I am certain I wasn't the 1st to discover Twitter, but if you do a search on this blog for "Twitter" I certainly think I was one of the 1st to highlight how it would/could be used. What does surprise me though is that small biz has thus far been so slow to adopt.
Small business - Twitter offers you a tremendous opportunity. Here is how I recommend you use it (everyone can use it differently, the following is only ONE suggestion...I realize not everyone shares my views).
1) If you are a brand (ie a restaurant or retailer), I personally believe (like) your logo to be your avatar (not a picture of you personally).
2) For your Twitter name (not to be confused with Twitter ID), I like it when it is a 'human' name, but perhaps associated with a brand. Examples are Phil from Cisco. If you are a restaurant, perhaps your name might be John the Chef.
3) I personally do not like when a brand uses Twitter to only broadcast their specials, and news. It is not only OK for some of your Tweets to be conversing about things NOT at all related to your business. Want to tell me you walked your dog this morning? That's not only ok, it is recommended.
4) If you're a local business, there are ways to build a local following. When I recently moved to Phoenix, from New York, I used lots of great tools/websites to discover and follow people local to me.
5) Have fun in your tweets! People love to see your human side. If you're able to poke fun at yourself once in a while, that's a bonus. No one makes more fun of me, then me!
6) LISTEN - There are many tools that make it very easy to 'mine' Twitter for a potential new customer. As a real life example, I once Tweeted that I had a meal at Tarbels (a Phoenix restaurant that locals rave about), and did not enjoy it at all. It was not long after that I received a Tweet from the owner of another (competing) restaurant. This other restaurateur did a few things that made me want to visit. First, they defended Tarbels, indicated they knew Tarbels owner personally, and that my bad meal muse have been a fluke. Then they GENTLY (Twitter is all about the soft sell, but that's a future post by itself), suggested I might like their steak Au jus (I forgot the actual meal they recommended).
7) Once you have built your following (you should always be looking to build it continuously), consider having contests. The devil is in the details, but I like one's that add a charitable component. Don't make it to difficult, but suggest a few simple components to qualify;
1) They need to follow you
2) They need to RT a message (i.e Follow @RAYPIZZA RT - I love Rays Pizza - To win free Pizza for a month).
8) Hold Tweetups. This works best for a bar or restaurant, but if you're creative ANY business can do this. A Tweetup is telling people there will be a joining of other local Tweeple at a certain venue, on a future date. Consider offering SOMETHING to those who attend the Tweetup (i.e. 1st 10 people who show up get a free... or ALL who attend will get 25% off ...etc).
Please tell me YOUR story of how you use Twitter in your business. If you do not own a business, please tell me of your experience with a business that you follow.
BTW if You are new to Twitter, or have not yet read - This is a MUST READ:
Twitter Ten Commandments:
You can talk to me here on Twitter.