No one needs persuading that social media is here to stay. In only a couple of years, Twitter went from what seemed like a mere gimmick to one of the fastest ways to spread the word about something. That makes it seem like an ideal medium for a business to raise notice about its products and services, and in fact that's what a great many companies do.
The problem is that the very audience you'll be seeking to engage with Twitter is also the same audience that has a built-in skepticism about social media. Twitter users by and large are entirely too conscious of how any segment of the Internet, or any communications medium at all, can be turned into a mere advertising vehicle -- and thus made that much easier to ignore. To that end, there are cases to be made both for and against Twitter when using it to spread information about what you do.
The Real Uses For An Official Twitter Stream
From the outside, Twitter may seem like a one-way medium -- a bullhorn from which you can broadcast things you want people to hear. That's the most common corporate use of Twitter so far, as a kind of news ticker or early-announcement system. There's no reason not to use Twitter for this, and if nothing else it provides a quick and easy way for people to syndicate announcements -- e.g., send them directly to followers' cell phones, etc.
But Twitter's two-way nature means eventually, people are going to want to talk back -- and they will expect at least some response. In the long run, Twitter works best as a conversational medium, not simply as a way to shout out.
Because this approach is still so new, it's often tough for a company to adopt it properly. Many companies dip their toe into Twitter's pool by creating an official Twitter account, or sometimes multiple accounts for different divisions. Sometimes they do this without a clear idea of what that opens themselves up to: they're prepared to broadcast, but not receive.
That doesn't make their Twitter feed useless, but it does make it that much less useful in the eyes of those who come to Twitter to use it to its full potential.
Six Cases For Twitter
The best corporate uses of Twitter have a few basic hallmarks. Each of these is an argument for how Twitter can be a major addition to a company's customer-facing strategy, even if they all come with caveats.