There’s a big difference between having a social media presence for your business, and using it effectively to engage and interact with your customers. So let’s start things off by giving you some inspiration for what to strive for when you post, tweet, share and more. Check out how these local businesses have mastered social media marketing with tactics that engage their customers and encourage participation.

1. Hound About Town

This pet supply shop based in Jersey City, NJ uses a combination of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to connect and converse with customers. By using their feeds as places to announce contests, promote events and post photos of local dogs enjoying Hound About Town’s wares, they foster goodwill and raise awareness for their business.

To celebrate “Adopt a Pet Month,” Hound About Town ran a contest where they encouraged owners of rescue dogs to submit a photo of their pooch with their story. Ten finalists were chosen, and the winner of a year’s worth of free dog food was determined by the number of “Likes” each photo received. This strategy fostered goodwill for their company, while also raising awareness. Because the winner was determined by the number of photo “Likes”, this encouraged people to share their image with family and friends, and in doing so, spread the word about Hound About Town.

Hound About Town Facebook Contest

The shop also uses social media to effectively engage customers by inviting them to attend free in-store events including dog walks, training sessions and more.

2. Kuma’s Corner

In the Chicago bar scene, Kuma’s is a real contender for best social media marketing. They use humor, giveaways and photos of delicious looking burger specials to connect with their large digital fanbase. And with over 60,000 Facebook fans, their approach seems to be working.

By posting photos of daily specials, Kuma’s puts itself in front of anyone who is online and hungry. Plus, Facebook’s algorithm ensures that statuses with images will be viewed by more of a business’s Fans, which leads to more Likes and Shares. This creates an urgency for the limited-time only food offerings at Kuma’s to get hungry customers in the door.

The use of humorous, fun imagery like the one above shared on Twitter, helps create a positive public image for the bar and encourages customers to share Kuma’s content with their friends.

3. Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop

When you’re posting for a small business, it’s important that you post often and make the content relevant to your customer base. This cycling oasis in Austin, TX does both of these things well, using Facebook and Twitter to start conversations with customers, provide tips on cycling, and showcase happy customers.

Posting information that’s useful to your target will grab their attention and encourage them to share with friends.

Social media offers small businesses the chance to engage with individual customers for a personal touch. It’s important to respond to questions and comments from fans in a timely fashion. The above tweet from Mellow Johnny’s shows they are listening to their customer base, and gives their fan relevant information to grow their relationship. 

4. Element Wellness  

Don’t only use social media marketing to advertise your product or service – a good rule of thumb is to make 80% of content a value add-on and 20% promotional. By sharing behind-the-scenes looks at what’s happening at your business, you’ll make people feel more connected to your business and your staff, increasing their affinity for your brand.

Element does a great job of sharing content that helps their clients live a healthier lifestyle. The information they post is relevant to their customer base, helpful and easy to share.

Share photos and videos of your employees or folks in the neighborhood who have stopped by. Potential customers can relate more to your small business when they can see the real people behind it. 

5. Lloyd Taco Trucks

Lloyd’s in Buffalo, NY uses Facebook and Twitter to let their fans know where they’ll be serving up delicious tacos on a daily basis. Their no frills approach gives customers the important information they need to find the truck – and not much else. Occasionally they’ll post photos of their staff to give customers an insider’s perspective into the business, but otherwise they use social media to drive customers to the truck. And with over 16,000 Twitter followers and 21,000 Facebook fans, their strategy seems to be working.

Lloyd’s overwhelming success (they recently won Restaurant Startup) goes to show that there’s no “right way” to do social media marketing for your business. That’s why it’s important to know who your customers are, and what they are looking for online.

While 81% of small to medium-sized businesses use social media to establish loyal fans, most struggle to dedicate the time needed to make it seamless and successful. Having an online presence is just as important as having a telephone number; it’s just something your business needs. But with this presence, your “popularity” is available for everyone to see – how many “Likes” your photo gets on Facebook, how many RTs your witty tweet receives, etc. It’s a full-time job to keep these channels active and overflowing with customer activity, and as a business owner, you’ve got enough on your plate already. Download “The Local Business Blueprint To Social Media Marketing” here!

This article was originally published on the Belly Merchant Resource Center.