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Candace Alper's ah-ha moment on Twitter

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There are about a million reasons why I think Twitter is so great - but this was my initial "ah-ha" moment.

Eric had been @ThatEricAlper for a few months and he would be there at the computer for what felt like hours on end tweeting and retweeting. As if Facebook and all of the other social media platforms that he was involved with weren't taking enough of his time, now this Twitter was part of his life - and by marriage - mine too. He was discovering the many opportunities and benefits that were there for the taking, one tweet at a time. He was meeting new people, networking, laughing and sharing. He sang its praises and urged me to get involved. I resisted. Strongly. I'm busy - I have a daughter, a business and a house to take care of. I had a great group of like-minded business women that I network with. I have friends to visit with that I don't see nearly enough of. What did I need to get involved with another social media site for? He's persistent. He's smart. More often than not, he knows what he's talking about. I gave in. We sat down together and got a Twitter account set up for me. Still I was resistant and for the first few weeks my Twitter voice was actually Eric.

One night I gave in and sat down give Twitter my undivided positive attention. It went on for hours. I couldn't pull myself away. The roles were reversed and it was Eric who kept coming downstairs to the office to ask "when are you coming to bed?" "you're still at it" "ok, I'm going to sleep". That last one was at about 2 o'clock in the morning. For the first time, our roles were reversed.

Because Eric had started my Twitter account, I was following a lot of bloggers that included social media, music, family and moms. Most of them were not people that I knew personally. It began slowly, tweets of condolence, love and support for mom whose young daughter passed away from complications that were the result of being born more than 11 weeks prematurely. Heather Spohr chronicled her pregnancy and life with Maddie through her blog www.thespohrsaremultiplying.com. The tweets grew in number, urgency and emotion. The hardest thing for a mother to witness is the loss experienced by another mother. Here were hundreds of women from across the US and Canada , reaching out to offer their support. I couldn't tear myself away. Then, slowly, the avatars in my stream started turning purple - it was Maddie's favourite colour.

One of my oldest and dearest friends had a little boy that lived for only a few days due to complications with his lungs. She was the first of my friends to have a baby. It was a dark moment. To this day my friend will tell you that what helped the most was knowing that there were people that were thinking about her. There was nothing we could do. All of the casseroles, lattes, loves of home-baked banana bread could not fill her loss. The love from friends and her community is what she needed.

I saw an offer from @temptingsam to help turn your avatar purple and how could I not? Within 10 minutes Samantha (who I had not met before that moment) emailed me my purple-washed avatar. That night I became part of a community of women who were rallying to support a mother in need. These women and mothers were offering support and sharing in the grief of another. I tweeted that night more than I had in the weeks since I signed up to Twitter. The relationships became real. That night it became clear to me that Twitter offered up so much more than networking and promoting. Through my eyes that night it became a place to share, to give and take. It was powerful and lasting. I get chilled and warm at the same time when I think back to that night.

Twitter also gives people the opportunity to do more than talk - it often compels people to act. In the weeks that followed dozens of Marches for Maddie were organized across the country to raise money in her memory for the March of Dimes.

In the year-and-a-half since then I have never doubted the ROI of Twitter. The community that lives there celebrates, laughs, grieves and cries. It is a community that shares everything from struggles to triumphs and all of the mundane things that happen in between. The over-riding characteristics are support and presence. What we are need and crave the most, it's right there on your desktop.

I have been fortunate enough to take my desktop experience of Twitter to the real world. It's like being able to walk around on the set of your favourite movie or sitcom - but better - these people are real.

Candace Alper is the Creator/Executive Producer of the award-winning Name Your Tune Personalized CDs and mother to 8-year-old Hannah. Talk with her on Twitter @NameYourTuneCDs