Lisa van der Pool reports at the Boston Business Journal that Twitter represents a gold mine of marketing possibilities, but the vast majority of firms haven’t figured out how to transform those 140-character tweets into sales.

One exception is mega-brand Dunkin’ Donuts, which has started to track dollars flowing from Twitter by tallying the number of people who click through from a “Win Free Coffee For a Year Offer” on Twitter. Users who enroll in the “DD perks” program are entered into a company database. The Canton-based company has a quantitative value for database members, although it will not disclose that number or the Twitter click-through rate.

Yet while Dunkin’ has become a dominant brand on Twitter with over 46,000 followers, most Boston firms are in the early stages of puzzling out how best to monetize a Web site whose passionate users crank out an average of 50 million tweets each day.

Still, a growing number of companies are seeking out Twitter for marketing purposes: 35 percent or 173 of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts, according to a recent study about corporate Twitter usage in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. The study called company growth on Twitter “explosive.”

A relatively early-adopter of Twitter, David “Dunkin’ Dave” Puner has been tweeting for the chain Dunkin’ since October 2008. Puner tweets about deals on coffee, munchkins and breakfast sandwiches, the company’s “create your own donut contest” and also replies to dozens of requests and comments daily.

Puner notes that Dunkin’s irreverent brand personality lends itself to Twitter and looks to its thousands of followers as proof that the company’s time spent tweeting is worth something. Although Puner notes Dunkin’ is still “figuring out Twitter,” he also said: “It’s a great place to get that real-time feedback and to find out what consumers want from you as a brand.”

Read more at: Boston Business Journal