Note: This article was originally published on Twitter.com. You can read the original version at Twitter.com or view or download this presentation.

Every day, local business, organisations and individuals in Palm Beach County use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Now, people are turning to Twitter as an effective way to reach out to businesses, too. From stores to big brands, from brick-and-mortar to internet-based or service sector, people are finding great value in the connections they make with businesses on Twitter.

Read on to learn what Twitter is and to get detailed examples of how companies are using it. On these pages, we’ll also reveal how Twitter can help your business right now.

So what does Twitter do for businesses?

Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.

Local Dining establishment using Twitter: Forte Ristorante & Wine Bar (@ForteWPB) is located on the corner of Clematis and Dixie in the heart of Downtown West Palm Beach. In an increasingly competitive area, Forte uses twitter to announce special discounts (50% off wine & reverse happy-hour), daily specials, as well as unique additions to their wine menu.

So how does it work?

Twitter lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters, or the very length of this sentence, including all punctuation and spaces. The messages are public and you decide what sort of messages you want to receive—Twitter being a recipient driven information network. In addition, you can send and receive Twitter messages, or tweets, equally well from your desktop or your mobile phone.

When you combine messages that are quick to write, easy to read, public, controlled by the recipient and exchangeable anywhere, you’ve got a powerful, real-time way to communicate. And real-time communication is turning out to be ground-breaking for users and businesses alike.

Local Not-for-profit using Twitter: YourPBC.org (@yourpbc) is a project of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties with the goal of “informing Palm Beach County by making local issues easy to understand, discuss and act upon.” Using twitter, @yourpbc is able to post information about time sensitive issues, such as the importance of each household sending back their Census forms, and receive immediate feedback from their followers.

So how do businesses use Twitter?

Twitter connects you to your customers right now, in a way that was never before possible. For example, let’s say you work for a custom bike company. If you run a search for your brand, you may find people posting messages about how happy they are riding your bikes in the French Alps—giving you a chance to share tips about cyclist-friendly cafes along their route.

Local Business using Twitter: Velocity Cycling Studio (@velocitycycling) is a Cycling (aka “spin”) Studio located on the 500 block of Clematis St. With many of Velocity’s patrons being avid cycling enthusiasts, Velocity Cycling uses twitter to post news, up-to-the-minute commentary and pictures from cycling events around the world.

Others may post minor equipment complaints or desired features that they would never bother to contact you about—providing you with invaluable customer feedback that you can respond to right away or use for future planning. Still others may twitter about serious problems with your bikes—letting you offer customer service that can turn around a bad situation.

You don’t have to run a bike shop or a relatively small company to get good stuff out of Twitter. Businesses of all kinds, including major brands, increasingly find that listening and engaging on the service leads to happier customers, passionate advocates, key product improvements and, in many cases, more sales.

Band using Twitter: Dave Matthews Band guitarist Tim Reynolds (@TimReynoldsTR3) visit’s West Palm Beach each year and performs with his band TR3 at Roxy’s Pub (@RoxysPub). Tim Reynolds engages his audience through twitter. While posting the usually tour announcements, Tim also takes the time to Retweet feedback, images and movies he gets from his global and local audience. This constant engagement and retweeting gives Tim Reynolds fans an interactive experience and encourages fans to interact directly with Tim Reynolds.

But Twitter isn’t just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers. Plus, the platform lends itself to integration with your existing communication channels and strategies. In combination, those factors can make Twitter a critical piece of your company’s bigger digital footprint.

For instance, let’s say you run a big retail website. In addition to learning more about what your customers want, you can provide exclusive Twitter coupon codes, link to key posts on your blog, share tips for shopping online, and announce specials at store locations. And you can take things a step further by occasionally posting messages about fun, quirky events at your HQ, giving others a small but valuable connection with the people in your company.

Local Radio Station using Twitter: Buzz103 “the Buzz” (@buzz103) sends Smitty (@smittyballs) to on “assignment” during their radio show. Along with the standard call-in number, Buzz103 uses twitter which allows people to communicate directly with both Smitty, the crew (@JeremyLoper and @RandiRaser) back at the station and the audience listening to the show. Using twitter they post comments & images and provide an interactive experience for their listeners.

The twitter users mentioned on this page are a very small sampling of all the great people using twitter near you. The best way to get started is to get onto twitter today and start following people & businesses who interest you.