Dating App Helps Black Singles Find the Right Swipe
Written by Angela Johnson at Yahoo
I’m old enough to remember a time when looking for love meant going out to bars and clubs or depending on an introduction to a single friend of a friend. But ever since Tinder hit the market in 2013, smartphone users have been able to access a virtual singles marketplace without leaving their couch.
Swiping through pictures on your phone might be more convenient than bar hopping. But for Black people (women in particular), the online dating space isn’t always so user-friendly. A 2014 study about dating preferences along racial lines on OKCupid found that Black women get the least amount of attention on mainstream dating apps of all ethnic groups and gender categories. Armed with this information, the Match Group, which includes dating apps like the aforementioned Tinder, Hinge and OK Cupid launched BLK to provide an online meeting space for the Black singles community. And since its launch in August 2017, BLK has grown to become the number one dating app for Black singles.
Like most apps, BLK allows users to scroll through a community of singles to find someone that piques their interest. The only exception here is that everyone is Black. Users can swipe right to give someone they’re interested in a “yeah,” or left to give someone they’d rather not meet a “nah.” And if the feeling is mutual, the pair can start chatting with one another right away to see where things lead.
We had a chance to speak with BLK’s Head of Marketing & Brand, Jonathan Kirkland. Since April 2020, he has been charged with helping to give the brand voice and personality from a cultural perspective. Kirkland shared his thoughts on the importance of BLK in this time and how the app has grown to become one of the first places Black singles look for love.
Kirkland says before BLK, Black people were left out of the online dating conversation. But he says the app intends to be a community that celebrates and supports Black love in all of its forms. And whether users are looking for an active non-smoker who wants to get married or a music-loving traveler to be friends with benefits, all are welcome. “We want to make sure our users are seen, heard and validated where they might not be on mainstream apps,” he says.
And while he says BLK doesn’t discriminate against users based on their melanin hue, Kirkland says it is very intentional about being a space that celebrates Black people and Black culture. “When you think about Black spaces, they weren’t created out of a mindset of exclusion. It was more so out of necessity. So when you look at HBCUs, they were created because we couldn’t go to the majority universities. Black neighborhoods came about because we weren’t allowed to buy houses in certain parts of town. BLK is a space where Black people don’t have to face those microaggressions they might see on mainstream dating apps,” Kirkland says.
Going forward, Kirkland says BLK plans to release stickers that users can add to strengthen their profiles and help them find matches more quickly. “We’re doing things like natural hair, HBCU-grad, Divine 9, Caribbean descent. They’re things that represent all aspects of blackness that wouldn’t necessarily be on your mainstream apps,” he says. They are also looking to launch communities that group users with people based on shared interests.
In addition to helping Black people find love, Kirkland says it’s important for BLK to give back to the communities they serve, which means making sure they reach their users with important information. One example he cited was BLK’s Vax That Thang Up campaign. The now viral video was a play on the 1998 Juvenile hit, “Back That A** Up,” and encouraged young singles to get the COVID-19 vaccine before they resumed dating in person. They even got Juvenile to rap the new lyrics.
“People loved it, people hated it, but everyone was talking about it,” Kirkland laughs. “We knew our community was being hit the hardest. We didn’t want to be preachy, but we did want to bring attention to the importance of vaccinations.”
Kirkland says he is both surprised and impressed by BLK’s growth and hopes to continue to find different ways to connect with users and enrich their experience both in the app and at in-person events. “I always say the pandemic was terrible for the world but it was great for dating apps,” Kirkland says. “We saw the user numbers explode in everything from app downloads to the number of messages being sent. Everything was above trend expectations.”
And Kirkland says that growth is not slowing down as things open up. “The trajectory is still going strong, and I want to ride it out as long as we can,” he says. “One thing I want to do with the brand is show that Black love comes in all forms. One isn’t better than the other. It’s just different, which speaks to the nuances of Black culture.”
Cordell & Martee - Matched on BLK in April 2020, now married with a 9-month-old baby boy