Senior living communities could learn a thing or two from Darin Lancaster with Thin Optics!

By Susan Saldibar

At last year’s Boomer Ventura Summit in Santa Clara, Steve Moran sat down for his Conversations video chat series with some pretty amazing conference participants. One was Darin Lancaster, CEO and Founder of a company called Thin Optics, based in Sonoma, California.

First of all, what they do is pretty cool. They manufacture these super thin (about 2 credit cards thick), flexible reading glasses that you sort of tweak onto your nose for a few seconds and quickly pop off. They fit neatly and discretely on the back of your smartphone, iPad, and even on a keychain. I can think of several people who could (and should) use something like this. Useful, yet unobtrusive.

Steve spent some time talking with Darin about the product and the market but quickly got onto the other cool thing about Darin and his glasses: how he’s managed to use social media almost exclusively to successfully market Thin Optics. And, in the process, how he’s managed to develop a devoted base of users and engaged prospects. Oh and, by the way, he’s sold 2.2 million glasses (probably many more by the time of this article posting). 

Glasses? Why not put them on the shelves at WalMart?

This didn’t all happen overnight. Darin told Steve it took about a year to get the formula right, and it was a race not to run out of money in the process. “We were getting great product feedback, such as, ‘I can’t live without these.’ So we had to figure out how to market it fast enough,” he explains.

The answer turned out to be social media, more specifically, Facebook. “Most would say, ‘Reading glasses? Put them on the shelves at Walmart.’ But there is an emotional connection with Facebook,” he told Steve. And that’s not something you typically get at Walmart!

A lot of their success, however, has been in their approach. Darin points out that, if you go to the Thin Optics Facebook page and click into any organic post comments, no matter what they say — good bad or ugly — you’ll see that Thin Optics has responded. (I went and looked; he’s right!) “We engage and prove that we’re listening,” Darin told Steve. “We reinforce those who love us. And we do that across all channels,” he explains. So the result is the creation of a closed loop engagement that, by Darin’s account, keeps current orders coming in and future ones on tap. “Behind the Facebook ads, it’s about leveraging the audience you have and getting them engaged in your ads; liking, sharing, and commenting. That’s what drives awareness and results,” Darin says.

And as for the ROI? Pretty impressive. Darin reports a Facebook ad investment of roughly $3.4 million and a return of $6.8 million; just about double his expenditure. Wow. Who wouldn’t love a return like that?

If you can build this level of “community” around eyeglasses . . .

Given Darin’s success, Steve couldn’t help but note that senior living communities could learn a thing or two from Darin’s experience, and may have only scratched the surface of the potential of using channels like Facebook. “If you can build a community around glasses (not meant to insult!), think what you can do with something as deeply emotional as senior care,” he noted. Darin agreed. “We created a fun, engaging world of people passionate about a product. That should work for senior living as well,” he says.

You can enjoy more of Steve’s conversation with Darin in the video, which you can watch below: