This post is part of our Twitter for Business: Fundamentals Series

One the keys to successfully using Twitter for business is to find companies that are already doing an amazing job there and do what they do.

Companies that are truly successful on Twitter have already figured out what works and what doesn’t, so follow their example to avoid re-inventing the wheel!

How do you find these successful companies?

Some of them you may already know. Do a few searches online to see if your favorite companies and brands are already on Twitter. Follow the ones that you think will be good examples to emulate.

Also, pay attention to companies that get a lot of ReTweets or mentions from other Twitterers.

These companies are most likely doing a great job with social media and you’ll want to follow their example. Bear in mind though, it’s not a given that the largest companies are the most successful on Twitter. Often times, large companies take the cookie cutter approach to social media and simply use it as another channel to broadcast their advertising messages.

On the other hand, smaller is also not necessarily better either. While it is extremely important to engage with your audience, you must first build and audience to engage with! Whatever the size or stature the businesses you’ve chosen to emulate, take special note of how they’re engaging with their audience, their tone and the types of tweets and links they share with their followers.

Chances are you’ll start to notice some common characteristics across the board:

  • Companies with lousy products usually don’t do much better in the social media space.
    If they don’t care enough to make their products better, they usually don’t care enough to be successful with social media either
  • Companies with great products have a way of conveying that fact without having to brag.
    People who represent these types of successful companies on Twitter are usually eager to engage with others and will not jeopardize their brand or reputation with meaningless tweets and relentless ads.
  • Businesses with a focus on the customer see social media as a natural extension of their brand
    These are the businesses where you know there is a real person behind the tweets. They are interested in getting to know their customer while at the same time sharing information about themselves. The truly great companies have found a way to combine the quality of their products with a strong Twitter presence to take their message and their business to the next level.

Here are some great examples of Twitter success:

  • Starbucks
    Starbucks (@Starbucks ) Seattle, WA is one of the world’s best known brands and is the largest coffee-shop chain on the planet. Certainly not without its share of controversy, Starbucks has nonetheless embraced social media, engaging, interacting and following an impressive 80,000 of its 1,000,000+ followers.

    If you take a look at the @Starbucks Twitter timeline at any time of the day, you’ll see a constant stream of replies to its followers, which means that the brand is actually engaging and conversing with its followers. There are no constant advertising messages or solicitations seen from so many other companies of this size.

    Starbucks also permits its stores to manage their own Twitter accounts in their local areas. This further establishes the brand, giving it a more meaningful connection to the community in which it operates.
  • Whole Foods
    Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) out of Austin, TX is a national chain of grocery stores using Twitter to better connect with their customers. They provide service, answer questions about products, and take their social media use beyond Twitter through the use of podcasts and giveaways that make their followers loyal subscribers.
  • Comcast
    Comcast (@ComcastCares) Philadelphia, PA is s the largest cable operator and home internet service provider in the US.  Rarely do service-providers get much attention until something goes wrong. And something went very wrong several years ago, when a Comcast employee fell asleep on a customer’s couch. Comcast immediately fired the employee and began to reinvent itself with customer service as its top priority.

    Indeed, customer satisfaction ratings have improved dramatically since taking an active role in social media. Frank Eliason, the national director for customer service at Comcast, is just one of the specialists available around the clock to provide service to customers who need it. Comcast provides an excellent case study of using Twitter to restore a company’s reputation.

Other Brands

These are just a few of the brands that are doing a tremendous job of connecting the customer with the company via social media. Ultimately, these companies’ social media campaigns are successful because they are able to connect with their audience as individuals and not simply a collection of customers. If you can follow these examples, then the (social media) world is your oyster!

Here are some other brands successfully using social media:

Travel: @JetBlue, @Trazzler, @SouthwestAir

Tech: @TwelpForce (Best Buy CS), @Dell, @KodakCB

Food: @PopeyesChicken, @TacoBellTruck

Automotive: @FordCustServ (Ford), @HarleyDavidson

What brands would you add to the list?