How Archer Built a New, Celebratory Space for Queer Men

Giving our audience a seat at the table helped create a new dating app where they seek boldly and aim freely

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One in five Gen Z adults identifies as LGBTQ+ according to Gallup. While reports claim there are over 1,500 dating apps and websites around the world, there has been little to no innovation in this space for queer men in more than a decade.

Through our research with members of the queer community, we found that male, queer, Gen Z and millennial dating app users still feel something is missing from the apps they use. The way this demographic seeks out relationships is fluid, but while dating apps help find casual fun or romantic relationships, social media apps proved better for building connections and finding friendships. They’re still waiting for an app to allow them to show up authentically themselves, romantically and platonically.

Inward reflection, outward partnership

Archer, the new social-first dating app, took a different approach to build its app that caters to the needs of gay, bisexual and queer men. Our parent company, Match Group, realized the online market was lacking in apps that bridged the dating and social worlds for these groups. Before deciding on the app’s name or even honing in on app features, the team behind Archer first reflected on our own dating app highs and lows, how queer men’s experiences and relationships, and society at large, have evolved. We collectively thought about how we can better serve the future generations through this platform.

These insights sparked the idea of establishing a group of community advocates, which included the appointment of local New York City-based queer men who provided counsel on the app’s interface, user experience and features to deliver an authentic and unique experience to fellow gay, bisexual and queer men. Meetings with this group—and partners including ASTRSK PR, GLAAD, BMF and Target10—served as a watering hole filled with honest, thought-provoking conversations and anecdotes about the unique dating experiences of the community.

Pivoting product

In early development discussions, we made a case for building a totally unique app completely from scratch, particularly from a UX perspective. Instead of using the repeated features that many apps catering to this group have adopted over the past decade, the team experimented with a layout that wouldn’t solely focus on finding “the one” but instead blur the lines between community building, dating and networking for an interconnected experience. The design and functionality of the app was developed internally, but hours of interviews and feedback from the audience it intended to serve reinforced that we were solving many consumer needs that we initially defined.

Since day one, stories about the experiences of queer daters inspired our product team to prioritize user safety features that would enhance protection on the app, while creating a product that reflects the celebratory nature of our audience. Personally, dating apps were the only way for me to connect with other gay men when I graduated college and was still in the closet; the only gay dating apps available to me reinforced the idea that queer love and connection should be secretive and hidden, as I was flooded with blank profiles or people hiding behind headless profile pictures. Marcus Lofthouse, chief product officer, recognized early on that requiring selfie verification at signup, making each user have a face photo as their main profile image, would encourage celebration over secrecy, while also creating an app designed to mitigate abuse and fraud.

Continuing to build out the app and merge the best of social and dating, we implemented features such as a group chat and new means of discovery that would welcome connections of all kinds. We stayed focused on connecting with community members to ensure what we were building resonated with those who would actually be using our app. Surveying over 1,200 queer men, and recruiting over 200 queer men who participated in the app’s beta program this spring, captured more qualitative data. Further, it informed us on how queer men date—fluidly. Many shared they use dating and social apps for a range of things, including hookups, dates and finding friends. Rather than a segmented experience, we learned that our audience uses various platforms in unique ways depending on their needs and moods.

Additionally, the health and wellness of gay, bisexual and queer men became a recurring conversation among our employees and the group of community advocates, which led us to create an in-app health hub designed as a digital center for access to medical and mental resources. It will also provide advice on mental, physical and sexual health with tips from experts, including author and influencer Zachary Zane, with additional and diverse dating coaches, health activists, relationship and sex experts on the way.

Reaching users on- and offline

At the beginning of 2023, we began thinking through our communication and marketing strategy. For Archer, a brand new app in an extremely competitive space, our tactics had to drive awareness, conversion and retention. We had to make sure we were engaging with Archer’s targets on- and offline.

Other Match Group brands, including OkCupid, have a long-standing relationship with Braze for our CRM efforts spanning in-app notifications to emails. Their system helps us create engaging and impactful campaigns that allow us to customize messaging for Archer users and connect with them based on their activity, age, location and more.

Tapping into creators on Instagram and TikTok was core to our go-to-market strategy, helping encourage app pre-registrations in June, and downloads during July. Though the app would not be fully available until mid-July, we knew we had to capitalize on Pride Month. We recruited brand ambassadors to promote Archer at gay bars across Brooklyn and Manhattan, with on-the-ground marketing in key locations throughout the rest of the year. These brand ambassadors will also be showing up to parades, including the NYC Pride March and Harlem Pride at the end of June. All these in-person interactions and our custom mailers include branded favors from LGBTQ+ vendors, which allowed us to be creative and dive into the mind of what was useful and sustainable to our audience.

Understanding the needs of your audience is crucial, and allowing them a seat at your table can be a rewarding experience during the development process. Challenge yourself to audit internally and with other collaborations that align with the values and makeup of who you want to market to. Don’t discount the importance of niche cultures and how far simple human interaction can support the development of your next launch or campaign.