Pope Benedict XVI's recent decision to join Twitter demonstrates how significant the social media service has become in all facets of society. The leader of the Catholic Church attracted more than one million followers during his first month on Twitter and joined the ranks of other worldwide religious figures on Twitter ranging from the Dali Lama to Joel Osteen. What works for the Pope may very well work for your business or nonprofit entity. Twitter offers consultants and business owners a valuable online forum for promoting your brand and building closer relationships with customers and prospects. With 400 million tweets posted daily, it is one of the world's most active social media services. For newcomers to Twitter, one of the best suggestions is to start following others in your network first and monitor their tweets before starting to post your own messages. Twitter has its own lingo and etiquette rules. You want to make sure you understand it before adding your own voice. Twitter is a great learning tool as well as a way to broadcast your own business message. Find the leading trade groups, consultants and bloggers in your field and follow them on Twitter. They will provide you with a wealth of free information that can help you grow your business and stay informed. Numerous tools exist to help you find the top Twitter accounts in your local area or industry. Try services such as Twellow http://www.twellow.com or Klout http://klout.com/home or simply do a Twitter search https://twitter.com/search/ . Even if this were as far as you go with Twitter, it would be well worth the investment of your time. Once you become comfortable with Twitter, it is time to build your audience and start dialoging with them. Promote your Twitter presence at your store or office, on your website and on all of your printed materials such as invoices, business cards, statement stuffers and marketing brochures. Invite customers, vendors and prospects to follow your Twitter account.Like Facebook, a cardinal rule for Twitter is to understand that the primary purpose is not immediate sales but building awareness, enhancing brand reputation and most importantly, engaging in a real way with your target audience. That's not to say you cannot offer successful sales promotions and exclusive deals on Twitter, but those offers must be balanced by sharing more "soft" background and personal information that will help your audience relate to you on a person-to-person level. You also need to encourage two-way dialogue with customers and respond to their questions, rather than merely posting new tweets. Twitter can be a great customer service tool for those who understand how to use it for two-way dialogue.Twitter offers a free 21-page guide on its website titled "Twitter for Small Businesses via Use Twitter to promote your business Abilene Reporter-News .