Small businesses can't operate at the same massive scale that a large business such as Wal-Mart can. Wal-Mart can often use its size and market influence to get great deals and favors from suppliers that many small businesses couldn't dream of matching. If you're a smaller business, it's sometimes very hard to compete with a bigger company directly on something like price. Where do these small businesses have an edge?
Because small businesses can be more nimble and less bureaucratic, they can blow many bigger companies out of the water with customer service. Many smaller businesses put 100% of their effort into providing awesome customer service to their customers because it's one of the major competitive advantages that they have over larger enterprises. They'll train their employees well and even put in place a phone number with a fully staffed customer service center to try and help out people regardless of the day or time that they'll want to call. All of this is well and good, and most reputable businesses should do this, but there is one thing that many of these smaller, less-technically savvy businesses are sometimes ignoring - they forget about monitoring Twitter for questions, comments, and customer service inquiries.
How people use Twitter
Twitter isn't yet as large as Facebook, but a devoted group of people use it for much of their online socialization. When they have a question about a product or have need for customer service, their first instinct isn't usually to pick up a phonebook or look up a phone number online, often they'll go and search Twitter and tweet at the first search result that looks like the official corporate account. This is where many small businesses run into problems. Many of them don't regularly monitor their Twitter account. They'll log in once in a while to post a self-promotion tweet, but they don't regularly check out their brand mentions and quickly respond to customer service inquiries. It's bad enough when a big company ignores you, but when a smaller company ignores you, it tends to make people angry. They'll talk bad about you to their friends and they'll be much more likely to leave you with a negative review. Your job is to quickly address any negative comments on Twitter and engage with your visitors. This ensures that your reputation will not be weakened by a negative comment.
Social Influencers Matter
Many of the people who tweet to Twitter accounts for customer service are what would be considered active social media users, or even social media influencers. These are influential people who many others look up to and who get an inordinate amount of attention. These internet hipsters impact your social proof and your overall social media presence in a big way. People pay attention when their Tweets show up and people are much more likely to favorite and retweet their posts. Ignoring your Twitter feed and not monitoring brand sentiment online is a risky decision, and one that companies would be ill-advised to make.