Virtual dating is the only safe option for people looking to make romantic connections during the Covid-19 pandemic, and dating apps have adapted by releasing features that encourage users to date at home.
Bumble, in particular, continues to promote the in-app video chat and call tools it launched in 2019. In the last two weeks, the female-first dating and friend-finding app also introduced an expanded distance filter; profile badges that enable users to show they’re willing to go on a virtual date; audio notes for matches to send in their conversations; and Question Game, an opt-in feature that allows matches to answer humorous questions to get to know each other better.
The idea of a virtual date, however, might be daunting for people who are only used to face-to-face meetups. Should you dress up? What should be in the background while you’re on camera? Is life in quarantine the go-to topic of conversation? And how much awkwardness will there be, initially?
Bumble and BuzzFeed want to show what first-time virtual dates look like and encourage their audiences to try them out by using Bumble’s new features. The two brands have partnered to launch Virtual Connections, a 24-hour branded content takeover of the media company’s website today.
The event highlights how certain Bumble users have made connections online with a 90-minute video compiled with footage of 22 people in the U.S. participating in virtual dates for the first time. The video is playing on a loop on BuzzFeed’s homepage and YouTube channel.
The takeover, which also includes display ads and posts across BuzzFeed’s social channels, is part of an ongoing partnership between the two brands. Bumble’s marketing team worked with BuzzFeed’s partner innovation team to develop and execute the digital event after SXSW’s cancellation forced Bumble to scrap its in-person activation in Austin, Texas.
Chelsea Cain Maclin, vp of marketing at Bumble, said the brand worked with BuzzFeed on Virtual Connections to not only encourage audiences to give virtual dating a try, but to highlight how its new features might make conversations easier. She also said the event was inspired by new consumer insights: The brand saw a 56% increase globally in video calls during the week ending March 27 compared to the week ending March 13.
“We’ve seen our members using video chat and voice calls more frequently. Our partnership with BuzzFeed was meant to help them have virtual dates more easily and meaningfully,” Maclin said. “We want to help our users navigate this time in a way that still helps them stay socially connected.”
Jake Bronstein, head of partner innovation at BuzzFeed, added that the company worked with Bumble to figure out the best way to “show the joy of virtual dating in an authentic way.”
For the event, the two brands cast 11 matches, who Maclin said were already looking to participate in virtual dates on Bumble. The daters recorded themselves using their own devices, and BuzzFeed’s team edited and packaged the content.
Virtual Connections is also interspersed with commentary and dating advice from reality stars, YouTube personalities and influencers.
Commentators include Love Is Blind stars Lauren Speed-Hamilton and Cameron Hamilton, who famously got engaged before meeting in person; Jerry Harris, star of Netflix’s cheerleading docuseries Cheer and a Bumble brand ambassador; and influencer and BuzzFeed video producer Jazzmyne Robbins, who also hosts the event. Bronstein said his team created talking prompts for the talent about Bumble’s new features, but that their advice is otherwise unscripted.
“We received a fantastic mix of personal anecdotes and advice for our daters and audience, which was brought to life in a special and exciting way because of who those people are,” Bronstein said. “When you’re hearing from the Love Is Blind cast about why avoiding catfishing is important, it takes on an interesting lens. From end to end, authenticity was the goal.”
Bronstein noted that developing dating content for BuzzFeed was natural, since it resonates with the media platform’s audience. To produce the event with Bumble, the brand used insights from past dating content including its YouTube series Build a Boo.
Bronstein said Virtual Connections is one of BuzzFeed’s first digital Go Live events, noting that the brand will continue to work with its clients, including Bumble, to develop online alternatives to engage audiences while physical events aren’t an option. He said his team plans to use new tactics such as 24-hour social events on Instagram and Zoom town halls for future projects.