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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Should you be tweeting?

By now it’s likely that you know someone that Tweets – that is, someone who posts regularly to Twitter. Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, various estimates have put the total of worldwide users of Twitter as high as 5 million. comScore, an Internet tracking service estimated that the number of unique U.S. visitors to Twitter grew by 131% last month alone.

Once you open an account on Twitter, you can wittingly or unwittingly collect “followers” – friends or others that are interested in what you have to say and wish to be notified whenever post. You can also follow others yourself, and be notified when they post. Facebook users might recognize the “wall” concept, where you can post comments to friends Facebook pages, and that’s not a bad comparison.

But Twitter is not a traditional social network. So what, exactly, is it? Interestingly, Twitter still feels obliged to answer that question on its disarmingly simple home page: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

As Twitter itself suggests, this is for the most part a rhetorical question; users don’t necessarily expect a response to their posts. And Twitter makes it even simpler by restricting all posts to 140 charcters or less, so if you have something to say, you better find a quick way of saying it!

And that’s the real beauty of the site: no more long-winded e-mails; no forced communication; no Facebook photo albums to plow through. Just quick observations that can be about anything. Just finished reading a great book? Let all your friends know on Twitter. Going on vacation? Tell the people that matter with a quick Tweet? Want to reach your fan base without reporters mis-quoting everything you say? Well, if you’re Shaquille O’Neal, Twitter is the perfect way to go!

So who uses Twitter? Well, it seems to fall into two distinct categories: a) individuals with an established following elsewhere that they bring with them onto Twitter, and b) everyone else!

That doesn’t mean that Twitter isn’t a useful application for keeping up with your friends and family. It actually works great for that and the mobile apps and notification filters are improving all the time. But perhaps the real value of Twitter is to have a front row seat as celebrities and experts in their field share valuable insights and information.

Whether you want to follow Shaq, Oprah, Lance Armstrong…or even The Online Mom, Twitter is a great way to stay in touch!      

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