After George Floyd was murdered, the outrage brought about calls for change internationally. Many companies are trying to be on the right side of racial justice when it comes to business. With entities like Target identifying Black-owned businesses on its site, Verify Black would be the catalyst to make this widespread across the spectrum, specifically through social media platforms.
The goal is to obtain 50,000 signatures of support to take to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to make it a reality. Black Enterprise spoke to one half of the team trying to make this happen, Vivian Duker. She speaks about why this needs to be done and what they are trying to do to make it a reality.
How did you develop the concept behind “Verify Black?”
My partner and I, Fred Foster, both have an appreciation for the unique challenges faced by Black-owned businesses—from the lack of equal access to funding, inability to jump-start because of a lower likelihood of friends and family in a financial position to invest, not to mention the fact that general racism and discrimination seeps into every aspect of Black life, and from which the day-to-day of Black business ownership is no exception. Black business owners have an exceptionally difficult time getting businesses off the ground. The statistics show that most Black-owned businesses don’t even have the opportunity to engage in meaningful growth. This has a direct impact on the dollars that flow into and are circulated within the Black community.
When the murder of George Floyd happened, like most people, we both really wanted to do something. We zoomed in on economic justice because we both believe strongly that it is one viable, sustainable way that Black people can come much closer to true equality. Even from the silence in the face of murder that suddenly turned into outrage in the face of property destruction, we see the unfortunate truth that money is one of the only languages American society understands.
Companies are beginning to launch services that identify Black businesses. Why do you feel it’s important to have this on social media platforms like Instagram?
There are quite a number of existing directories dedicated toward making it easier to find Black-owned businesses. Companies like EatOkra have been doing this important work for years, and it remains extremely valuable.
For us, it is really about leveraging an existing platform for our benefit. A lot of Black-owned businesses are already using social media to market their products and services. Between Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, you are looking at traffic of about 4 billion active users every month—within that is a substantial pool of potential customers just waiting to be found. Our goal is to create a mechanism to connect these businesses with those potential customers. Exposure drives revenue.
As social media evolves and creates internal systems that compound benefits for people that already have the exposure, the little guy is really at risk of getting left behind. From our perspective, what seems to really work is meaningful and consistent engagement. Identifying your target audience with specificity and speaking directly to them with content that they care about. Chances are a business owner would already have done this identification work in even developing the concept of their service and/or product, so it really just comes down to being consistent.
Many online businesses have maintained success during this pandemic. For traditional offline businesses, describe some benefits for being a part of “Verify Black.”
We are seriously exploring ways in which we can expand Verify Black to benefit businesses that don’t utilize online marketing and are looking to partner with existing directories to accomplish that. Ultimately, our goal is to create value for all Black-owned businesses seeking more exposure and growth.
Do you feel movements like Black Lives Matter have influenced members of the Black community to support Black businesses more?
Absolutely. It’s sort of a revolution. It almost feels like so many more people than ever are “rooting for everybody Black.” We also really love to see Black-owned businesses taking maximum advantage of this moment to capture and maintain a higher stream of engagement.
How many signatures have been obtained so far and where can readers go to sign the petition?
So far, we have 7,500 signatures. We set the target at 50,000 for two reasons: first, we wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to engage meaningfully with Black business owners and the community as a whole to make sure that we are able to consider and account for a variety of thoughts and ideas; we also wanted to make it clear if and when we are able to engage directly with these social media platforms, that this is something that a critical mass of people would like to see happen. Platforms like Google, Target Online, and Etsy have already built systems to accomplish this very thing. Yelp now lets you know when you’re engaging with a Black-owned business. So we know that it is a feasible model, and we believe that it is transferable to social media platforms.
The petition and additional information about Verify Black are available on our website, verifyblack.org.
Are there any other ways readers can get involved?
Spread the word! Every single time our content is shared, we get an influx of signatures and, more importantly, really thoughtful questions that help us think through the best way to be of service in this space. Our Instagram is @verifyblck.