Twitter masterclass: Learning the basics

Twitter is making headlines in the mainstream media, so, for anyone new to the social-messaging site, we present a guide to how to be awesome in 140 characters. Part two follows tomorrow

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll probably have noticed Twitter has been popping up in the mainstream media lately. Mainly driven by an influx of celebrities, sparked by Stephen Fry and including Jonathan Ross and even Phillip Schofield, the site appears to have finally outgrown the geek community and attained mainstream appeal in the UK. If you're wondering what the fuss is about, and even if you're a bit dubious about the whole concept, our advice is to just dive in -- and we're going to show you how with this handy two-part guide.

Twitter began as a microblogging platform, on which users answer the question 'what are you doing?' in 140-character mini-blog posts called 'tweets'. But since its inception, the site has evolved into what it now describes as 'real-time social messaging', with its own language, conventions and etiquette. Twitter can be mystifying to non-tweeters, but getting involved quickly reveals how fun, addictive and, yes, even how useful it can be. No wonder celebrities, businesses and politicians are all jumping aboard. You can follow the CNET UK Twitter feed here: @cnetuk.

In the first of our two-part guide, we'll look at the basics, and explain how Twitter works -- and how there's much more to it than the celebrities grabbing the headlines. Tomorrow we'll suggest different ways to get the most out of the service, look at the clever and innovative ways others are using the site, and consider the future of the tweet.

If you're entirely new to Twitter, read on, and click Continue to learn how to get started. If you've already signed up and are tweeting merrily away, go straight to page 7 for more on following, or try page 8, where we look at Twitter applications.

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