When I was young, the one super power I deeply desired was extra sensory perception — ESP. I wanted to know what people were thinking. Now, thanks to Twitter and other social media services, I’ve acquired an ability that very closely approximates it.

It took the Twitter team three years to figure out that this version of ESP is the most interesting thing they created. As a result, they’ve redesigned their home page to focus on it. When you go to site without signing in, there it is: The most popular topic this minute? this day? this week. As I write, I’m certain that Tiger Woods is praying for the next big event to knock him out of public consciousness, at least until the start of golf season. And David Letterman is so thankful that Tiger Woods came along.

Twitter search is ESP because 50 million times a day, people share their thoughts in 140 characters or less. With 80% of tweets being done from mobile devices, they’re coming from everywhere.

So think creatively about how your business could use this. For example, let’s say you run an auto dealership in Mars (PA, that is). Let’s find out who wants a new car right now!

In the Twitter search box I type: new car? (in quotes to search for the entire phrase). And since we serve a limited geographic area, I’ll add near:16046? (without quotes). To be more specific, I’ll also add ?within: 25 miles? (without quotes) because people will drive only so far for a good deal. Yes, the Internet and cell phones know precisely where their users are at all times; scary but true.

After 1.93 seconds of searching, I discover four local folks with new cars on their minds:

?MY NEW CAR IS GONNA BE A 2011 CAR?

Scramble and find a new car – my inspection is up and costs way too much to fix. 188k!”

I wanna New Car!!!?

It’s time for a new car!?

In each case, I could begin a conversation by offering a ?secret discount code? or helpful advice such as: I’m a car dealer. Inside info: You always get a better deal when you? (Side note: Not being a car dealer myself, I’m dying to see the last 72 characters of this advice).

One other thing: Once you’ve created a search query that works, you never do it again. Instead, click the button that says Feed for this query? and you’ll receive automatic notifications as new matches occur. How cool is that?

Think about it: Knowing exactly what is on somebody?s mind is what made Google rich. They serve relevant ads with every search; it’s a proven winner! Using ESP (AKA Twitter search) for your business in your geography, and then engaging in conversations within the norms of social media, you can find and win new customers.

To get started, go to:

www.search.twitter.com/advanced. Tune into anything that’s important to you, including people with positive or negative attitudes (customer service, anyone?), people posing questions, and people ?referencing? your business (or your competitors). The value is limited only by your mind.