Customers want to engage with brands on Twitter and marketers can take a page out of top performers' books to be more successful on social.

Consumers have embraced the idea of engaging with brands directly through social networks, according to a report from Simply Measured. Leading companies were there to answer that demand with engaging social content. While data showed 92 percent of businesses on The Interbrand 2013 Top 100 Brands and The Forbes 100 Best Small Companies in America lists use social marketing, there is a short list of brands that are clear leaders in engagement. Here are some tactics to borrow from the 10 most-engaging companies’ social marketing campaigns:

1. Engage like eBay

During Q4 2013, the number of Twitter users who follow brands increased 20 percent. 

As the company with the highest engagement score, eBay’s Twitter feed should be the glowing example for social strategies. And a first glance at the brand’s content reveals the key to eBay’s success is giving followers what they’d expect: Suggestions about purchases in real-time. This reminds marketers not to overthink their brands’ feeds, but to consider what target audiences are looking for when they hit the “Follow” button.

2. Entertain like McDonalds

The McDonalds’ Newsfeed doesn’t set out to convince followers the McDouble is delicious or use posts to promote the latest menu offerings. Taking a completely different approach than eBay, McDonalds keeps its target audience tuned in by talking about subjects outside of its core offerings. The brand is actively promoting the upcoming Olympics and spotlights pop culture icons.

The social content McDonalds shares on Twitter is effectively engaging customers online.

3. Catch eyes with visuals like Nokia

Nokia has recognized consumers’ obsession with visual content and provides them with the eye candy they crave on Twitter, which is why the brand makes the top 10 for engagement. Evidence is mounting for the power of digital images, and marketers must be agile in their response. In fact, posts containing pictures and links receive 150 percent more engagement than average posts.

4. Spark nostalgia like Disney

Disney is one of the most iconic brands, and it manages to dominate Twitter by sparking nostalgia in the hearts of its followers. Fans who follow the company are rewarded with movie lines and trivia questions that keep the beloved stories alive, while inviting individual participation to keep experiences fresh.

5. Relate with customers like Starbucks

Starbucks Twitter content keeps followers engaged.

Starbucks understands that many of its customers are extremely loyal, and it uses its Twitter feed to create a community that fosters brand advocacy. People who follow Starbucks on Twitter check their feeds to see a mix of coffee porn-esque pictures of latte art and hashtagged catch phrases that strike a ‘now’ nerve.

Each company has a unique approach to its social strategy, but there is a common thread: An audience-first philosophy. The companies generating the most engagement figure out what customers want more and deliver it through smart social content.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.