In its third year, BLK’s online dating app has quickly become the largest online dating app for Black singles. With approximately 3.5 million downloads to date, BLK app not only provides a space exclusively for Black singles to connect, but stands out from other dating sites with their three pillars: community, entertainment, and dating and relationships.
BLK app’s origins date back to August of 2017 when Jonathan Kirkland, head of BLK, recognized a need for Black representation in the online dating space. After several years of working in the online dating world, Jonathan says, “I’ve been in this space for a while now, and if you look at a lot of the general market apps, none of them at scale put the Black audience first. It’s usually secondary or for a specific initiative. So there was just a vast open space, and by me being a single, Black man, and talking with friends, realized that it is something that is needed.”
One other thing that Jonathan noticed when looking at traditional dating app trends was its effect on Black women and how they were, sadly, overlooked. He said, “Typically, the Black user, specifically Black women, are the least desirable group in the swipe world. They tend to get the least amount of likes.” Jonathan then goes on to add, “So having an app where people look like you and get you, is something that can help those people make those matches and make them faster.”
In March, when COVID hit, forcing the entire country to shut down, Jonathan said that he saw an 18% increase in daily user activity, a 39% increase in overall swiping, and a 61% increase in messages that were being exchanged, all within the first two weeks. And now, five months into the pandemic, he still sees an increase in usage on the BLK App, saying, “If you look at our monthly user activity from March through July, you’ll see that usage has increased by 35%. I think that’s a result of more activity from our existing users and an influx of new user registration because COVID is forcing people to date differently.”
In addition to connecting Black singles, BLK app also serves as a platform to sound off on issues that affect the Black community. Following the Black Lives Matter movement’s reigniting, BLK app allowed users to express their feelings and opinions on how non-Black allies can help with the fight against racial injustice. Of this, Jonathan said, “No other apps that I’ve heard of are doing this because no other apps have the type of audience that BLK has. So what we’re doing is looking at the information that our users have provided, which is more than what we expected, and we’re going to distribute it to the non-Black audience so they can see how we feel, what we think, and how they can take action to help.”
Another move that BLK app made to better support their audience was to celebrate August being Black Business Month by highlighting users who also happened to be entrepreneurs. By asking all business owners to submit their information, BLK was able to not only position them as their most eligible entrepreneurs but elevate their businesses and profiles. As Jonathan says, “Everything we do is for the Black community. So even as we’re growing the brand, I want to hear what the community wants, and based on that feedback, we are going to navigate the growth of BLK.”
One way that Jonathan plans on growing and expanding BLK is through partnerships. He says that they have attributed their growth to paid social media ads, but are looking at brand campaigns, influencers, and community partners to align themselves with. They recently collaborated with Civic Alliance for their Power the Polls initiative, whose purpose is to recruit new poll workers. Joining big brands like Lyft, Uber, Twitter, and Starbucks, BLK plans to encourage its users to participate in this initiative for the upcoming presidential election. Jonathan said, “Fewer poll workers mean less polling stations, which means longer lines. We already saw this in some states with the primaries. So with this partnership, knowing that 75% of our users are under 35, it’s a way for them to take action. Because we all know that our community sometimes suffers the hardest when it comes to polling and long voting lines, it was important for us to partner with Civic Alliance around that election initiative.”
For more information on BLK, visit https://www.blk-app.com/en.
Contributing Writer, Racquel Coral is a lifestyle writer based in Chicago. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.