Beth Cook is a dating coach and writer. Want advice? Have advice? Send her an email.

Beyond the dating site: Where else to meet singles online

To some, “networking” is a dirty word. It carries an air of manipulation on its wings. It’s not just being social for the sake of it; it is socializing with a purpose.

Call it whatever you want, but find a name you’re comfortable with real quick, because networking is exactly what you need to do while playing the dating game.

It’s time to get out there and utilize all that the Web has to offer for dating—and it has a LOT. There are single people hiding all over the place, besides the obvious dating sites such as OKCupid. In fact, Meghan Casserly recently wrote an article for Forbes asking, “Is Linkedin The New Dating Hot-Spot, Or A Breeding Ground For Harassment?

While I personally don’t advocate treating Linkedin like your local dive bar, and recommend you avoid physical talk (i.e., “you have a sexy smile”), I do suggest taking tthe people search bar on Linkedin for a spin. Why not get in touch with a couple of cute people in your field? Your dating life and your career might benefit.

Another obvious place to look for the unattached is Facebook. If you haven’t gotten stalky with your friends’ friends, it’s about time you do. Event invitations are a great place to look—any attractive strangers heading to your friends’ parties, b-days, bbqs, etc. You should even send a note to a handful of coupled-up friends who you don’t run into often: ask them if they have any single friends. Don’t worry about looking desperate, because they’ll just be excited about the prospect. Couples love to set up their single friends.

Now, what else—how about your hobbies? Whether you’re obsessed with beer, bikes, board games, or something that doesn’t start with a “b” at all, Meetup has an event for you. Some events are explicitly dating oriente, like “Beautiful Women Looking to Meet Professional Men.” Others are full of under-the-radar singles, such as the “San Francisco Social Wine Club.” How do I know that most people at Meetups are single? Couples don’t go out much. And when they do, it’s with other couples.

Was Christmas the last time you got philanthropic? Don’t wait all year again. Try volunteering at your local pet shelter, youth community center, church, etc. You can find opportunities of all sorts on Craigslist. Why not feel good about giving back while you’re making friends (and possibly lovers)?

Then there’s Twitter. Approaching the platform like LinkedIn—look for people who are in your field, or who have the same extracurricular activities and strike up a conversation. Start with a RT, move on to a compliment, and then ask a question.

You could easily use the same strategy for Tumblr. Compliment someone who’s doing something you like (cooking, mixing drinks, etc), and of course, share your blog too.

Speaking of food, if you’re looking to get acquainted with new people and new restaurants, join a social dining group like Sosh or Grubwithus. You might just end up with a full belly and a phone number.

And last but not least, another fantastic non-dating place to meet people online is within a social game. I’m impartial to fun, light-hearted games on Facebook, such as Words With Friends, but if you’re feeling more ambitious, try stepping into a virtual world like Second Life, or playing an MMO game.

Ready, set, go! Choose a few of the above and see what happens. At the very least, you’ll end up with an online life full of adventure and conversation.

Happy Dating.

Image by greyweed