The Twitter service is becoming a popular tool used by businesses to match companies with prospective employees. The Twitter network, which allows individuals and organizations alike to offer "real time" updates, postings and announcements that are available to all other users, helps companies attract the best employees and job seekers, who then gain an edge on the competition. (If you want to switch careers, you may not have to go back to school to do it. Find out how in Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)

  • Services for Companies
    There are a number of ways that companies can benefit from Twitter, including enhancing their customer service, brand image and advertising plans. Also, Twitter can be used to advertise job openings or Twinternships, but (perhaps more importantly), Twitter can help companies attract the "right" employees when an opening becomes available.

    This is important because, even though unemployment remains high, competition for the most qualified employees can be fierce, and certain skill sets are in heavy demand. For example, an exceptional software engineer may virtually have his pick of jobs. Twitter allows companies to advertise themselves and (hopefully) entice the best employees. Finally, Twitter retains a hip image (at least, for now), and using the service can help both companies and employees seem "cool," particularly in cutting-edge industries such as media, entertainment or technology. (Running your own business has both personal and financial perks. Find out more in 10 Tax Benefits For The Self-Employed.)

  • Services for Job Seekers
    Studies have consistently shown that one of the most effective ways to find a new job is via internal referral. This means that networking is a key feature of any job search, particularly during difficult economic times. The advent of online social networks (such as Twitter) provides individuals with an additional tool for networking, building their reputations and perhaps finding a new job.

    In a job search, individuals with strong personal "brands" and extensive networks of contacts have a tremendous advantage. Unfortunately, if you suddenly find yourself out of work, it is probably too late to begin building your network. Therefore, it is best to begin building a presence on Twitter before you think you'll need it. When it comes time for your job search, you can employ that existing network to your advantage.

    Although there are stories of people finding jobs solely through the use of online social networks, these individuals are probably the exception rather than the rule. Most job seekers should use Twitter as one of their tools, while also incorporating more traditional resources, such as recruiters, company HR departments, online job sites and newspaper classified ads. (This widely watched indicator of economic well-being also directly influences the market. Find out more in What You Need To Know About The Employment Report.)

As Twitter has gained popularity, so too has its ability to help individuals and companies build their brand images and networks. Companies can use Twitter to enhance their reputation and become more appealing to the most attractive job candidates. Individuals can use Twitter to build their own personal brand, advertise their skills, and build their personal and professional networks. All of these are invaluable when it comes to a job search.

Importantly, both companies and prospective employees need to keep two facts in mind about Twitter. First, building a reputation and a network takes time, whether through traditional means or online with Twitter. Although Twitter can be a valuable tool, it is just one of many, and companies and individuals should refrain from placing all of their eggs in one proverbial basket. Approach Twitter as you would any other marketing and networking tool; use it wisely and consistently, and it may pay dividends in the future.