Making A Business Pop: How One Small Popcorn Shop Is Doing Social Media Differently

When Chad Jordan first launched his Lansing, Mich.,
gourmet popcorn shop, his marketing budget was,
to put it mildly, minimal.
“I started Cravings Popcorn with $5,000 and a credit
card,” says Jordan. “There wasn’t money to do a
huge, traditional media campaign. Although social
media isn’t free, it doesn’t cost you money out of
your pocket to start.”
Jordan’s decision to focus on social media to
promote his startup might not have been a unique
one, but the way he utilized the tools quickly set
him apart. While most small businesses doggedly
rotate through the expected pattern of product
photos, sales announcements and engagement
questions, Jordan experimented with new
techniques on each network.
Five years after opening and now a well-
established part of the Lansing foodie scene,
Cravings Popcorn may have the budget for
traditional media, but Jordan is sticking primarily
with his original plan.
“Now we have community,” he says. “You can’t
ignore the community, or it will go away. Even
though we have dabbled with traditional media, the
focus is growing that community.”
Getting into emerging networks is certainly one
way to keep current in social media, but
Cravings has found a way to stay fresh by
innovating within the standard social media
options. Here are three ways the creative popcorn
shop is keeping things popping:
1. Crowdsourcing
Asking engaging questions on Facebook is standard
practice for brands, but Cravings has taken
customer feedback further. Constantly developing
new flavors — such as spicy curry and dark
molasses caramel with sea salt — is a key part of
the shop’s business model. To keep the idea
machine churning, Jordan began turning to
Facebook for flavor suggestions.
“Some of our most innovative flavors have come
from our fans,” he says, citing such crowdsourced
successes as Sriracha and dill pickle. The biggest
win to come from Facebook feedback, he says, was
one that started as an in-store experiment.
“Bacon cheddar was a flavor that I created but kept
under wraps,” Jordan says. Somehow, the secret
got out — and onto Facebook. “Folks spread the
word, and people were coming to the store wanting
cheddar bacon before it was even sold, just
because people talked about it all over Facebook. It
can really drive product development.”
2. Catering to Audiences within the Audience
Though the Cravings Popcorn online community is
spread across a variety of networks, Jordan says
the key to growing them all is recognizing the
differences among the audiences in each and
altering the messaging from network to network.
“The Lansing area in particular has a different
community on Twitter than we have on Facebook,”
Jordan says. “The people on Twitter are more
sophisticated social media users. To just do straight
advertising isn’t as effective.”
Instead, Jordan has found success on Twitter acting
as a community news source, particularly within his
neighborhood of Lansing’s Old Town.
Sometimes audiences can vary even within the
same network. Jordan started having fun with
some goofy YouTube videos, but when reaching out
into the business-to-business market, he retargeted
his tone.
“Whenever you’re trying to attract other businesses
to buy your product, you have to fulfill a need,” he
says. “It’s not an impulse buy from the other
business.”
In order to sell his new popcorn and soda meeting-
packs to businesses, Jordan opted for more serious,
scripted YouTube videos that clearly articulated the
issues his product could solve.
“What I was saying in the video,” says Jordan, “is,
‘here’s a problem you didn’t know that you had, and
here’s a solution to that problem. A group of
professionals want to be able to trust that the
solution is quality and something they’re looking
for.”
3. Direct Sales
Who says you can’t make money on Facebook? By
keeping an eye on tech developments, Cravings
recently began using Soldsie, a platform that allows
the popcorn shop to sell products directly from
Facebook.
“You create something like a shopping cart, and
once you create your item, you post it on your
Facebook page,” Jordan says. “All they have to do
is type ‘sold’ [in a comment], and then the popup
comes up and you pay for it, right there.”
Brands are often tripping over themselves to keep
up with the next wave of social media, but Cravings
Popcorn proves there’s value to growing a social
media presence in another way. Continually
innovating on the standard networks can keep a
small business growing, evolving and popping
toward success.

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