An article in today's London Metro paper startlingly reports that in the Global Top 10 for businesses who use Twitter, just one is British – PriceWaterhouse.

Twitter celebrated it's 5th birthday yesterday amid the buzz of 200 million users and 1 billion tweets per week. While still not in the same super league as Facebook it is a growing platform and is gaining popularity. It's rare these days that you won't hear it mentioned in the media, most celebs have an account, nearly every TV show an official feed.

Where businesses have already adopted, and grown comfortable with Facebook, Twitter appears to be unknown territory for most. How can 140 characters provide an effective outlet for their company message and their brand values? And who reads that page of meaningless text anyway?

Here are some answers:

  • Think of Twitter as a less busy Facebook. You won't find sheep being thrown or be able to cultivate your virtual farm but like Facebook, you can let the world know what you're doing, the difference is, this is the staple for Twitter, that message doesn't get lost in among the cluttered activity.

  • The key to Twitter is engaging content that people want to read and respond to. Businesses won't achieve that by employing a PR Agency to simply tweet about product, promotion or company news. Content should humanise the company, providing an approachable online presence. It's ok to pass comment on current affairs, the weather or the football provided the content is coherent, well mannered and non-incendiary.

  • Twitter's demographic is a little older than Facebook's. In this author's experience Tweeters are generally a little older, a little more worldly wise and perhaps more affluent. The perfect audience for many businesses looking to promote themselves online.

  • Twitter allows businesses to have real time interaction with their customers which can be a godsend if comments by Tweeters are not complimentary. It allows businesses to 'fire fight' before something gets out of hand and damages their brand online 

  • Twitter also provides powerful search features that offer opportunities to monitor what people are saying about brands and react appropriately. That same search functionality when used correctly can also be a fantastic tool for lead generation.

  • By it's very nature Twitter is a 'light' application which makes it ideal for use from mobile devices, the majority of Tweeters tweet with smartphones. Devices that allow brands to put their company message straight into a consumer's pocket in any location.

The Social Media agency I work for manages a number of Twitter profiles for clients. The feedback we are receiving is overwhelmingly positive as we show businesses just how effective Twitter can be as a tool when managed correctly.

It's a trend we believe is likely to continue so that Global Top 10 list might look very different next year indeed.