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If dating is a game, online dating is a game of strategy. The protocol can be daunting, especially to someone new to the game. With the beginning of a new year, we figured there's no better time to ask online dating experts to share their tips for success.

Your odds are good at this time: According to Lauren O’Reilly of OkCupid, people tend to end relationships going into the holidays and want to start fresh in the new year. Pressure from family members during the holidays or wishing they had someone to spend the holidays with also encourages people.

Your odds are better on Sundays: Add perusing dating apps into your “easing into the week day” Sunday night routine. According to O’Reilly, 7pm on Sunday is the average peak of traffic for dating websites and is your best chance of striking up a conversation with a potential suitor.

Don’t procrastinate: “Messages sent within the first 24 hours are twice as likely to receive a response,” says Jean-Marie McGrath of Hinge. The majority of users take up to 2.5 days to start a conversation, however.

Be genuine: Look at a dater's profile and write to them about something specific, so they know that you’re not just randomly throwing out opening lines to every single person that is on the app, McCann suggests. “If they say they’re a foodie, say ‘so I see you’re a foodie, what’s the best Mexican restaurant in town?’.”

Give them something to work with: Starting a conversation with a question works best. But say more than “Hey, what’s up?”, which puts the pressure on the other person to come up with something to talk about. Encourage a match to answer by feeding them material.

Play it cool: People tend to word-vomit exactly what they’re looking for in their bios: a life partner or someone to cuddle with at night. Less is more, warns Laurie Davis, chief executive of eFlirt, an online dating consultancy.

“You would never say that to somebody when you first meet them, so don’t say that online either,” she says. Keep it light and simple, and never be negative. Listing what you don’t want in a relationship will just make you look cold, she adds.

Get off-line ASAP: Many people like the idea of online dating in theory but don’t find success because they never meet people face-to-face. Which is why McCann likes the sense of urgency that location-based apps like Tinder present to users. “You’re only going to be in the same place and time for a very short finite period,” she says.

Try to keep virtual chatting to a minimum: Davis’s rules of thumb are six messages back and forth on dating sites, 20 to 30 text exchanges if you’re on a dating app. If by two weeks of messaging, you haven’t met up, someone’s got to pull the trigger and suggest a date.

“You really want to get to meeting each other and make sure that there really is some sort of real connection before you develop a virtual fantasy of the relationship in your head,” McCann says.

Hit them with your best shots: When it comes to your photos, “you need to look like you’re ready to walk out the door and go on a great first date,” says McCann.

That means avoiding group photos, wearing sunglasses or only including pictures of your face.

“You’re 203% more likely to get messages when you have one full body shot,” Davis advises. Include pictures that show what your life is like when you’re not just sitting around your living room taking selfies. Active lifestyle shots make for great conversation starters.

Emojis are your friend, but only if you’re a woman: “Men shouldn’t be using emojis at all,” Davis says. “If they use a smiley face in a message, their response rate drops 66%.”

She said women look for confidence in a man, and relying on emojis to show emotions doesn't exude confidence.

But for women the opposite is true.

According to Davis, when women use a smiley face in their profile, it will increase messages by 60%. “For women, when they use emojis, it comes across as being warmer.”

Davis, however, warns women to avoid use of flowers, hearts or any emojis that seem lovey-dovey. “It’s like the text version of too much too soon.”

Momentum is important: “If there’s going to be things that are barriers to the momentum, you want to make that clear up front,” Davis says.

If going away, make a plan for when you get back – having something to look forward to could keep a fledgling relationship from fizzling out.