Despite claims that it’s only for “olds” anymore, with nearly 2.4 billion (yes, BILLION) active monthly users worldwide, there’s no denying Facebook is still very much a thing. And although it has been the subject of scrutiny in the past two years for everything from data privacy, to news reporting, to its role in cyberbullying, it is, at its core, a tool. And just like any tool, it can be used for good, or it can be misused.
Yes, it goes without saying—though we’ll say it anyway, with emphasis—that we don’t endorse Facebook abuse, either by outside parties or by the organization itself. But what we do support is the notion that just because it has been used poorly, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit or possess any redeeming properties. In our experience, it has been an invaluable community platform, and one that’s adept at bringing people together and offering a much-needed sense of support.
For those of you who might be newer to discovering who we as a brand are, Two Blind Brothers is a luxury casual wear company that donates 100% of our profits to retinal research—and that’s because both my brother and I were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration, at age 7. For us, our brand’s experience has served as a counter-example of all of the negative Facebook rhetoric, and though we admit we’re in no way experts in building a global social platforms, we can speak to what we’ve found to be its 2-pronged unparalleled utility.
The first way Facebook has served us well is in community building, by tapping into a groundswell of people who care about the specific aspects of our brand: the soft shirts, the commitment to give 100% to research, and the fact that we’re two guys with an interesting story. The community that we found then lifted us up—and it’s entirely because of social media. Facebook, more than platforms like YouTube and Twitter, which tend to lean more on “anonymity,” is so powerful for niche or nuanced communities like ours because, before Facebook came along, there hadn’t been natural places for these folks to group together. Facebook is more about being who you really are, and gravitating towards others like you.
Here’s a perfect example of that: When we put out our first video, a man wrote in and said he lived 45 miles outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that he had a visual impairment his entire life, but he had never met anyone else who had one. He told us he felt incredibly lonely and isolated for a long time, but our video was served up to him on Facebook, he read through all of the comments and it gave him real hope to go forward. That’s the power of community. And that’s also how what had initially started for us as just a passion project tapped into that energy, and now has grown exponentially.
Which brings us to the second way that Facebook has been a game changer for us: scaling your passion. Ten years ago, if we wanted to start a charitable clothing brand, the smart people in the room would’ve told us we need to compete on price and quality because those are the values that scale the best. And because of that, you’re going to need a massive advertising budget and distribution, which means you’re going to need to do a giant inventory buy. Of course, there are always examples of some grassroots companies who were successful without it, but the smart person would say that you need to get into good retailers, be written about by big publishers, etc. because it really needs to hit scale. That’s not necessarily so anymore.
When Two Blind Brothers puts out an ad on Facebook, it’s more of a story telling than an ad about a shirt, and it gets in front of a user who relates. Then, not only can they become a customer who buys a shirt, which then finances the further distribution of that ad, but it also puts the story out into the community and is shared by the people with whom that story resonated. What’s worked so well for us is this symbiotic relationship on Facebook between the distribution of that ad, and the building of the community. And we know it’s working, because we can see in the comments that people say things like,”Oh my god, this is what my cousin/aunt/son/whomever has,” and it’s this great snowball effect.
Social media platforms, and specifically Facebook, mean brands can now speak to customers on a more relevant level. For anyone who has a passion, whether it be woodworking, travel, heck—teddy bears even—you now have the ability to scale your passion and find a group of people who care as much about that thing as you do, and to do it economically. Brands don’t need a million dollar budget for advertising, or to get a TV spot. You can grow using social media and the power of people resonating with your story pushing it out alongside of you. That’s one of the most powerful things Facebook allows us to do.
We find it incredible that our vulnerabilities, our passions, and the most nuanced parts of ourselves are now scalable, whether it’s a small business or an organization that wants to help people. Knowing that your experience is now relevant to somebody else in the world because now you can actually connect with him or her is a powerful thing, and in that way, we couldn’t have done it without Facebook.