Let's get one thing straight: there's no one way to use Twitter for business: Twitter is the Swiss Army knife of communications. Sometimes you need a straight edge, sometimes you need a corkscrew, and sometimes you need a reamer with sewing eye.
Here are some ways you might really use Twitter for business:
- Establish yourself as an expert. Just go to http://search.twitter.com, which unfortunately has no other name now that people don't remember Summize. If you repair BlackBerrys (BlackBerries?) you can just search Twitter for people talking about their BlackBerry and answer any question they may have about a frozen BlackBerry. Repair jobs to follow.
- Listen to your customers. Conversations are going on about all companies, no matter the size. Imagine a hotel that searches for it's name at Twitter: you could find out what guests might be saying without necessarliy having them fill out a comment card. Someone complains about a scratchy towel on Twitter? Bring down some fresh towels and a bottle of champagne before they fire off their next tweet. Like that story's not going to be passed around.
- Give people a place to engage your brand on Twitter. I now get annoyed when I want to tweet about a company or a brand and they're not on Twitter. (OK, I may have issues, I'm aware of that.) Still, lately I've noticed that I first try and engage a company on Twitter before I even navigate their Web site for a contact form. As more people get on Twitter, there's sure to be more crazy people like me.
- Take surveys. There's a number of Twitter survey tools out there, and then there's just asking a question of your followers. The higher number of quality followers (not just followers) you have, the better feedback you'll get.
- Get your employees involved. Every business will have to set up their own guidelines on how much Twittering is too much, but if you have employees who are engaging, personable and passionate about what you do, you might want to give them a little leeway to engage your customers.
- Find the right person for the job. Twitter's a great place to find people to fill a job quickly. I've told the story before about how I used Twitter to find a cold fusion programmer who could work the weekend. Lots of freelancers are on Twitter, and these freelancers are part of a social web that makes it more difficult to disappear. Their reputation is on the line.
- Sell more. This isn't for every business, but Dell claims over $1M in sales through their "Twitter channel." YMMV, but even burritos can be sold (or at least given away) over Twitter.
- Drive qualified leads to your blog. Your Twitter feed should never be mistaken for a blog feed; if I wanted to read your blog I'd go there, or subscribe to the RSS feed. However, if you have an especially good post, and I'm following you because you tend to provide value, then yes, I'm interested in what you just blogged about.
- Engage your passionate audience with curiousity marketing. Targeting movie buffs? Then offer movie trivia in 140 characters or less. Sell to puzzle fans? Post clues through TwitPic that people will try and solve by @ you (responding to you in a public way, and creating a link to your Twitter account.)
I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface in the way your business might use Twitter. If you've found your own success through Twitter leave a comment.