Social Trends Surfing

Cash in on social trends to find new customers for your small business

6 min read
Isaac Irvine

Current events and pop culture are parts of our daily lives. We’ve all debated on the color of a dress. We’ve had funny debates over Yanny or Laurel. We’ve gathered for opening day at the ballpark — and we’ve met with friends and family to watch a Royal Wedding or two. As a society, we love social trends like these.

If something is trendy and everyone is talking about it, we want to be a part of it.

Pop culture brings us together as a culture and gives us all something to talk about. But if you’re a business owner, social trends also offer an opportunity to find new customers.

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and was delighted to see so many small businesses and designers cashing in on the Royal Wedding. I saw some brilliant tie-ins that people were selling and I had to know more.

First, I came across my friend Allison Murray’s Instagram feed:

She was selling custom-designed party invitations for the Royal Wedding viewing parties that were all the rage. I asked Allison about what sparked the idea to cash in on the Royal Wedding hype. She remembered how excited people were for the previous Royal Wedding. When the date was set for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day, she was ready to give it a shot. She’s made a name for herself by designing faceless characters from TV, films and music that people absolutely love. She followed her formula with the Royal Wedding viewing party invitations and gave them away for free to anyone who signed up for her mailing list.

The response to her invitations was overwhelming, so Allison added them to her online store just to see what social trends could do for her sales.

A few days later, she found her invitation design featured on People magazine’s website. They were a hit. She even had a producer from The Today Show ask if they could feature her invitations on their show. Allison hit a grand slam with an idea she had no idea would be so popular.

I asked Allison how she comes up with her ideas. Her secret is simple and brilliant. She searches Netflix for summer blockbuster movies or returning shows.

She looks for events that bring people together, and trusts her design and marketing instincts.

Based on her eye for spotting trends and her beautiful designs, I’d say she’s got a bright future ahead.

I kept scrolling down my Instagram feed and found another business taking advantage of opening day for a huge event here in the U.S. — opening game day for baseball. We flock to stadiums and living rooms to cheer on our team in hopes that our good vibes will start the season off on the right path. (It’s one of America’s favorite social trends.)

Mel Gomez owns and operates Zomie Cakery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She had the most amazing cookies with the Chicago Cubs logo painstakingly hand-painted on each and every cookie. The Cubs cookies got a lot of attention on social media. Fans loved the idea and her orders took off from there.

The success from the baseball team-themed cookies sparked an idea, and Mel started doing pop-up shops where she sells bundles of themed cookies for various events. This year she took her Easter cookies, set up a pop-up shop, and sold them out in a few hours.

Mel doesn’t just make cookies for sporting events, though. She told me she loves capitalizing on new movies that are really marketed well, and then tying them into what she's doing and what's going on in the world.

She’s even thought about making cookies in the shape of dresses and doing them blue and gold — just to get people talking. (Being clever is a huge part of what she does, and her customers love it.)

Both of these business owners had some great tips on how you can make current events work for you:

Search national holiday calendars

Mel told me she loves finding obscure, fun holidays that people might not know are a thing. “I’ve made cute little pizza-shaped cookies for National Pizza Day. My customers loved them and even posted them on their social media so they could say they participated in the holiday,” Mel said.

You can easily search for national holidays to get a jumpstart on what’s coming up.

People hear about these fun holidays that they didn’t already know about and want to be a part of the social trends often attached to them. They’ll post how they are celebrating — and where — on social media. If you can spot social trends and react quickly, you, too, can ride the wave all the way to the bank.

Use Google Trends

Another great resource is Google Trends. You can see the most popular topics people are searching for and find trends that could tie into your business. To learn more about using Google Trends to find customers, read this post.

Help customers get excited about a current event

There was a local sports bar that hosted a Royal Wedding prep party. They invited customers in and hosted an evening of imported beer while educating attendees on the history of the Royal Family and who they would see in the ceremony.

Brilliant idea!

So, regardless of what you do for your business, think creatively about how you can take advantage of what people are talking about on social media and in pop culture to find a unique way to be a part of it. You’ll meet new customers, get lots of exposure — and you’ll have a great time doing it.