned, copy paste messages. For such situations where the alternatives are silence, or a forced attempt at making a connection, or being something you’re not.
No, I don’t recommend you use my example verbatim. The only way such a simple opener will work as well for you as it worked for me is if the wording/style fits your character. Also, if everyone starts sending the same opener, it will join the ranks of “the most bestest ever tinder opener [current year]”. I.e. it will no longer work because everyone is sick of it.
Why does such a lazy, neutral, boring message work?
What can I say, I tried something, and I was very pleasantly surprised with the results. But it does make some sense if you think about it.
It’s certainly inoffensive
It’s casual. You won’t seem like you’re trying too hard (not even close)
Reading your name makes you pay attention and makes it seem less canned
The middle line lets a little character shine through and provides an easy response
People like talking about themselves and asking about their day makes it easy to answer in any level of detail, while simultaneously not being too personal, and getting a glimpse of the life of that person in the response. Which in turn also makes for an easy point to pick up a detail and continue the conversation.
Last but not least: It’s a perfectly normal way to start a conversation with a stranger in real life, and that may be the main reason people respond well to it. It’s unusual and refreshing for an online dating environment.
An added benefit is that you can be pretty sure the other person is actually interested in you, if they reply to something like this. Which may explain why I had unusually good conversations following this canned opener, from those matches that did reply.
If you have misgivings about copy paste messages, either sending or receiving, I understand completely. But I do feel it’s worth a shot in seemingly lost causes, and remember: It’s just a foot in the door. The rest of the resulting conversation, date, or even relationship, will be as real as if you had spent an hour coming up with a “real” message that may not even have lead to a response because it felt tortured and desperate.
Okay, but where do we go from here? What about the rest of the conversation?
That, leading up to asking for a date may be a future SwipeHelper guide. But I will say this, because I think it’s important advice: Be yourself.
Ugh. I know.
But assuming you are looking for a meaningful connection, be that a relationship or just something beyond purely physical, it’s just very important to keep in mind.
Say/write what you want, when you want, how you want, within reason, and you may send some people running, and you may go on fewer dates, but it will be with people who like you for who you are. At least they did up until that point. And not to forget: Someone who would love you for who you are might be turned off by the persona you put on trying to please everybody, and wouldn’t that be a shame? I think so. I thought so. And I’m very happy with that decision.