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How to be a twit on Twitter

Few have fully mastered the world of micro-blogging, especially on Twitter, where your 140-character update could make you a star or completely solidify your reputation as the biggest twerp on the Internet. In fact, Twitter etiquette extends far beyond what you say. It's about how you say it and how you conduct yourself with others. If you've no desire to have any following other than your parents and a couple of friends who think you're funny when you tweet after a night on the ale, then be sure to take note of the following (very bad) advice.

1. Follow everyone

Seriously, start clicking that "Follow" button on every Twitter account you encounter. Your follower count will swell because many people have a "you follow me, I follow you policy." When the number you follow far outstrips those following you, it brands you instantly as not worth following, and even more likely, a tweet spammer. But what do you care? Look at those numbers!

2. Never update

Why bother even writing anything? If your numbers are way up, you can consider yourself a "success" on Twitter without posting, ever. Or alternatively, you could always...

3. Tweet constantly

You're easily as interesting as any of those famous movie or pop stars, right? So why not use Twitter as your soapbox for 10 or 20 posts per hour? Go ahead, your narcissistic addiction to being the centre of attention will hardly be noticed.

4. Hash up some tags

Hashtags are terms starting with the hash sign (#) that indicate an "emergent phenomenon" that Twitter users have an interest in. The tags are tracked in real-time by Twitter, Google, and some others, so you can see what's... emerging. Make up your own, and don't worry about if they've ever been used before by checking at Twitterfall. The longer the better; try to use as much of the 140 characters as you can in that single hashtag – people think that's hilarious!

5. Repeat everything

If you've got a Facebook account, you may as well give it the least amount of attention possible. Set up all your tweets to go directly to that network, too, using Facebook's Selective Tweet Status app. Add the #fb hashtag to each tweet, and voila – your friends on both services won't mind, because they're either so devoted to your cleverness they want to read it twice, or they're too stupid to figure it out.

6. Skip the profile

Seriously, why would you want to tell anyone what you do or care about, or show them what you look like, or provide a convenient link back to even more information about you? Let people wonder, and maybe that mystery will be all the incentive they need to sign on as a true follower.

7. Get a fancy background

You can personalise the image behind your Twitter page. What you should do is create a large image with the left-hand side filled with so much dense information (all the stuff you left out of your profile, and more) that it could serve as a Wikipedia entry about you. Since that image isn't clickable, the links in it will be worthless, but at least people can retype them. For that matter, why not put your own advertisement on it?

8. Keep weird hours

If you've got lots to say at 3am, tweet it loud and proud. Not only will the vast majority of your potential readers miss it, but the followers who do care enough about your posts to get them as text messages will get a lovely wakeup call.

9. Friday following

Ever seen the #ff hashtag? That's to indicate "Follow Friday," a hallowed tradition where users make suggestions to their followers, pointing out other cool people they could be following. It works best when you fill the tweet with so many @ names they can't be easily understood. And skip any explanation of why the people in question might be remotely interesting. Your word is good enough.

10. Start a “begathon”

Whenever you get close to a nice round number of followers, you should immediately start tweeting about it and pleading with those who already follow you to hype up your feed to friends via retweets.

11. Provide shorter linkage

Everyone likes to have links in tweets. You can provide your followers with plenty to click on, but be sure to leave off the “http://” part of any URL (that's 7 whole characters saved)! So what if it doesn't work and they have to cut and paste it? Oh, and never say anything about where the link leads. Indeed, alternatively you could use a URL shortener, and just tweet that tiny link with no added info whatsoever. Everyone likes surprises!

12. Spoiler schmoiler

Ever felt the need to live tweet about something you're watching on TV? It could be the biggest game of the year, or the season finale to everyone's favourite show. If so, you should definitely post every reaction you have, in detail, and never use the term "SPOILER" when you do so. The people who are recording the programme will appreciate the heads-up. No one likes surprises.

13. Pitch some sales

It has been said that some people want to get information on Twitter, or gain unique and interesting glances into the lives of those they follow. Nonsense. They want you to pitch to them. Sell, sell, sell – throw in lots of self-serving links. This is a captive audience who you have to assume adores you, so you should take advantage of them in every way you can conceive of. And then some others (get Googling for ideas).

14. Make simple @ mentions

If someone asks you a question, and you decide to do a mention (where you put their @address in the body of the tweet, so all of your followers see it) rather than a reply (where the @address is up front, so it only goes to that person and your mutual followers), be sure to keep answers terse. Just write "Yes I do @address" rather than explain what the hell you would do. It's best if the majority of people get no context.

15. Retweet commentary

It's never enough to simply retweet someone else's post. Better to cut and paste it, rewrite it just a little, and then at the end add your own thoughts on why the retweet was worth your precious time. Why should that interesting tweet speak for itself? In fact, just steal it and make the post look like you wrote it originally.

16. Announce that you're leaving

Whenever you decide you will no longer follow someone, be sure to tell everyone why. "I'm no longer going to follow @egriffith, that guy is a blowhard and tweets too much/little" is no more rude than going up to the host of a party and saying, "You suck. I'm outta here." The bigger the name, the more they should hear it, because famous people don't have feelings like real people.

17. TMI for the people

Once you've got a lock on a few hundred people, it’s time to really let loose with the information that you know they want. This can, and should, include just about anything regarding your politics, eating habits, or adventures in the bathroom. Also, consider using Twitter for therapy when your marriage falls apart or your kids get arrested.

Now you've had your fill of bad advice, it's time for some good advice, so check out our guide to getting more Twitter followers – the right way or check out our guide on Twitter for effective business for a complete list of all our Twitter guides.