This column is directed at those readers who still roll their eyes when Twitter is mentioned and can’t see how social media can benefit their businesses.

I was a disbeliever. I thought it was just about gossip — even the name sounded frivolous. Twitter was launched in July 2006 and the property sector has been slow to recognise its merits. However, the statistics now speak for themselves. This week, the micro-blogging site was poised to reach half a billion users.

There is no harm in being an observer. That was my original intention, albeit short-lived. I soon recognised the potential of Twitter as a vitally important news source. Deals and news are now announced on Twitter well before email and other channels. If you follow the right press and commentators, it is invaluable for collecting and disseminating information.

But you must tweet with care — as shown by the trail of business and political careers derailed by Twitter. Even with a strict social media policy, it can be a minefield. My innocuous tweet about a BBC news item on the Jockey Association and use of the whip elicited a strange reply from an S&M site!

Hard to follow

Health warnings aside, you do need a Twitter presence to monitor the chatter around your brand and respond to both positive and negative comments. Twitter’s search engine is an incredibly informative tool for checking what is being said about you. If you are a celebrity, your followers will proliferate without your even uttering a tweet. For us lesser mortals, it requires hard work to establish a following.

Twitter was proclaimed “the drug of Davos” at this year’s World Economic Forum. For the first time, the directory listed participants’ Twitter user names rather than email addresses.

A website recorded all event-related Twitter activity, and tweets were displayed on a specially designed tweet wall. Delegates were invited to take part in debates via Twitter.

Will Twitter be the drug of this year’s MIPIM? There were 19,000 delegates last year, so there is potential for interesting social media activity.

Andrew Walker, co-founder of Tweetminster — a media platform that trawls Twitter for current affairs content and trends — says: “There is always a tussle between the old guard and the new. It was the same with the music business.”

Walker observes that live events dovetail well with Twitter because information can be broadcast live, which leads to greater engagement. It amplifies awareness and extends the reach of the event to non-attendees. He also highlights the correlation between mentioning a brand and recommending it: “The more people who mention it, the more interest there is.”

Businesses can therefore leverage their customers’ time to endorse their brand. Data from global marketing research company Nielsen show consumers’ increasing use of social media to express brand loyalty has impacted on marketing.

Andrew Grill, CEO of Kred, is important in the Twittersphere, as Kred is one of the companies that identifies Twitter’s key influencers.

Unsurprisingly, Grill’s tweets are a masterclass on how it should be done. He equates the reaction to social media to the advent of the internet 12 years ago. Agents were initially sceptical and couldn’t see its potential business value. Grill points out that Twitter already affects business practices.

“It enables companies such as BT to deal with customers’ technical enquiries direct,” he says, adding: “Companies now recruit on Twitter.” In fact, he secured his present role that way: “One tweet landed the job!”

Kred has just launched “Movers and Shakers”, which ranks conference-goers by their influence at that event. And IT firm Estates Today has set up a “MIPIM Aggregator” website, to record all MIPIM Twitter activity. It can be accessed on Twitter.

Whatever your views, register your company’s Twitter user account name now, or you may find it is already taken when you want it … which you surely will.