1. Know what you want to achieve
Have a strategy. Before you set up an account and start tweeting, it's essential to know who your target audience is and what they're interested in. What do you want to say to them? How will you engage them? What kind of content will you share with them? What will be the “tone” of your interaction? Set up a profile that gives the consumer an idea of your company “personality” as well, not just the “who, what, when and where”. Know why you're tweeting and what you want it to do for your business.
2. Start following, then build a following
Start finding industry-relevant people, businesses and brands to follow. Check out tire manufacturers, other retailers, racing teams, race tracks, car companies — anyone even remotely tire-related. Go through their follower lists and find any people or companies you might also want to follow. These users will receive a notification that you've started following them. The trick is to get them to follow you back — and the best way to do that is have interesting and relevant tweets in your Twitter feed. Let your following grow organically — don't be tempted to “buy” followers. It's not about having the “most” followers or the biggest network; it's about having the “right” followers that will eventually support your business.
3. Keep your content engaging, keep it relevant
This might seem hard to believe, but most people aren't interested in an ‘all tires, all the time' conversation. If you only use Twitter to plug deals on tires, your network is going to remain quite small and unengaged. If you're tweeting links to a thrilling final lap of a NASCAR race, or road tests to determine the “safest family sedan”, you're far more likely to capture your followers' interest. It might not be strictly about tires, but your followers get that it's relevant and they're likely to want to see it. It's also an ideal chance to show your involvement in the community and to showcase pet projects or sponsorships. Let your followers see the whole picture of your business, not just what stock you currently have on sale.
4. Keep it clean, keep it polite
Things go wrong on Twitter very quickly when users forget their manners. Never slam anyone on Twitter — especially your competition. Avoid anything tasteless or rude, including swearing and anything even remotely racist, sexist, or any other kind of prejudiced. Often what might seem funny on the workshop floor doesn't go down well in the Twittersphere. Avoid politics, religion and anything sexual. In fact, if you wouldn't say it in front of your grandmother or you wouldn't say it in front of “the big boss”, don't tweet it. Don't forget, if someone retweets you or praises you (or even offers criticism), always say thank you.
5. Be helpful
Try to be helpful where you can even if it has nothing to do with your business. You should be just as focused on building relationships on Twitter as you are in your store. If someone is looking for a good place to have breakfast or the best park to walk a dog, offer your advice. Don't hesitate to share information about road conditions, construction or accidents, especially if they're occurring in your neighborhood. Demonstrate to prospective tire buyers that you're a part of the same community they live in.
6. Tweet often (but don't go nuts)
Space your tweets evenly throughout the day to give your business the chance to connect with different people. Ideally, you should work up to putting out one tweet an hour. The more active you are, the more Twitter will work for you as a marketing tactic. Like any other business tool, if you're not using it, it's not earning you money. Businesses and brands making good use of Twitter will tell you the platform generates solid sales leads for them, but you only get out of it what you're willing to put in. That said, don't tweet 40 times a day or your followers will think of you as spam and un-follow you.
7. Measure your success, hone your strategy
There are lots of Twitter monitoring tools and plugins out there that you can use to work out your reach, measure engagement and keep track of your statistics. Many of them are free. These can help you measure the success of your Twitter strategy and pin-point how you can make it work better. If you can see what sort of content is getting retweeted or what time of day your followers are engaging with your feed, that's good information to help you use Twitter more effectively and efficiently.