Tuesday night, ReadWriteWeb announced that we would be taking a new approach to how we use social media to communicate with our readers. Instead of blasting out automated content on Google Buzz as we do with our Twitter and Facebook accounts, we will be using Buzz to interact on a new level by discussing anything and everything in Buzz's forum-esque threads. I described it last night in a Buzz comment as "a better version of forums meets a less frantic chat room," and many positive comments seem to be welcoming this new form of engagement. This also got me thinking about how startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs can take advantage of Buzz.

As Twitter's popularity blossomed over the last few years, companies have created accounts to better communicate with customers and to gauge the overall mood surrounding their brand at any given time. I personally have had better success with customer service over Twitter than over the phone for certain companies, but customer service isn't the only way companies can take advantage of social media.

We've discussed using social media to increase your presence online and to boost your brand image, but Buzz could be a unique opportunity for small companies to engage in meaningful discussions with their customers or users in real-time. Twitter is hampered both by it's character limit and by its presentation and organization; specific conversations do not naturally work well on Twitter. Buzz, on the other hand, does a nice job of grouping comments with posts, allowing for a flowing conversation.

For a startup going through early tests of their product, using Buzz could mean further involving your earliest adopters in deciding what features to keep, kill or add. Platforms for customer feedback do exist already, but Buzz is already gaining lots of traction and sits close to a place where people live online: their inbox. Despite Buzz's apparent privacy concerns, the product at its heart is an excellent tool to foster rich discussions.

Imagine an iPhone app development house using Buzz to discuss what apps its users want to see, or what features should be added to the ones they have. Or even a web community startup asking its users how it can improve their experience. This isn't to say that companies are not doing this already in one form or another, but Buzz is an interesting new way to engage with people, and for startups, reaching out to customers and users is a key way to improve their products.

The customers who truly care about the products they use can follow those companies on Buzz and provide valuable feedback, while the employees at these companies can engage with their users in a real-time discussion. Going back to the Twitter example, Buzz could even be a way to broadcast issues related to customer service to users; as with any new social media tool, the possibilities are endless. Buzz ultimately takes the follower method of Twitter and merges is with the commenting and liking functionality of Facebook - a "best of both worlds" approach. While lots of people use Facebook to engage with various brands, they mainly use the two-way connections to keep in touch with their real-life friends, whereas Twitter users follow people and brands and truly care about their opinions and insights.

Ultimately, the best thing about Buzz is that it is brand new and is still discovering its own identity, so early adopters - individuals and brands alike - can go out there and make it into whatever they want. As for ReadWriteWeb, we will be using Buzz to talk to you, the readers, about all sorts of issues and topics, and already we're seeing excellent engagement from our audience. One commenter, blogger Kate Dickman, has her own interesting angle on the potential use of Buzz.

"What if we were to cut out all of the self-promotion and all of the links and truly use [Buzz] to ask questions of one another? Discuss Issues? Ones that won't just be limited to a 140 @ reply," writes Dickman. "Perhaps brands could use it to gather authentic information and input from their customers all in one place without having to ask on their Facebook fan pages where fan comments/company announcements and more are clustered together."

Certainly there are already plenty of ways for people to get news from a company or the latest content from a site like ReadWriteWeb, so why not use Buzz as a way of having a more authentic conversation rather than redundantly posting every blog post or news item? Take the opportunity of a new medium to create new content and new discussions rather than robotically repeating Tweets and Facebook posts.

Be sure to follow our ReadWriteWeb team Buzz account and put in your two cents, and for the startups out there, don't be afraid to embrace a new medium like Buzz to find a new channel of communication with your users.