By Saman Rizwan
While nearly every company has a social media initiative, some consumer-facing brands have figured out how to use social media to recruit an army of supporters to drive sales and build brand recognition.
One such company is Tieks, the Los Angeles-based shoe company that has created an online fandom of its ballet flats.
The firm earned $4 million in annual revenue in 2021 by selling ballet flats in almost every color imaginable. The website boasts more than 60 prints and color styles of the same basic shoe.
Tieks, co-founded in 2008 by Kfir Gavrieli, is the product at the center of a major Facebook community known as Tieks Anonymous. More than 40,000 members strong, the tight-knit, grassroots community includes posts about the shoes, limited edition releases exclusive to the group, giveaways, and upcoming product releases.
For many Tieks Anonymous followers, the group offers more than exclusive content – it also provides a genuine source of community and moral support, particularly at a time when loneliness is skyrocketing across the country.
The sense of community found within the Tieks Anonymous group is emblematic of the brand’s larger commitment to social impact and community support, said Gavrieli. Tieks has long incorporated social impact campaigns into its brand and as a complement to its marketing efforts, he continued. He characterized the company’s philanthropic campaigns as a critical part of the Tieks ethos that simultaneously help communities in need while engaging dedicated customers.
“Tieks has always sought to engage its community, and we have seen this community come together over the last several years to support important causes – both personal to individuals in the group as well as the broader community and society,” said Gavrieli.
The company uses social media not only for brand recognition, but to accomplish non-profit goals that don’t boost company revenues.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Tieks again channeled its network to make a difference. The company auctioned off limited edition pairs of ballet flats—with individual pairs selling for upwards of $6500—and donated all proceeds from the event to a nonprofit organization that provided meals to Ukrainian refugees. In total, the company was able to deliver nearly $90,000 in contributions.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results,” said Gavrieli. “I am proud of the Tieks community for its dedication to supporting and protecting populations in need, whether frontline healthcare workers, educators, Ukrainian refugees, or individual members of the group.”
Tieks is committed to the empowerment of women around the globe and through Kiva – the micro-loan platform – has contributed more than $10,000,000 to over 55,000 women entrepreneurs, making Tieks the largest individual lender on the platform.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tieks leveraged its dedicated network to create personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers. Hearing of the challenges many hospitals and providers were facing in procuring the equipment, Tieks mobilized its community to help produce masks from scratch. It provided instructions and materials to customers interested in helping and offered gift cards for every 50 masks that they sewed. The initiative, dubbed “Operation #SewTogether,” produced in total, more than one million masks for essential workers.
In 2020, in recognition of individuals working on the front line, fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, Tieks offered a $100 discount to all healthcare workers.
“These campaigns show our appreciation and dedication to our fans while allowing every person to get engaged in whatever capacity possible,” said Samantha Hinton, head of design at Tieks.
The company uses its social platforms to reveal limiting-edition products that create an atmosphere of exclusivity for its customers.
Every year, Tieks releases a limited-edition shoe on Black Friday, a tradition that has been met with much fanfare and endless speculation by Tieks fans including members of Tieks Anonymous.
This year, Tieks released a black leopard flat, a leather shoe that mimicked the appearance of the rare animal’s coat. While the flat quickly sold out on Tieks’ website, a thriving resale market has emerged on eBay and other e-commerce platforms, where the $250 shoe fetches prices as high as $1000. Gavrieli called the enduring interest in the Black Friday flat, as well as the shoe’s prolific resale value, a testament to the goodwill achieved among the Tieks community.
Tieks prides itself on not only using its social media platforms to drive sales, but to create a real online community where women can communicate with their peers on a variety of real-life topics.
Many women join the group in search of not just shoes, but compassion, friendship, conversation, and the celebration of milestones. To scroll through the Tieks Anonymous group is to peer into an intimate portrait of many of these members’ lives. Chronicled within the group are stories of members battling cancer or navigating contentious divorces, moving to new cities or starting new jobs, laying a family member to rest or struggling with finances. And on many of these posts—no matter how difficult the challenge at hand—one can find comments offering support, encouragement, and virtual friendship.
The Tieks Anonymous group recently rallied around a 35-year-old Tieks fan who chronicled her battle with ovarian cancer. She has been receiving an outpouring of love and support while raising awareness about the disease.
After another member’s husband passed away suddenly, the group sent hundreds of encouraging messages and raised thousands of dollars to support her during the difficult time.
“It’s a reflection of our community’s interest in Tieks and the commitment to doing good that our brand embodies,” said Gavrieli. “We created Tieks more than 14 years ago to build a high-quality shoe to support women and their communities. It has since grown into so much more – an opportunity to give back and for women to support each other and their communities.”
“I cannot express how proud I am of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past several years.”