Earlier this year, the number of people on Twitter topped 310 million, all of whom are enjoying a platform whose users send out an average of 500 million tweets every day. Although far from the biggest social media site, Twitter, with its 140 character tweets, is certainly the most dynamic. While much of the focus on Twitter of late has focused on celebrities and politicians, Twitter is a great place for businesses, too. Here are four great ways that Twitter can help you grow your business.

1. Expand your brand.

Remember, there are 310 million users on Twitter. If you are not tweeting captivating things to them about your company’s products or services, you are probably missing out. More and more companies are marketing on Twitter and other social media sites. On Twitter, the key is to capture the true voice of your company, but to do so in a way that captivates the audience (your followers and would-be followers).  Striving hard to garner increased exposure – either through retweets, or by finding key influencers to promote you on Twitter – is also critical for expanding the reach of your brand on the site.

2. Build a network.

If you want your company to be a key influencer, you have to be linked in with the people and organizations whose opinions matter. Strive to build relationships on Twitter with your customers, who are your best marketing tools. Also, work to follow (and be followed by) key thought leaders in your particular industry. For example, if you manufacture fly fishing gear, you’ll want to be tightly linked in to organizations like Trout Unlimited, and tweeting back and forth with Orvis. You’ll want to follow key professionals, writers, academics, and companies within your company’s line of work, and have them all do the same with your business. Not only will this help you expand awareness of your company, it will help you stay abreast of the biggest ideas and emerging trends out there, too.

3. Establish a dialogue.

One of the best things about Twitter is that it allows you to communicate instantly with your entire audience, or one-on-one with individuals. You can use Twitter to answer questions directed at your company about your products or services. You can direct people to your online store, or your brick and mortar store. You can deal with customer service issues, and help your customers resolve problems that would otherwise consume significant amounts of time and money. Finally, through positive, professional, and maybe even witty interactions on Twitter, you can put a human “face” on your company or brand for the entire word to see.

4. Be interesting.

If all you do on Twitter (or any other social networking site, for that matter) is mercilessly market your company’s products and services, you are probably not going to wildly expand your brand. Instead, you should capture people’s attention. Whatever your company’s niche is, your Twitter feed should be recognized as being a thought leader within it. Over time, people should follow you to have a better understanding of your industry and where it is going. You should also try to captivate people, whether through what you write, the pictures you send out, or the people and ideas that you link to. If you are doing all of this, you are likely expanding your brand at the same time, too.

Twitter is a great social networking platform to take your business into and help it thrive. Work hard to establish a meaningful presence on Twitter. Expand your brand through informative, worthwhile and captivating tweets, and build a network that helps establish you as a thought leader in your industry. Use Twitter to maintain a productive dialogue with your customers, and above all, keep your tweets active and interesting. The network on Twitter keeps growing, so the sooner you start tweeting, the sooner you’ll be reaching hundreds of millions of prospective clients out there, in 140 characters or less.

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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