HER’s Sumers discusses navigating a social and dating focused app in this new normal

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HER’s Shana Sumers Wants Marketers to Move Beyond Catering to the Black Community in February & the LGTBQ Community in June

September 16, 2020

 

EPISODE SUMMARY

Shana Sumers, Head of Community at HER, a dating and social app for LGBTQ+ people, discusses what it’s been like to navigate a social and dating focused business during a time when people can’t get together in person. Shana also shares what she really thinks of the Facebook ad boycott, and why she’s hoping big brands graduate past just supporting black and LGBTQ+ audiences during events like Black History Month and Pride Day.

 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Mike Shields (19s):

Hey guys, this is Mike Shields and this week on Next in Marketing I got to talk to Shana Sumers Head of Community at HER. We talked about how marketers are and aren’t catering to the LGBTQ community, what she thought was the problem with a recent Facebook ad boycott, and what it’s really like as a person of color looking to crack both the tech and marketing industries. Let’s get started. Welcome to Shana. How are you?

Shana Sumers (39s):

Hi, doing great. Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

Mike Shields (41s):

Thanks for being here. So it’s funny. I was thinking I’m a middle age, white guy. Straight. Married for 13 years. Met my wife in real life. So, this is like right in my wheelhouse.

Shana Sumers (54s):

Totally, totally. A professional. Right in this area. Right?

Mike Shields (57s):

Exactly. So tell us about HER. Tell us the origin story. What is the company all about? Do you call yourselves as a social app, a dating app? Who are you guys?

Shana Sumers (1m 6s):

Yeah, we’ve moved into the wonderful world of being a community app. And so, we have the mix of dating as well as building community. So HER was started back, it started initially as Dash and then moved into HER in 2015, I believe. And so this all started basically because our CEO found that there were not enough spaces for LGBTQ+ women. So, she went out and decided to build an app that created a safe space for women, trans, and non-binary folks to come on in date without, you know, the grossness of cis men, honestly, coming in and you know, just…

Mike Shields (1m 45s):

You don’t have to explain that to me, I understand.

Shana Sumers (1m 48s):

There you go. Thank you, thank you. So we continue to build it out. And while it initially started off as the dating app, we quickly saw that this could have more value. You know, there’s Hinge that wants you off the platform as soon as you meet. Where we’re like, there are no physical spaces for women, trans, and non-binary folks right now. There’s only 16 bars total in the U.S. That are geared towards queer women even. And that’s if they survive after COVID-19.

Mike Shields (2m 13s):

Right. If they are open at all, right.

Shana Sumers (2m 16s):

Exactly, so we built this app and we’ve built out a whole space where there’s a dating side, there is a community side, and there’s an event side. So, we have this all encompassing space for our users all over the world.

Mike Shields (2m 28s):

Okay, so we’ve established, I’m not a dating app person necessarily, but you mentioned something interesting there. I imagine that most, again, generalizing, most dating apps, aren’t more transactional or like getting you to meet someone and then get lost. Do I have that right? And why the focus on a community aspect here?

Shana Sumers (2m 46s):

Yeah. It’s so much easier for heterosexual relationships to be built and taken off and moved off of a platform. As well, there’s more money involved in it. You know, Tinder makes a ton of money. Bumble makes a ton of money. Everybody sees us as such a niche audience, when we’re like, we have over 6 million users worldwide. Like, this isn’t a niche audience. And because there is such a lack of safe spaces, you know, I can go to a bar and it would just be filled with cisgender straight people all over the place. And they don’t have to think twice about it, where if I’m a black trans woman and I walk into a bar, I’m worried about my safety at all points.

Shana Sumers (3m 23s):

As a black girl, a woman, I go in to certain spaces, I don’t feel confident or comfortable. So we knew that, especially in like rural areas where there’s not a lot of LGBTQ+ community that having the app would provide them with that space to come on and make friends, even if it was virtually and at a distance, to connect with their community, to know that they are safe and appreciate it. And so that was when we decided to lean more into the community aspect.

Mike Shields (3m 47s):

Interesting, so there’s folks in there, that it’s just as important to them to talk to people in their universe and, you know, share stories and share their lifestyle and talk about things then just, I want to meet somebody to date.

 

Shana Sumers (3m 59s):

Yeah. There’s plenty of people who come on in their trying to figure out their identity. There’s couples who are on there trying to find other couples to just be friends with. You know? You can go out and find other couple of friends , like it’s nothing. And a lot of times we have hard times doing that. Some people don’t even know where to look to find events in their area, so we create a list as well as host our own so that they have access to that, and are able. Some people have traveled hours to come to our events because they don’t have that in their area and so it’s amazing to see that community develop.

 

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Meet our host, Mike Shields

Mike Shields is the founder of Shields Strategic Consulting. Shields covered the ad business for over 15 years at top publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Adweek and Digiday.

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