Izzy’s Ice Cream Shop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, enjoys a greater social media audience than many of its peers. On Facebook, over 7,500 people have chosen to follow the brand, while another 4,200 have physically been to their location and taken the time to check in on their smartphone.

In addition, close to 3,000 people have connected with the small business on Twitter. Izzy’s Ice Cream is a social success story and one from which all local marketers can take a few tips.

How do you take a small local business and make a big splash online, with engaged fans sharing your content and raving about your brand?

Celebrate Your Customers

Too often, we talk to our fans and not with them. Izzy's celebrates their fans in comments, status updates and even photo albums, like this one:

Izzy's Ice Cream local Facebook success

Fans - such as the parents of the children in these pictures - have a vested interest in sharing content they have taken part in creating. Customers who are willing to allow their comments or pictures to be published are a huge asset for local companies. Each is an endorsement of the brand and its products or services; money simply can't buy this type of advertising.

Meet Every Opportunity to Engage

Social listening is an absolute must for brands, especially on Twitter. Customers have come to expect responses almost in real-time and missing a question about operating hours, sales or other timely topics could mean a missed sale or broken relationship.

Izzy's Ice Cream on Twitter

Small businesses may not have a dedicated social media manager in-house. Still, you can set up your Twitter and Facebook accounts to send alerts to a mobile device, ensuring you don't miss any timely questions or comments. Set aside 10 minutes at the end of each day to respond to all other social comments and mentions.

Digital word of mouth marketing is so powerful due to the nature of social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Fans who speak about your company are sharing their thoughts with everyone in their network. Do them the courtesy of responding!

Give Social Fans Something Extra

How do you reward your loyal social fans for showing their devotion to your brand? Some companies use special offers, coupons, contests or other rewards. Rewards can be less tangible and still meaningful, though. Izzy's Ice Cream often offers fans behind the scenes access to their food service operation.

Izzy's Ice Cream brings social fans into the kitchen with staff images.

This picture is just one example of this; they're humanizing their brand by sharing images of staff at work. In this example, Izzy's is also showing off their clean food prep area, which is a great endorsement for a food service business. Fans are treated to something they wouldn't have seen otherwise, helping to build that ever-important social relationship with the company.

How does your local business connect with people in your area through social media? Share your tips in the comments!