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The First Message: Dating App Success Strategies from a Certified Relationship Coach

Back in the early days of online dating, everyone obsessed over profile pictures. Hours were spent finding the perfect angles and lighting, thinking an attractive photo was the key to standing out. After meticulously crafting bios and descriptions, many singles assumed they’d done the hard work for dating success. Little did they know, new research suggests photos may not be the primary factor after all.

A 2022 study found that while getting initial attention is important, a person’s profile picture and description have less impact on making a meaningful connection than previously thought. Surprisingly, it’s the first message that seems to dramatically increase the likelihood of turning a match into real conversation and interest.

When Your Stunning Profile Picture Doesn't Guarantee A Response Meme

Even with an awesome dating profile showcasing your best photos and bio, it all comes down to how you introduce yourself. That opening line can make or break whether a match leads to something more. It’s your opportunity to spark curiosity, create an engaging first impression, and lay the groundwork for an unforgettable first date.

As a certified relationship coach who has guided singles through the world of online dating, I’m going to share proven strategies for sending messages that simply cannot be ignored. With these different first message approaches, you’ll maximize your matches and be well on your way to more quality connections.

Start with a Joke or Pickup Line

The old reliable – a clever joke or funny pickup line. It’s an excellent opener that stands the test of time. Humor grabs attention and starts the conversation on a playful note. When executed well, it showcases your wit and personality right away – an extremely effective icebreaker.

The key is keeping it good-natured, avoiding anything too crass or offensive, and tailoring it to tie into something from their profile or photos. An inside joke or callback to a shared interest shows you took the time to look at their information. Self-deprecating humor can also work well to not come across as overly cocky.

When You Crack A Joke In Your First Message And Hope They Laugh Meme

Pro Tips:

  • Keep it concise – a single short sentence works best
  • Avoid crude humor or risque jokes that could be seen as offensive
  • Make it unique and personal, not a generic copied line
  • Add an emoji πŸ˜‚ to emphasize the humorous/non-serious tone


“You missed your chance to star in the next [her favorite movie]. Maybe I can be your leading man instead?” 

“I finally kicked my addiction to [her favorite snack]. Although you might just be the thing that makes me relapse πŸ˜‰”

“They say [her college] has the smartest people. But I have serious doubts after matching with me!”

Express with GIFs and Memes

Communicating with visuals like GIFs and memes can be an incredibly effective and fun way to grab someone’s attention with your opening message. Of course, assuming that the dating app you are using allows for it (most of them do, though). These animated images and popular internet jokes instantly project humor, shared interests, and personality in a single tap.

A well-timed GIF or meme can start the conversation on a fun note. It shows you share a similar sense of humor. Way better than a dull “Hey, how’s it going?” Using the right one correctly is the main success factor.

Pro Tips:

  • Keep it relatively tame and good-natured to avoid offending
  • Tie it to something in their profile/photos to show you noticed
  • Use short video clips for extra attention-grabbing power
  • Add a short written comment to give it personal context


The Office Smiling
When I saw your photo and read you’re also a huge Office fan…
The Big Bang Theory Math
Me trying to make sense of your Princeton degree in astrophysics

Reference Something Interesting in Their Profile

One of the most effective ways to craft an engaging first message is to refer to something unique or interesting you noticed in their dating profile. This shows you took the time to actually read and process their information instead of just looking at photos. It creates an instant conversation hook related to their interests, background, or experiences.

By commenting on a specific detail from their bio, you demonstrate active listening and attention to detail. It feels more personalized versus sending a generic opener. You’re essentially giving them a topic to latch onto and expand upon effortlessly.  

Pro Tips:

  • Focus on positives – touch on hobbies, accomplishments, travels, etc.
  • Ask an open-ended question to encourage an engaging response
  • Relate it to something you have in common for an easy connection

“Your travels to Thailand look incredible! Was diving with whale sharks as magical as they say?”

“Being from New Orleans must mean you’re an expert on all things beignets and jazz music. What’re your go-to spots?”

“A Wharton MBA and a 4th-degree black belt?! I’m officially intimidated. How’d you juggle all that?!”

Offer a Genuine Compliment Followed by a Question

Kick things off with some well-placed flattery! Offering a sincere compliment not only strokes the ego in a pleasant way, but shows you’ve taken notice of your match as an individual. Following it up with an open-ended question keeps the conversation flowing naturally.

The compliment portion makes your match feel appreciated and puts them in a positive mindset. But don’t stop there – asking a friendly follow-up question maintains the engagement and gives them an easy way to respond substantively.

Pro Tips:

  • Be specific with your compliment
  • Focus on positive personality traits over just appearance
  • Ask something related to the compliment you gave
  • Use flattering descriptors like “curious,” “adventurous,” “witty”


“Your passion for giving back is really admirable. What inspired you to get involved with Habitat for Humanity?”

“You seem like such an upbeat, energetic person! Do you have a go-to morning routine to start your days off right?”

“That sense of wanderlust comes through so vividly in your photos. If you could pick anywhere to live abroad for a year, where would it be?”

Inspire a Craving with Food, Movies, Travel, Activity, or Adventure

Getting someone excited and craving an experience you describe is a guaranteed way to capture their imagination and interest right off the bat. By painting a vivid picture of something delicious, entertaining, or exhilarating you’ve enjoyed, you’ll instantly make a fun connection over shared passions.

Whether it’s mouthwatering food descriptions that have them hungering to try it themselves, a gripping movie or show recommendation that piques their curiosity, or tales of thrilling adventures that get their adrenaline pumping – providing this type of sensory inspiration works amazingly well to spark conversation.

Pro Tips:

  • Use lots of descriptive details to set the scene
  • Include rhetorical questions to draw them in further
  • Incorporate emoji visuals πŸŽ₯πŸŒ²β›·οΈ to enhance the imagery

“Have you had the carne asada fries from Pedro’s? The steak is so perfectly seasoned and the fries are an unbelievable combination of crispy and soft 🀀 They’re my ultimate cheat meal, no question.”

“You’ll have to let me know if you’ve seen the Banshees of Inisherin yet. That ending had me yelling at the screen! Somehow still an utterly beautiful film though πŸŽ₯”

“No bigger adrenaline rush than my last white water rafting trip. Stealing glances at the untamed wilderness while powering through rapids and icy waters πŸ›Άβ›°οΈ I was hooked from that first descent!”

Ask a Fun, Scenario-Based Question

Posing a lighthearted, imaginative “what if” style question right off the bat can be an incredibly engaging way to spark someone’s creativity and interest. These thought-provoking hypotheticals shine a light on their personality and values through an entertaining lens.

Scenario-based questions require more than just a yes/no reply. They compel your match to conjure up explanations, devise strategies, unpack ethical dilemmas, or cast themselves into fictional situations. You’ll learn about their priorities, problem-solving skills, and even senses of humor through their responses.

Pro Tips:

  • Keep it relatively low-stakes and non-controversial
  • Provide enough context to spur an imaginative reply
  • Ask an either/or question to keep it simple
  • Build the scenario around shared interests if possible

“You’re going for World’s Best Lukewarm First Date and can only ask literal ice breaker questions. Do you go with ‘How much does a polar bear weigh?’ or ‘What’s the most boring thing you’ve ever done?'”

“A fairy godmother offers to have you master any skill instantly, but you can never improve upon it after that day. Do you choose a physical skill like skiing, mental skill like chess, or creative skill like painting?”

“You’ve been shrunken down to six inches tall but get to live in a famous TV/movie house for a year. Do you choose the Simpsons’ house and risk getting sat on, or the Friends apartment and hang out with the gang?”

Share Your Intentions and Ask About Theirs

Being upfront about what you’re looking for from the start and asking your match the same candid question can be an extremely effective approach. This direct style of opening line cuts through ambiguity and determines if you’re truly aligned in your dating intentions.

By clearly stating whether you’re seeking something casual, a serious relationship, or simply making new friends and connections, you avoid wasting time pursuing mismatched goals. Requesting the same transparency from them establishes mutual understanding and respect.

Sharing intentions doesn’t have to feel awkward or too serious. You can keep things light and casual while still making your romantic purposes clear. And who knows – having that aligned foundation from the outset may even fast-track a blossoming connection!

Pro Tips:

  • Keep an optimistic, non-judgmental tone about any intentions
  • Don’t make assumptions about what they want
  • Frame it as a mutual conversation and exchange of perspectives
  • You can pivot to playful banter once intentions are established

“Dating app life – gotta be upfront, you know? I’m keeping an open mind but ultimately looking for something more serious. What about you?”

“Just putting it out there – I had an amazing career but retired early to spend more time enjoying life’s adventures. I’d love to meet someone on the same wavelength priorities-wise!”

“Hey there! I’m going to lay my cards on the table and say I’m mostly here looking to make new connections, friends first. If that’s not quite your goal, no worries at all!”

Reference Pop Culture to Establish Common Ground

Bonding over shared interests in popular movies, TV shows, music, books, or other mainstream entertainment is a fun, lighthearted way to find common ground and get the conversation flowing naturally right off the bat. A well-timed pop culture reference can reveal overlapping tastes and inside jokes with your match.

When you spot a hint about a beloved franchise or artist in their profile, dropping a coded quote, lyric, or playful nudge about that shared fandom creates an instant “me too!” connection. It’s an icebreaker that immediately kickstarts engaging banter over something you mutually enjoy.

Pro Tips:

  • Make it obvious but not too on-the-nose
  • Pair it with a flirtatious compliment or question
  • Use references modern enough to be currently recognizable
  • Avoid potentially controversial topics/properties


“A nurse who loves U2? With or without you, I’m definitely swiping right on that!” 

“‘I am no longer a vigin!!’…kidding, just wanted to slip in a Michael Scott quote to any potential Office soulmates.”

“Please tell me you’ve been keeping up with the madness of this Yellowjackets season?! I need somewhere to wildly theorize about it.”

Issue a Friendly Challenge or Dare

Kicking things off with a flirtatious, low-stakes dare or challenge can be an incredibly engaging way to create fun, playful banter right out of the gate. These cheeky prompts inspire friendly competition and get those flirty vibes flowing from the start.

By issuing a silly dare or brain teaser, you tap directly into your match’s adventurous spirit and sense of humor. Their response gives you an instant glimpse into their personality – whether they rise to the occasion with confidence or counter with a sly comeback of their own. It’s a unique icebreaker that allows you both to start riffing off that flirtatious energy.

Pro Tips:

  • Keep things lighthearted and PG – avoid anything too scandalous
  • Frame it as “something fun to see if you’re game” rather than a command
  • Offer an alternate challenge choice for variety
  • Be ready with a witty reply when they play along!

“Let’s decide which of us has stronger emoji game. You go first – describe your perfect first date using only emojis and I’ll try to decipher it.”

“I’ll accept nothing less than a top 3 ranking for your favorite regional fast food spots as our opening conversation. Bonus points for strong arguments!”

“Gonna put those French skills to the test. How would you attempt to romantically ask me out…in French? Or we could go with great pickup dad jokes instead?”

When You Start Incorporating Light Hearted Flirting Into The Conversation And They Respond Positively Meme


Looking back, I had no idea how crucial that opening message would be when I first started online dating. I obsessed over photos and bios, but referencing a small detail about my future wife’s career kicked off our chatting.

The tips I’ve shared draw from years helping singles uplevel their dating game, one opening line at a time. While attractive, well-crafted profiles are still important initially, an engaging first message is truly make-or-break for turning matches into real connections.

That said, not getting a response is still a possibility. Going through it can be disheartening, but don’t take it personally – there could be many reasons. Be cool, as no response happens frequently. You can attempt a friendly follow-up showing you read their profile and are interested in them as a person. If they still don’t engage, gracefully move on. Online dating involves a numbers game, so focus energy on enthusiastic people rather than dwelling on non-responders.

You don’t need to be a comedian or Casanova. Just stay authentic, keep it light and fun. Reference shared interests, spark curiosity with an imaginative scenario, or extend a warm compliment. However you introduce yourself, make an unforgettable first impression that screams “You’ll want to keep talking to me!”

Have favorite icebreaker lines or messaging stories to share? Drop a comment below or share this modern dating advice from a certified pro. Getting quality matches and sparking engaging conversations is just an irresistible opening line away!

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