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How Twitter is Revolutionizing Business

The buzzed-about social media platform presents a direct channel to customers, a launching pad for new projects and a sounding board for innovation.

Laura Fitton was a self-described "homebound mom with two kids under 2" when she signed up for Twitter in 2007. Two years later, she's at the vanguard of a new wave of Twitter-inspired entrepreneurs.

"There was no decision to make Twitter the focus of my career," Fitton says. "Twitter decided for me. Somehow I became a Twitter-for-business consultant without ever calling myself that."

Fitton's enthusiasm for the possibilities of what she calls "enterprise microsharing" motivated her to revive her Pistachio Consulting business in September 2008 to connect clients to new ideas and innovation in social media. Since then, she has co-authored the book Twitter for Dummies and launched, an online storefront that aggregates the sprawling Twitter application ecosystem in a central, user-friendly repository. Her Twitter feed, which combines personal musings with insight on Twitter's role in business collaboration, attracts about 40,000 followers.

"When people started calling me and hiring me, there were almost no questions asked--they had already decided they wanted to hire me. They felt like they already knew me from Twitter."

Stories like Fitton's are becoming as commonplace in the small-business realm as Twitter itself. Companies of all shapes and sizes are seizing the possibilities of digital word-of-mouth marketing. Dell recently credited its Twitter feed, which the computer giant uses to offer deals and discounts, for driving more than $3 million in sales in a two-year period. At the opposite end of the business spectrum, New Orleans-based startup Naked Pizza turned to Twitter to trumpet its "Eat Like an Ancestor" promotion--boosting the company's revenue by 68 percent in a single day.

"Local boutiques, Realtors and restaurateurs are all waking up to the possibilities of Twitter," says Fitton, of Boston. "It feels like it's a gimmick, but it's really a vector for small-business practices. It's very powerful and viral."

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For small businesses without the resources to explore conventional advertising options, Twitter presents a free and efficient alternative to promote goods and services directly to customers, exploiting the immediacy and intimacy that other channels simply can't match. Recent data issued by market researcher Kelsey Group indicates that 9 percent of small businesses now wield Twitter accounts as public relations tools.

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