Twitter’s raison d’être according to Wikipedia is “… a free social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets.”

Now this doesn’t instantly sound like the perfect tool for B2B communication, but let’s put these assumptions aside and look at the facts.

Most of the largest cities that use Twitter are in the USA – which isn’t good news for UK businesses. In part thanks to the Twitter iPhone App, iPhone owners form the majority of users (and the iPhone isn’t the renowned business tool) and again the majority of these are in America. 65% of all users are under 25 and unsurprisingly, women users outnumber men. As if that’s not enough, barely 5% of Twitter users go to an online retail service from Twitter.
But what about the people/businesses who are making the most of Twitter?

Looking at the most popular Tweets, as defined by the number of followers, we see that 1st is Ashton Kutcher (nope, as I don’t read Heat I didn’t know who he was either).

He’s followed by Britaney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres and then Barack Obama.

The highest ‘business brand’ is CNN in 10th position, then TIME at 31.

The most popular British brand tweets are the BBC at 49 and then 10 Downing Street at 52.
So the case against using Twitter as a business tool seems to building.

However, how have businesses been using Twitter?
@habitatUK appeared on Twitter and they decided to use trending topic #hashtags at the start of their tweets in order to get noticed. However, the issue was they were using ones that had nothing to do with furniture such as #Apple and #iPhone. To make matters worse, they then used the Iranian election with #MOUSAVI. Obviously Habitat then started to receive some a lot of offended responses. At this point they could have replied to everyone who complained to them publically and then have publically apologized for their spammy behaviour. Mitigating the problem and possibly endearing people to them for their admittance of a mistake.
However, what they did was to delete the offending tweets and replace them with some generic tweets; not realising the thanks to the caching qualities of Twitter Search, the offensive tweets would be around long enough for people to capture the evidence – making a bad situation, worse.

I purposefully highlighted the example of a brand ineptly using Twitter to underscore how it is used, who uses it and how it needs to be managed.

Twitter is about making connections. Connections with individuals, connections with individuals and brands and vice versa and this takes time, investment and understanding.

Yet for all that, there are businesses out there who are doing it and doing it well.

SonyPlayStation and Starbucks are using it to keep customers updated and to send them special game codes and coupons. Ford is using it to post updates about company and industry news. While Samsung is using it to not only share product information, but to inform (just one of the ways is through their mobile explorers at the Winter Olympics).

Twitter’s growth will be truly iniated through Hyperlocal marketing – where brands use it to drive business, be they multinational oil companies tweeting about a price reduction at a local petrol station, or a coffee shop tweeting about free muffins.

Businesses will also look to use Twitter to connect their marketing communication. Tweet that you’ve received a piece of communication or have seen it on a poster or in an ad, and in exchange you could receive a free T-shirt.

Twitter is also ideal for businesses looking for feedback – which makes it the perfect tool for researching a product or a marketing message. Tweet about it and almost instantly, a business can get feedback which it can then use – a process that will also help build brand loyalty and follower base.

Now that Twitter has formed a partnership with Linkedin (the professional, business version of Facebook?), when you set your status on LinkedIn you can now tweet it as well, amplifying it to your followers and real-time search services like Twitter Search and Bing. A tool that will not only generate business traffic, but will help build those all important business connections.

But if a business is looking to create a Twitter account, it does need to be properly resourced, and it needs to be resourced by a team that understands how Twitter works and appreciates brand communication (not the PR agency as is all too often happening).

Yet so far, businesses and their marketing departments have failed to grasp this change in communication, a change where you actively look for consumer feedback.

Twitter or for that fact, any other social networks will not be the panacea for all business marketing ills, nor are they looking to be. They will nevertheless form an integral part of business communication as both consumers and businesses not only look for, but expect more intimate communication with each other and communications that are happening away from the office and out of the home – which is a reflection of the transformation that is occurring with business.

The reason Twitter’s ascendency hasn’t happened so far is due to a lack of understanding and experience, nonetheless the rise of Twitter as a B2B marketing tool is coming, and those who are first to embrace it properly will see huge gains.