There is a business sector that has grown massively in recent years, going far beyond the previously existing boundaries and forming a major new part of people’s lives.  However, if you spend you time with the traditional ‘Internet Marketing Gurus’, you could be forgiven for thinking that this sector doesn’t even exist.

The simple fact of the matter is that the ‘cottage industry’ of internet marketing seems not to have noticed the dating and social marketing sector.  This is despite it having been one of the major drivers of the web 2.0 revolution.

So if you want to get into this sector, improve your work within it, or just keep abreast of latest industry trends, where do you go?

The answer is simple: idate & social networking conference

This event brings together many of the top movers and shakers in this industry.  Just like a Christmas truce, they all put down their competitive spirit and get drunk together in bars, network in restaurants and occasionally go to plenary sessions.

But this is more than a jolly boys’ industry outing – it’s a chance to catch breaking news and trends, and forge contacts with the owners of leading industry players such as Make Friends Online and Plenty of Fish.

Here are some of the movers and shakers you could have heard from, had you attended:

‘StickyEyes’ explaining how you can easily optimise your website for Google, whilst your competitors waste a fortune paying ‘professionals’ to do a far worse job.

Omnidate showing their new ‘virtual date’ software, which allows conversations with real-time, lifelike 3D characters.  These chat face to face with other users on dating sites, giving a more natural, enjoyable and profitable experience.  This system works on your photo, so the avatar really looks like you.  Not only that, it interacts with other characters, interpreting your chat comments by laughing, nodding and kissing as the conversation flows.  Research shows a massive increase in time spent chatting online, and hence value delivered to your clients.

White Label Dating explained how you can start a dating site with very little money, and without needing a base of members.  Their system works like an ‘affiliate’ network, allowing users of your site to see everyone on theirs, so your very first member joins a busy, interesting site.

Dateline explaining how they can take members from your dating site, and earn you commission on their expensive premium ‘real-world’ service.  This involves in-depth home interviews and personal matching, earning you solid commissions from members you would otherwise have earned nothing from.

Marcus from Plenty of Fish explained how his free dating site model is demolishing the paid-for competition in North America.

You could additionally have learned how advances in genetic and personality testing allow you to ‘magically match’ compatible users before they’re even viewed each others’ profiles.

There were also a fistful of firms providing support services such as moderation, anti-scammer solutions and confidential calling.  If you’re in the sector, this is the place to come to make sure you’re not missing anything.

The format of the conference was based around plenary sessions.  There were 2 rooms, one for dating, which applied to me, and one for social networking, which I didn’t attend.  There was a central hall with exhibition stands.  I estimate that there were typically about 50 delegates in the dating forum, and around 15 in the social networking event.

This conference is the place to come for the industry, but nevertheless there are some improvements I’d like to see.  The venue was limiting, with a small hall that only provided space for a handful of stands.  The plenary room was comfortable, but the low ceiling and lack of a dais made it hard to see the screen and speakers.

At around £700 for the 2 days, it’s expensive for a trade show, but compares very favourably with training events.  If you’re operating in the industry, then those costs are small beer to the investment you make in graphics, advertising and support.

This is an industry which is small and focussed.  If you want to make it in this world, get down to idate instead of re-inventing the wheel.  There are conferences around the World, so get onto http://www.internetdatingconference.com/conference-miami-2009.php and book your place now.

Contact Marc Lesnick 001 212 722 1744 x101