Twitter brings with it the question: what does it do and why should I use it?

To get more familiar with it, here are 29 useful scenario's, ranging from getting a new job to doing market research, and 4 ... somewhat unexpected ones

I don't get Twitter

People ask me all the time; "Why in the world would I ever want to use Twitter? I can't see the benefit, and have better things to do with my time than make conversations with strangers."

I've also seen research suggesting that only 40% of Twitter followers stay engaged with the service in the month or months that follow. Both good points, though from a limited perspective.

The reality of the matter is there are many reasons to use Twitter, though different people and organizations have different reasons.

The key is in showing restraint in the early "test month(s)" to try the various possible applications so a potential Twitterer does not 'burn himself out' before finding the true value. Most people don't show this restraint, and burn out in the first month, as the research shows.

With this in mind, I thought I'd commit all the reasons I could think of to paper, so future Twitterers would know what types of reasons and benefits to look for when they "trial" the service. After all, "if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there!"

So, here are the various ways in which you can use Twitter, segmented by primary reason: marketing or personal perspective.

From a Marketer's Perspective:

    1. Competitive - to track what competitors are doing and thinking (watch their tweets, who they're conversing with, and so forth). Gain insights!

    2. Employee Tracking - See where your employees are, and even what they're doing. eg. If you're a service company with contractors on the road, some have used Twitter to reveal where all their contractors are around a city, which indicates how close they are to their next service call.

    3. Market Research - to perform quick polls and research (eg. iphone or BlackBerry?) that will help you plan or implement your business strategy.

    4. Networking - to connect with specific media personalities (eg. NY Times reporters), industry figures, politicians, etc., in hopes such relationships can help forward the company's agenda.

    5. News - to stay abreast of real-time industry news as its breaking. Twitter propagates news almost immediately after occurring, so provides almost instant notification to well versed Twitterers. The early bird gets the proverbial worm so to speak!

    6. Branding - To build awareness, trust, and possibly loyalty. If a company Twitters good information routinely, and isn't overly self-promotional, the profile will gather followers. The profile is then associated with quality industry news and integrity. Frequency and quality of posts then breed familiarity, and eventually trust.

    7. Promotion - to promote new content on your website, or perhaps company news (eg. expanding into additional markets). The best content is worthless unless others know that it exists. Twitter helps propagate such messages.

    8. Advertising - to advertise your product/service. New services like TwitterHawk are surfacing routinely. The verdict is still out on TwitterHawk as a legitimate advertising method, but the service and possibilities are intriguing.

    9. Finding Employees - to find good potential job candidates. Smart job seekers will follow the tweets of the companies they wish to work for, knowing job opportunities will often be tweeted about.

    10. Reputation Management - to learn about issues and problems people are having with your company, so that they can be corrected. I'm a firm advocate that every problem is an opportunity, when viewed from the right perspective. Dell managed to do so.

    11. Identifying Competitor Weaknesses - to find out about issues and problems people are having with your competitors so you can capitalize on them, and perhaps even gain market share. Just monitor the profiles and set alerts on the profiles of your competitors.

    12. Client Relations - to engage in dialogue with clients. While not issues, clients can be encouraged to submit their product/service improvement ideas to companies via Twitter. I would encourage them to do so via Direct Massage however, so competitors cannot track your company's weaknesses, and plans for the future. At the same time, Twitter can be used to put a 'personality' and presence to a company. What a concept! Actually communicating with clients.

    13. Business Generation - to find business leads. Some companies are even issuing RFPs via Twitter now. eg. Current puts RFP Call on Twitter.

The Genesis Of A Tweet

From a Personal Perspective:

    1. Opinions - to glean opinions from trusted friends/sources on particular matters (eg. what clothing colours are 'in' right now?).

    2. References - to get references and referrals from trusted sources (eg. best Thai restaurant in Toronto?).

    3. Quick Information - to get quick information (eg. what is Joe's girlfriend's name ... have to meet with them in 10 minutes?).

    4. Advice - to gather input about what others think about a product/service you are considering purchasing. Merely use Twitter Search to scope out what others think about the product.

    5. News - to keep atop the latest breaking news in topics related to your interests (think SoCal Earthquake).

    6. Entertainment - to be entertained. Just make sure you follow entertaining people. Here's a quick tip for finding people you like; enter: site:twitter.com "full stage name of person you find entertaining"

    7. Communication - to communicate with numerous others at once without having to make individual phone calls (eg. going to Java Joes for coffee tonite @ 7 ... meet me there if interested!).

    8. Employment - to find a job merely follow the Twitter accounts of companies you wish to work for, or those of specific headhunters/agencies.

    9. Friendship - to make new friends. Follow those with similar interests, and engage them in conversation.

    10. Connect - to connect with old friends. Sometimes it's difficult to break the ice after a number of years apart. With Twitter, it's much easier to do.

    11. Warnings - to broadcast to as many people as possible when you've been RIPPED OFF by a company, and to warn others to avoid them!

    12. Customer Service - to get quicker responses from customer service departments. Typically companies will respond very quickly to negative information about them or their products out on the web.

    13. Personal Branding - To monitor your own personal brand online to see how you are perceived. Perform a Twitter Search for your Twitter user name, and your full name in quotations (eg. "Michael Arrington").

    14. Reminder Service - as a reminder service, applications exist to send you reminders at specific times and dates (eg. Jennifer's birthday is tomorrow).

    15. Alert Service - as an alert service, such as when your house is being robbed.

    16. Reputation Management - to help push negative mentions of you that appear in Google, Yahoo, or MSN search results, lower in the rankings, so ultimately fewer people see the embarrasing text, images, or video.

Twitter Geeks Get Anxious

Strange and Odd Benefits

Conclusion:
As can be seen from above, Twitter can be very useful for many reasons, and can be fruitful. Again, the key is in showing restraint in the initial months so that one does not 'burn out' on the experience. Instead, consider the various reasons for using Twitter, and gradually test each out. Doing so, will result in a much higher likelihood of finding value in the service!

In the end, Twitter is only as good as you make it!

Sources:

Social Media Trader - 13 Odd Ways to Use Twitter
VerticalMeasures Blog - Weirdest Uses for Twitter