In the world of online dating, Amy Canaday is a PR and marketing pioneer. I know from firsthand experience that Amy is a risk taker who always thinks outside the box.

This episode of Beyond the Boxx explores the rich history of, its portfolio of companies and it’s love for influencer marketing. You’ll also hear how love wins even during a pandemic and how and its users have embraced video for virtual dating.

You’ve been part of Match Group for 13 years, what is your role with the company?

Amy: I really feel like I have one of the coolest and best jobs in America. I get to help people find love for a living. And I mean, my job specifically, I just feel like I’m the head storyteller here at Match. Love is just such a ripe area for storytelling. And over 13 years, it’s crazy to think I still haven’t run out of ideas. There’s just so much goodness out of that one human emotion that you can tell amazing fun stories about love. I work with all facets of the organization to just uncover these amazing stories from product and our tech team to our data and analytics teams to working one on one with our dating coaches that are on staff here at Match, or even our success couples, which are some of my most favorite parts of the stories that we get to tell.

Can you give us a quick lay of the land?

Amy: Yeah, sure. It is pretty confusing. So Match, we obviously are the OG, the pioneer of the entire dating category, and we actually just celebrated our 25th anniversary.

There are very few internet companies, when you think about it, that are still around thriving and relevant 25 years later. So it’s pretty awesome and a pretty cool thing to be proud of. But part of Match now, we have Match Group, which is our public company, and that is where the confusion becomes a thing.

Match Group owns 45 plus different dating brands and they serve different regions and demographics all around the globe. And some of our most well known dating brands here in the US are under that umbrella, including Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and then obviously us at Match. So we’re just one small part of the bigger umbrella of Match Group.

Sherri: So basically, you have no competition in dating world.

Amy: I mean, it’s funny you think that, but we still are so competitive even with the brands in our portfolio. We want to win. We want to be number one and there’s always new dating apps that pop up every day. So even though we’re this big conglomerate, we all very much still operate like an underdog and push every day to beat the other guys.

What do you think has been the most significant shift in online dating in the past 25 years, or decade since you’ve been a part of it?

Amy: Yeah. I mean, we’ve had a lot of change, obviously. It doesn’t look like it did when even I first came on board. It was us, Match, and eHarmony, were really the only two players back then. And now here we are today where, I mean, there are hundreds, probably thousands of dating apps. But I really think the biggest shift in probably the whole 25 years was the shift to mobile.

We began as a desktop product and a lot of people still think of us as that desktop product. And although we worked really hard to get a jump on mobile and have a mobile application, it was really still hard to condense a desktop experience all the way down to a mobile screen. There are so many different parts of Match desktop experience. So it made it really difficult. But then Tinder happened, right? And they were that mobile first app. And because it was so simple to navigate and use on your phone, it brought a whole slew of people and singles to this category and then it just exploded from there.

I think because Tinder was able to crack that mobile app nut, it really forced the whole category to be rethought and make it a mobile first category.

Sherri: I feel like, to me and tell me if I’m wrong, if I was just a hobbyist dater, I would be on the app. But if I were more serious, I would want to be like, okay, I’m really going to take this seriously. I’m going to sit at my desk with my computer and I’m going to be on the desktop.

Amy: Yeah. You think so. I mean, that makes logical sense, but we really don’t see that in the numbers. I mean, 80, 85% of our users use our mobile app daily. So desktop is becoming a smaller and smaller part of our business.

Sherri: That’s crazy. Even when you look at age demos, people over a certain age?

Amy: Definitely. It’s so much easier. I mean, it’s a part of you now is your phone. Very few people actually sit at a computer anymore.

How has the current health crisis impacted everything over at Match?

Amy: It’s such an interesting time, a really crazy time to be working in this business. But we’ve had to be nimble, we’ve had to re-prioritize. But at the end of the day, back to what I said earlier, we’re a 25 year old business and we’ve weathered uncertain times before. We’ve found that love has been recession-proof, love has been weather-proof, love has been election proof even, and now it’s proven to be pandemic proof too.

I mean, the search for love and connection is so powerful. So we’re really seeing a lot of users turn to us to help them get through these times and provide something super meaningful right now that they need. They’re lonely, they need connection and they’re using Match.

I could see the numbers surging, but then how do they have a date?

Amy: Yeah. So that’s where we had to be nimble and re-prioritize. That first couple of weeks was us going back to our product roadmap and figuring out, forget everything we had planned for 2020. How are we going to help our members date right now? So we re-prioritize video chat on our product roadmap and got that out in four weeks. So in April, we launched Vibe Check, which is our new in-app video chat feature.

Within four weeks, we just launched Vibe Check, which is our in-app video chat feature. And we’re seeing a real uptick in people dating that way. Pre-COVID, I think the number was six, 7% of singles actually said they would use a video chat feature with meeting someone to date.

Sherri: Really?

Amy: Yes. It was super low. Adoption was always super low, lower than you would think. And post-COVID, that number’s jumped to 69%. So within a couple of weeks, video became de-stigmatized and normal. Even my child is using Zoom for school in preschool. Everyone has had to adapt and we’re seeing singles do the same thing.

Sherri: I mean, I’m going to be curious when you talk about those before and after success love stories because I used to work at Weight Watchers so we did those for weight loss.

Do you have any things that you’re seeing, people who met during this time, that they fell in love without even meeting each other?

Amy: Yeah. Love is definitely still happening in the time of coronavirus and we’re seeing it in all shapes and forms. We’ve certainly heard from some new budding relationships that aren’t quite ready to put it out on blasts that they found somebody, but are having great success and making it official before they even meet in real life, which is wild to think about even six months ago. I mean, we all watch Love is Blind like it’s a phenomenon and now it’s in a way happening in real life.

Sherri: I could see the People Magazine segment of people who met during this time. But go ahead. Sorry. Yeah.

Amy: Yes, you’re right. Good one. I’m going to pitch that. We’ve heard even couples getting engaged over coronavirus. One couple just reached out last week around, they went on a hike and got engaged just in their regular get out of the apartment kind of activity, and he totally surprised her with the ring. And we’re hearing couples that are having to shift their wedding plans, but still getting married during this time too.

My favorite one is in the New York Times vows section where a couple, they had planned to go to Alaska, it was their favorite place on earth to go for their wedding, and had to shift plans, but they still love wildlife and nature. And so they ended up getting married at this bear sanctuary and a real life grizzly bear was their ring bearer. True story, go look it up.

Do you remember the first influencer program you ever ran?

Amy: Sherri, I’m hoping you remember because you’ve been my partner in this for so long. But yeah, isn’t it amazing to see how far we’ve come with influencers from back in the day?

Sherri: Yeah.

Amy: I mean, I guess we were doing watch parties before it was a real thing.

Sherri: Yeah. We were doing parties, we were doing events. We did a lot of one-on-one Skype interviews where I don’t remember her name, but we had influencers interview that woman on the screen and we taped it.

Amy: Oh yeah. Whitney Casey. I forgot all about that. The ones that come to my mind is with Singles in America, our a big study, and you would help us basically use influencers to spread word about the newest data and the newest trends we’ve seen each year. It’s amazing to see we’re coming up on 10 years of Singles in America and you were with us from the very beginning.

Are you still doing Singles in America?

Amy: Yeah, we still do it every year.

Do you still work with dating and single lifestyle influencers or is it more like influencers who are coaches?

Amy: Honestly, the best influencers we’re working with are people that just are great content creators because dating is universal, it’s lifestyle. It’s not just people who are single that can talk about being single. We’re really in the business to entertain people, lighten the message a little bit and make people laugh.

I think in our early stages, we only thought about it as single people and telling them to go download the Matchup. But I think the consumer behavior has changed and pivoted to see right through those very direct kind of obvious ads. So we’ve really transitioned to just providing value and entertainment and we’ve seen real return on that approach.

Sherri: That makes sense. I mean, it also has evolved so drastically, right? When we first started, there was a much smaller pool of influencers. Now, you could find influencers in any category, any sub topic, et cetera.

Amy: Yeah, you’re totally right. We were very limited on who we could even approach back then. And still there was a lot of stigma with dating online back then too. I feel like a lot of influencers and bloggers wouldn’t even touch the subject.

Sherri: Yeah. Now we see that, things shifting with different categories. If we first started with CBD, people are like, no, we don’t want to write about it. Now, they’re all like, okay, we’ll write about it. So it’s like every industry kind of becomes open to it and so do the influencers.

Are there any new challenges with influencers that you’re facing?

Amy: Yeah. I mean, it definitely has some unique ones. Like what I was saying before is balancing that single influencer or an influencer who’s in a relationship or married. That can become tricky because, I mean, sometimes people look up to married couples or people in relationships for inspiration. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to reach single people. So it’s really about who their followers are. So we have to balance that a lot.

A lot of times, people in relationships, their followers are also in relationships. And then we also have an age factor, right? You have to be 18 plus to use our app and so that really narrows our pool as well. And even with Match, I think we see ourselves more of a premium app or a paid subscription service. So we want to skew even older than that.

But at the end of the day, I think we’re all trying to do the same couple of things. It’s driving conversion, but also driving engagement that doesn’t always come from the same type of content. So we’re trying to balance that and make sure we’re just telling great stories to singles.

Are you exclusively focused on Instagram, like everyone else or does it depend on the channel, the property, and maybe you’ll be on Facebook with one influencer, but Instagram with others?

Amy: We’ve really primarily focused on Instagram. Yeah. We’re following the herd there, but we see our best results and most engaged with content they’re still.

When you work with influencers, are you giving them liberty or do you have specific guidelines to follow?

Amy: We obviously have guard rails, but at the end of the day, we don’t want forced content. So we’re choosing an influencer for a reason and we want them to come up with and collaborate with us on what they think will resonate best with their followers. Of course there are guard rails in place and we like to utilize a lot of the content that’s created for online ads as well and repurpose that. So we want to make sure we can do all of those things, but we’re going to give you a lot of freedom to do what you think will work best, as long as you’re telling an appropriate story for us.

What about events? Are you doing what we did in the past, virtual events with influencers or even with your members?

Amy: With our members, yeah. We put everything on hold as far as influencers or media like we used to do together all the time. That’s kind of on hold, but we do have a whole event series on Match. So Match events obviously was put on pause and we had to rethink that as well. So now, we’ve rolled out virtual events on Match. So just like before where we were doing two to 300 events each month in different markets across the country for singles to meet each other, we’re making them virtual. We’ve found that people really enjoy that. If they’re not quite ready to make the leap to do a video chat or video date, it’s an easy way to get acquainted with and used to putting yourself on video with a pool of other people, and they’re moderated by dating coaches.

So there’s 30 people on a video chat that’s moderated, will help the conversation flow and it’s all targeted by region city and age.

Are you hosting your virtual events via Zoom or a different technology?

Amy: We’re doing it through Zoom.

Sherri: That’s awesome. Good for you. All right, I’m going to finish with my last question that I ask everyone.

Name an influencer that you love to follow, but hate to admit that you do.

Amy:I guess I have to go with Kim K. I do not care about her skims, but for some reason I look at all the photos.

Sherri: That’s awesome.

Amy: I don’t know what the appeal is with that family, but I’m still into it, unfortunately.

Sherri: Yeah. So am I. Well, so lovely chatting with you. I will tell you that Melissa says hi.

Amy: Tell her I said, hello.

Sherri: I will. And we miss you and we hope that we can see you soon. And thank you for joining us.

Amy: Yes. We’re long overdue for a cocktail.

Sherri: I know. Thank you.

Amy: Thanks, Sherri.

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