While many people still cling to the unfortunate original uses of Twitter (“Where is Ashton Kutcher eating lunch today?”) as a reason to stay away, the fact is that for the people who actually use the microblogging service — 200 million of them — it can be a powerful way for consumers to connect directly with brands of all sizes.

We just released some really cool new research conducted along with our friends at Chadwick Martin Bailey that helps tell the story of why you, as a small business or organization, should get in the Twitter game.

The findings echo what we found in our study of consumer behavior on Facebook, which we released earlier this year, and also showed that more and more consumers are turning to Twitter to connect with their favorite brands: One-third of those who follow brands reported interacting with brands more this year than they did last year.

The truth is that today’s consumers want interactive content from not just brands, but from the people behind the brands so they can be better in the know and help support the businesses and organizations they like. Good marketing, regardless of the channel, is about creating connections that result in sales and increased word of mouth, and this study shows that Twitter can be a huge asset in doing so.

Personally, I love Twitter (find me at @mendelj2). I follow the brands that I care most about and use it as a way to find and filter the information I need to do my job.  But it is a big time commitment that needs to be seriously considered if you are doing it on behalf of your brand, and it needs to be done well if it is going to be done at all.

Here are 10 things you should know about how consumers use Twitter as you decide whether or not it is right for your business or organization:

1)      60% of brand followers are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after following it on Twitter (tweet this)

2)      50% of brand followers are more likely to buy from a brand after following it on Twitter (tweet this)

3)      Consumers follow brands on Twitter for exclusivity, promotions, and to be “in the know” (tweet this)

4)      50% of consumers on Twitter go online more than once an hour (tweet this)

5)      Nearly half of consumers on Twitter have been tweeting less than one year (tweet this)

6)      79% of consumers on Twitter follow fewer than 10 brands (tweet this)

7)      75% of consumers have never “un-followed” a brand on Twitter (tweet this)

8)      One-third of brand followers are interacting with brands more this year than last (tweet this)

9)      Consumers on Twitter read posts from brands much more than they tweet about brands (tweet this)

10)   Consumers on Twitter under age 35 are more likely to follow brands than older users (tweet this)

Want to learn more? Read the full report here: http://ow.ly/72Ver. Or, read our report on consumer behavior on Facebook: http://conta.cc/oah0eJ

And to learn more about how Twitter and Facebook can help small businesses and organizations like yours, check out the Social Media Quickstarter, Constant Contact’s free online resource to help you get started and become successful with social media: http://www.socialquickstarter.com

Are you using Twitter? What has been your experience? Share your thoughts here, or tweet them to us with the hashtag #CTCTSocial.