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Examples of businesses that use Twitter can help you see how Twitter might fit with your business model. Here are a few of the companies that have revolutionized the way businesses use Twitter for not only customer service, but also business-to-consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and public relations:

Customer service: , an online shoe retailer, is almost obsessed with customer satisfaction. Zappos found they could use Twitter as a channel to communicate with its customers and offer customer service.

Business-to-consumer marketing: Ford Motor Company is getting the word out about its new Fiesta model through the Fiesta Movement. You can see how Twitter is one of the mail tools of this promotional campaign.

Business-to-business marketing: Duct Tape Marketing (a personal favorite) started several years ago as a book and blog aimed at small businesses. Today, John Jantsch uses Twitter as part of its toolkit to deliver valuable information to his audience.

Public relations: Old Spice embraced Twitter as part of its social-media-centric PR strategy that was born by allowing Twitter users to ask questions of their Old Spice shirtless mascot guy, which in turn created huge amounts of traffic and positive brand awareness.

Marketing on Twitter

In old-school marketing, you increased sales by slamming out a lot of marketing messages. Many marketing companies ran much like machines. There was some creative thought involved, but the communication model was more machine-like than most marketing professionals would care to admit.

Hundreds of ideas were created in order to saturate the public’s minds to the benefits of their products and services. This approach worked because there was a more limited number of products and many fewer channels to offer those products. So, you could more easily reach your audience. You sent the message in only one direction, and everyone on the receiving end consumed it.

In this age of social media (which Twitter is a part of), the machine is slowly giving way to a more sophisticated school of thought. People are talking to other people. They share good and bad experiences, tips and tricks, and do’s and don’ts.

Instead of selling a message to a group of consumers, on Twitter you rely on your customers to talk about your product and help you reach others through word of mouth. Twitter is now at the forefront of the customer experience, where customers sell to customers. Consumers create personal representations of brands in their living rooms, restaurants, and gathering places, and on their keyboards.

Marketing on Twitter works in a very different way than traditional marketing. Of course, you can help shape the dialogue by participating in the conversations about your company, products, and services. But you no longer have absolute control over what gets said about them.

Signing Up with Twitter

To start your Twitter account, you need  a computer with internet access and an e-mail address.

Creating a Twitter account

To create your account, you have to enter the following pieces of information:

Full Name: Type your first and last name. You can use your company’s name, but I recommend using a business name only if you’re creating a corporate-only account. (If you’re interested in having both a personal account and a business account on Twitter, you can use tools that allows you to easily monitor both accounts , but you’ll need two distinct email addresses.)

Username: Type a username for your Twitter account. Your username becomes part of your personal URL, for example, Remember that your user name can be part of a tweet, so the shorter, the better. Also you want it to be memorable so you’re easily found through a search.

You may find that someone already uses your actual name as their Twitter username. If this is the case, a red sign that reads “Username Has Already Been Taken” appears next to the username you. With so many Twitter users, it is possible that your preferred username is taken. If this happens to you, try a new username including your middle initial or a number after your name.

Using the Find Sources that Interest You Features

When you start finding and following people, the fun really begins! After you create your account, you are given different options to help you in building your Twitter contact list. To start with let Twitter build your list with your current e-mail contacts. If you need to build a list quickly, this is a great way to do it, especially if you already have an e-mail list of customers and potential customers.

You can also let Twitter go through your Gmail, Yahoo!, LinkedIn or AOL e-mail account to search your database of e-mail contacts for people who already use Twitter. Twitter doesn’t share your username and password with anyone other than you. It’s extremely secure.

On the Interests page that appears, click different topics that may interest you.

Twitter opens a new page that allows you to find different sources that interest you. If you click a certain section (like Business), you are given different users to follow. You can choose to follow the individuals displayed or move on by clicking the blue button called Next step: Friends.

Many people on Twitter use an “auto follow” where they will automatically follow you, once you follow them. So while you’re building the list of people you’re following, you are also building a list of followers.

Twitter searches your e-mail address book and LinkedIn account to show you which contacts have Twitter accounts, so you can conveniently follow them. You can see what the results page looks like after Twitter is done searching your e-mail address book.

Select an e-mail platform you have an account with (Twitter supports Gmail, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and AOL), and enter your e-mail address and password.Twitter will show the different users in your address book who are either already using Twitter or could be requested to join the site. If you find someone you think should be using Twitter, click the Send Request button.  Click the Follow button (green plus button) to start following contacts who are already using Twitter.

FireFox has an AddOn, Rapportive, that shows you the social networks that your email contact is a member of, making it very easy to follow, connect and friend them. I use it and love it. Check it out.

Writing Your 160-character bio and More

You use the bio to let the world know who you are. If you’re using Twitter for personal communication, talk about who you are, what you like, and what you do. What are your hobbies, your interests, and your passions? If you’re using Twitter for business, what does your business do? Use plain language and keywords that people would normally search for.

Adding a Picture

Make sure you replace the default Twitter avatar. You can use a pic of you, your business images, a clipart caricature, or any other image. You can have some fun by changing your avatar once in a while.