The pet industry has an incredibly powerful force holding it together: a true love of animals. We're all connected through our commitment to pets, and we enjoy learning about them, helping them, celebrating them and sharing their stories.

This connection translates naturally to social media, which makes social media platforms strong marketing tools for small pet businesses.

It's free to open an account on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and easy to post information about products and your events. Although signing up is easy, it can be daunting to constantly generate new and interesting content to keep your customers interested.

Below are some simple ideas to make daily posting seem natural while getting your customers involved to help generate quality content and at the same time create brand loyalty.

To get started, if you aren't in a position to dedicate time to this, seek out a tech-savvy employee to be the social media manager. This person will oversee the content of your social media accounts. Share access information with them and decide which of the platforms to focus on.

Luckily, everything can be connected to Facebook, so the content all finds its way to one place but can be seen on all channels. Quarterly, record the amount of followers or fans you have in each outlet so you can accurately measure the growth of your fan base.

Start generating content from your customers. Here are some ideas:

Make a small sign to display in your store that shares all your contact information:

  • Twitter: #yourstorename
  • Instagram: @yourstorename
  • Facebook: Your store page name on Facebook
  • Pinterest: www.pinterest/yourstorename
  • Website:

Get business cards printed with all the above information to include in bags at checkout or hand out at events. On the card, let the customers know to tag your business if they're happy with the product they purchased or the service they received. Inviting the customer to become part of your network makes them feel comfortable to share their personal feedback on your page.

Encourage employees to take pictures and post them on your social media pages. Make sure there are guidelines about what is appropriate and have your social media manager go over the frequency and content you're looking for.

By offering specialized services like grooming, daycare, vaccination clinics or adoption events, you create content in real time. Take pictures of your customers and their dogs to prepare for future posts.

If you know you're going to have a line of customers outside your store waiting for vaccinations, make a small "getting to know you" questionnaire about the dogs you see in line and ask their owners to fill them out. You can then take a picture of the dog and post with the answers the owner provided.

Include questions about their breed, age, habits, favorite toys, snacks, bed, etc. Also throw in something funny for the owner to answer from the dog's perspective like their favorite TV show, most cherished memory or the best day of their life. Let the customers know that you will share their pet on social media and give them a business card with all your contact information on it.

This "getting to know you" feature can be a weekly feature on your page, and one event can generate months of saved content. Make sure to record all the information about the customers so you can call on them again for clarification if need be.

Grooming and adoption events give you an opportunity to cultivate loyal regular customers who regularly frequent the store. Make them feel valued by engaging them in your posts.

  • Keep a chalkboard in the grooming area and take "before" and "after" pictures of their dogs to post on social media.
  • If the animal is rewarded with a product or treat after the grooming, share that picture, too. Hashtag or tag the brand of treat or toy to further your social network.
  • If animals are adopted during an event, take pictures of them with their new owner. #Adoptnshop does this successfully, and their pictures are often shared across various platforms.

Here are some additional quick ideas:

  • Keep seasonal costumes or props at the register and encourage customers to take pictures of their pet during check out and share on your page.
  • Follow and "like" the pages of local businesses and brands you stock. Share community and online events that are pet-friendly or support-worthy causes.
  • Connect with your local rescue organizations and share posts of animals that need homes. Encourage your customers to like those pages, too, so they can lend a hand to help homeless pets. Share events happening at local rescues and partner with them for adoption events.
  • Trivia posts and contests are a great way to add followers.
  • Post a picture and ask for followers to caption it. Caption with most likes gets 10 percent off or a free bag of treats.
  • Post a "secret word" on Facebook and if the customers say it in store, they get a discount.
  • Do a call for entry on a theme: laziest dog, bravest cat, animal best friends, etc., Those with the most "likes" get an in-store gift certificate.
  • Take pictures of items you just received or new in-store displays. Showcase new arrivals weekly, it drives people to visit more frequently.
  • Get personal with your followers. Share the story of your shop, your passion for your business, an employee of the month, or a funny thing that happened on the way to work. Not all posts have to be about business.

The most successful social media posts capture special "everyday" moments where we connect with one another. By giving your customers a glimpse into your daily happenings, they will be more likely to open up and share how you fit into their work and home lives.

Be creative in how you engage with your customers and the way you present your business on social media, and your fan base will naturally increase because everyone will want to share your content.