Dallas-based dating app BLK, a subsidiary of Match Group, has created a new in-app feature called #BLKVoices to create a space for users to share their opinions on social and cultural topics.
Since launching in August 2017, the BLK app has had over 3 million downloads, making it the largest dating app for Black singles, according to a statement. BLK is continuing to expand its platform by creating a new in-app engagement. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the engagement encourages conversations around racism and discrimination.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever presented an opportunity for our users to express themselves,” Jonathan Kirkland, Head of Marketing and Brand for BLK, told Dallas Innovates. “When you think about BLK Voices, it’s really a place for them to engage in deeper conversations around timely cultural and social topics. This first initiative that we did under the BLK Voices umbrella is called ‘Educate an Ally,’ and that was really inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The first thing users will see when they open the app is an optional writing prompt about the new Educate an Ally initiative. If the user decides to opt in to the prompt, they will be able to share their voice on the topic.
BLK can then use these responses to better connect with their users to build a stronger community and amplify these responses through media outlets and partners.
“There are different issues and topics that might resonate with this audience versus the general market,” Kirkland says. “Being able to educate internally has been amazing, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter recent events that have amplified and propelled this learning and education even further.”
Dating can be a difficult process in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and while an app isn’t the same as meeting someone in person, BLK is making an effort to be a close second to real-life experiences. Through the collection of user data propelled by in-app engagement, users have the chance to interact authentically—even if it’s behind a screen.
“An app isn’t tangible, but we want to be tangible to our audience and our community,” Kirkland says. “At the end of the day what we’re really trying to do is build it with the community and build it together.”
The sense of community carries through the company as well, according to Kirkland. Match Group brought Kirkland to Dallas in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic when many offices were closing. Despite the lack of an in-person work environment, Kirkland felt a sense of teamwork among his coworkers.
“I’ve never had a moment where I felt like it was just me on BLK,” Kirkland says. “It’s really a team effort which is really appreciated because in the past it hasn’t always been like that in previous jobs. One thing that I love about BLK is that management listens and they really seek to understand.”
By working specifically with the Black community, BLK has been able to hone in issues and topics that pertain to this specific market versus the general market.
Educating internally in the wake of Black Lives Matter has been geared towards spreading the message in a way that creates a stronger community as a whole, according to Kirkland.
“We’re a platform about conversations so let’s foster a place where you can have that conversation,” Kirkland says. “What we found is that our users are really passionate about the topic, and the topic ‘Educate an Ally,’ was based on the fact that non-Black allies had joined the frontlines for the fight for racial equality.”
The company has seen 65 percent more swipes since the in-app engagement was launched, per Kirkland. In addition, 20 percent of users are opting in for a subscription to the app instead of using it for free. By purchasing a subscription, users are able to unlock extra features that enhance making a connection on the app.
“We will be addressing things that are current, addressing things that are topical, addressing things that are relevant to our users, and we’re really going to use it to inform and educate the general population,” Kirkland says. “Beyond just the marketing, this really serves as a resource and a tool for allies to have a one stop shop of ways from all angles, if you will, that they can join in the fight for racial equality.”
While the Black Lives Matter movement is not new, the way BLK is approaching it is changing the way that its users can start the conversation.
“People are paying attention,” Kirkland says. “We’ve been saying Black Lives Matter, it’s not the first time this phrase has been said, but now we feel like it’s the first time that people are actually paying attention, listening, taking action and becoming involved.”
At the end of the day, the initiative is meant to educate in a way that creates a space for the Black community to unite in shared experiences. It also reflects BLK’s overall mission to build a community highlighting the Black experience, while nurturing and uplifting Black people.
“We’re in a unique and different position, and actually a special position, where we’re not standing in solidarity with the Black community, we are the one standing because we are the Black community,” Kirkland says. “Now that the attention is on us, what can we do to use our platform for good? What can we do to use our platform to spark change and to spark action? Change starts with a conversation, and that’s why we’re using our platform to keep that conversation and keep that dialogue going.”
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