I woo you MTVFew dating startups can afford to spend 40% of their revenue on advertising, especially free sites. Even if you work off a white label platform, you still have to spend a boatload of cash marketing your site. It’s not like they fill your database with paying members and start cutting you checks on day one.

YouTube videos, twitter and Facebook (not including ads) will not a successful dating site make. They are a minor component of any dating site marketing plan.

Dating sites need to learn how to excel at viral marketing and monetizing members through social gaming.

Social gaming is the belle of the ball when it comes to viral growth and monetizing users. Login credits, virtual goods, buying $50 in points to skip all the farming, premium offers and new opportunities popping up all the time keep the market fresh and invigorating.

I woo you social gameLook at MTV’s I Woo You. Go install the Facebook application and play around with it for a bit. It’s extremely viral, lots of login coins, playing with Facebook friends an MTV show characters. Really well executed by Stone Creek Entertainment.

Dating site operators should be reading everything they can get their hands on in terms of the mechanics of social gaming. I’m not talking about having members grow crops with each other, or playing shared games of Tetris. Subscribe to the popular social gaming blogs like Inside Social Games, participate in discussions and by all means, go to the social gaming conferences. If you don’t come back with some great ideas the first time, keep trying.

The dating industry can learn a lot from social gaming. Not only will it enable sites to extend time on site and lifetime customer value metrics, but the extreme viral nature of great social features can quickly grow a dating site, much faster than ad spend alone. There are many other benefits as well, which I may get around to talking about someday.