“The Hip” Way Social Media Can Influence Small Biz Product Development

TammySabourin    October 17, 2016

If you were using social media for personal or business use in Canada during the summer of 2016, you will have no doubt heard at least something about The Tragically Hip.  The favoured Canadian band was touring in what likely would be their last, due to frontman Gord Downie’s onset of brain cancer.  Concerts sold out and media of all sorts took note of what was developing into a notable time in our country’s music and lifestyle history.  As the final concert came to pass in August – complete with the attendance and interaction of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – an influential social media phenomenon was occurring.

Ensight Canada reported, “In addition to multiple trending topics throughout the weekend of the concert, social media posts about The Hip and (Gord) Downie’s First Nations comments generated roughly 20 million potential impressions across Canada over the past week. What’s really telling is that Canada has about 14 million daily Facebook users, so when we look at the impressions generated, we can conclude almost everyone in the country who used the internet or social media came in contact with the story in some way.”

One small business was clearly paying attention because on the heels of The Hip’s social media wave, they incorporated Canada’s love of Gord Downie and his crew into a new and focused product to sell.

On Aug 21st, Whitby-based small business retailer Words on Wood – creator and retailer of custom painted signs and other rustic home décor – posted the following message on its popular Facebook Page:

Will do your favourite Hip lyric for $40 with $5 of each sale being donated to Sunnybrook Hospital. Send a PM to order.”

This Facebook Page post alone received close to 900 likes and 343 post shares, resulting in over 200 confirmed orders placed within a couple of days of its message.

“Your support on these signs has been overwhelming!” owner Angela Evelyn posted on September 26th.

With the often-expensive top needs of all businesses being fundraising, labour, customer service and design, social media is a frugal option for small businesses and new start-ups.

According to Miranda Marquit from Huffington Post,

“Social media is fast becoming a clever resource for developing ideas and creating new product.”


The example of Words on Woods’ use of social media for product development is one to take note of, as they regularly engage their 6,793 Facebook Page followers in offering feedback via direct message or by simply posting on their Page wall.  Post ‘likes’ and comments can be effective market research tools in determining which products to pursue as well as the identification of potential customers.  So is true of how quickly one of their workshop sells out online, often indicating specific consumer interests which aids in narrowing down their supply in relation to demand.  They are also utilizing Facebook to build hype and awareness of their product and services by offering contests for a free sign or spot in an upcoming workshop.  In Fall of 2016 they posted,

“Free workshop!!! SHARE this post and comment “Christmas crafts” below for your chance to win free attendance at one of our workshops!”

Their business objectives are not solely garnered through their use of Facebook, however.  They have also proclaimed themselves “pinspired” in their product design by what’s popular in décor on Pinterest including customers who make requests for an idea or concept they’ve seen or pinned on the Pinterest site.  Pinterest has become a useful social media tool for all types and sizes of businesses – especially in retail, including home décor – to help identify popular trends in products and services within a specific field or market audience.

According to Go Digital Marketing, Pinterest can help small businesses “learn what your typical customer is interested in, help you identify the latest trends, and can spark your imagination when it comes to creating new ideas for a marketing campaign.”  Pinterest also offers free Pinterest analytics once you’ve verified your business’ website.

Lessons for Others

If you are a small business owner, here are 3 tips to glean from Words on Woods’ use of social media for product development and enhancing business performance:

  1. Encourage customer feedback by allowing space for it, whether privately or out in the open for others to comment on. Facebook Pages enable both to occur.  Hosting contests is another way to gather and leverage customer interest; a win-win initiative.
  2. Peruse Pinterest for the latest trends in your business field. While you’re there, verify your website so that you can take advantage of their free analytics for your own business’ account.
  3. Finally, be “hip” to what your local community’s interests are. Engage regularly as a business online (i.e.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to learn about local hot topics and what is grabbing people’s attention, in real time.  Apply this knowledge to determine which one of your business ideas would be best to pursue in the future.

Organization: Words on Wood
Industry: Retail
Name of Organization Contact: Angela Evelyn

Authored by: Tammy Sabourin, student of University of Waterloo Social Media for Business Performance

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Blay, Jeff and Adam Schwartz. (August 26, 2016) Social Media Watch – The Tragically Hip Edition. Retrieved from http://ensightcanada.com/social-media-watch-the-tragically-hip-edition/.

Brauer, Yael. (2016) How to Use Pinterest to Effectively Market Your Small Business. Retrieved from http://www.godigitalmarketing.com/learn/blog/how-to-use-pinterest-to-effectively-market-your-small-business.

Evelyn, Angela. (2016). Words on Wood. Retrieved from http://www.wordsonwood.net/.

Evelyn, Angela. (2016) Facebook Page – Words on Wood. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/wordsonwood1.

Marquit, Miranda. (July, 30, 2015) How to Crowdsource the Top 5 Needs of Your Business. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miranda-marquit/how-to-crowdsource-the-to_b_7050076.html.

Patel, Sujan. (Setpember 8, 2014). 25 Actionable Tips On How to Start Using Pinterest For Business. Retrieved from https://smallbiztrends.com/2014/09/tips-on-using-pinterest-for-business.html.