Forgive us?
We’re feeling kind of guilty that we’ve written a number of Twitter articles that provide a lot of tips on how to use the popular social media site – without providing an equal number of examples. So let us make it up to you with these great examples of how today’s biggest brands and businesses are using Twitter.

Starbucks (@Starbucks): The Seattle-based coffee giant offers “freshly brewed tweets” to a loyal following of over 1 million Twitter users. Check the brand’s profile out, and you’ll be surprised by the number of @replies/mentions they tweet in a day.
That’s what engagement is all about. All too often, companies misuse Twitter by spamming their followers with relentless sales talk and ads – without caring to respond to mentions or direct messages. Sure, while Starbucks does post the occasional promo or new offer, the brand’s use of Twitter is mainly to connect intimately with fans and customers. It listens, and as a result, it’s gotten people talking.
Starbucks also has a bunch of other official Twitter accounts: @StarbucksJobs for employment-related tweets, @MyStarbucksIdea for the discussion of new business/tech/coffee ideas, and even @Frappuccino, for tweets and interactions related to Starbucks’ beloved ice-blended beverage.

Ford (@Ford): Scott Monty is the head of social media at Ford Motor Company, and he’s responsible for adding a dimension of social media savvy to the already globally recognized brand. Like in the case with Starbucks, Monty has worked on Ford’s profile in such a way that it’s buzzing with friendly tweets and @replies.
The result? Ford has become a humanized brand whose executives and employees are closely in touch with customers. Oh yeah: it also has close to 40,000 followers. More if you include Ford’s other Twitter accounts like @FordDriveGreen, @FordMustang, @FordCustService, and Monty’s own profile, @ScottMonty. The really cool part is that Ford has named the people behind each of these accounts – so that it’s the complete opposite of Nameless, Faceless, Unfriendly Almighty Corporation tweeting.
An essential key to success in Twitter and social media? Humanize your brand.

Dell: Austin-based tech company Dell has a lot of Twitter accounts – over 80 – and somehow they’ve found a way to keep up with all of these by focusing on specific objectives for each account and getting dedicated people to tweet. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell (@MichaelDell) is one of them, although it must be said that Dell’s other official Twitter accounts are a lot more popular, like the ones for offers and sales (@DellOutlet, @DellSmBizOffers, and several country-specific Twitter profiles), communities (@DellLounge, @DellDigitalLife, @StudioDell, @DellTechCenter), and featured employees (@LionelatDell, @StefanieatDell, etc.).
Dell continues to gain advocates through Twitter, because it’s not just coupons and exclusive promos they’re tweeting. At the heart of the company’s huge network on Twitter is a focus on keeping the conversations about their brand going. Sure, Dell Outlet earned over $3 million in revenue thanks to its strong Twitter presence, but beyond increasing sales, the company is leveraging social media to foster the kind of culture that made Dell a household brand in the first place: engaging directly with customers.

Comcast (@ComcastCares and @ComcastBill): A guy named Bill Gerth is behind Comcast’s tweets. How do we know? It’s right there in the profile, with a smiling picture of the guy whose goal is to “make it right for our customers”.
So Comcast is a huge cable operator and broadband Internet service provider: that much we know. But as you’ll discover from their Twitter efforts, the social-media-savvy company is not too big to pay attention to customers and their issues. These mostly fall under the categories of support and online reputation management, since Comcast uses Twitter to monitor feedback, reactions, complaints, and not-so-favorable tweets.
Case in point: Rebecca Kelley of SEOMoz was having problems cancelling her NBA League Pass subscription, bought from Comcast. She had been made to wait for phone calls, listen to elevator music while being put on hold, etc. So she unleashed some of her grievances over Twitter, and what do you know? Comcast Bill was watching, listening, monitoring. He tackled the issue directly and resolved it by crediting to her account the amount of money she’d paid to buy the League Pass.

Southwest Airlines (@SouthWestAir): The fact that Southwest is calling itself the “LUV airline” on Twitter speaks a lot about what it intends to do with the social media site. Make fliers ♥ the brand.
Activities that you’ll see on Southwest’s Twitter profile include: informing customers of flight delays, responding to @mentions, spreading relevant news, info, and events, giving away free tickets, and monitoring Twitter to check up on Southwest customers who’ve aired their dissatisfactions with the airline in public.
Read this story of a blogger giving Southwest a second chance after he had one of those typical horror stories. The airline’s series of tweets is punctuated by “Southwest = Awesomeness”.

JetBlue (@JetBlue): Southwest Airlines is not the only airline doing pretty good Twitter work. As part of its 10th year anniversary, JetBlue recently gave out about a thousand free round-trip tickets at secret locations in New York. A scavenger hunt, basically.
They announced the challenge on Twitter, and before you know it their followers in Manhattan were abuzz with excitement about finding those tickets. It also gave JetBlue’s Twitter follower count a huge push, and now the number is close to 1.6 million followers. This serves to show the crowd-sourcing power of social media especially in pushing various forms of word-of-mouth marketing.
The following month, JetBlue organized another ticket giveaway, this time in Boston.

Zappos (@Zappos): An online shoe and clothing store, is considered as one of the most engaging commercial brands on Twitter. The company’s account is run by CEO Tony Hsieh, who leads the company’s effort in unifying all public conversations being made on Twitter about the brand.
As you’ll see in this ReadWriteWeb piece, Zappos has created a public list of all its employees on Twitter; come up with a fully transparent way of tracking and responding to brand mentions; and made an effort to celebrate its most loyal customers who are using Twitter.

Coffee Groundz (@CoffeeGroundz): So you think only global brands can truly make their presence felt on Twitter? Think again. Houston-based independent coffee shop Coffee Groundz is blessed with a Twitter-savvy general manager in J.R. Cohen, who has gone out of his way to engage with the café’s most loyal fans and customers. He also made it a point to connect with CoffeeGroundz followers on Twitter, thus gradually and organically growing its follower base to over 10,000.
Not only that. Two years ago, J.R. also began to take to-go orders via Twitter direct messages. To this day, customers can reserve tables, order from the patio, and book the place for events and functions – all via “DM”.
“It just makes sense,” J.R. says. “If a customer is sitting on the patio in front of the store with his dog and doesn’t want to leave it there unattended while he orders my food inside, he can DM me, get whatever he wants, and I’ll even bring my customers dog a bowl of water!”
Talk about serving your customers using social media.