Today I noticed a billboard for a local hospital advertising the use of Twitter to alert followers about current ER wait times. I thought this was a very clever and practical use of Twitter and it left me pondering other ways brick and mortar businesses could leverage Twitter.
Now the fact that this particular hospital uses Twitter to broadcast current ER wait times is not likely to make someone choose that particular hospital over another. Given that this particular scenario is a potential medical emergency means that you are more likely to choose the closest hospital or one that is affiliated with your doctor or insurance. That, however, is not the point in my opinion.
Many complain that Twitter has a lot of noise and for the most part I agree. In my experience I have observed that most brick and mortar businesses mainly use Twitter to engage their community as an extension of their advertising strategy as opposed to providing a service. A hospital broadcasting their ER wait times is providing a service to potential patients in a clever way. This made me wonder if other brick and mortar businesses have embraced Twitter in this way.
I immediately thought of a couple of practical uses for Twitter. I would find it quite useful if local restaurants would use Twitter to broadcast their current wait times or whether a reservation would be recommended for a particular night. I also think that it would be useful for airlines or airports themselves to tweet about potential delays. I realize that most airlines already provide notifications via email and text messages but that is one more place for me to check. If I already use Twitter I would find it useful to watch for these alerts in my twitter stream.
I am interested to hear other ideas or to know of businesses already using Twitter in this way. Please leave them in the comments section.