There are two ways of using CaféMom: as an information resource, and for social networking. As a resource, you can browse the site or enter search criteria to find posts and articles. The Daily Buzz tab features articles from five professional bloggers who cover topics in pregnancy, raising children and living healthy. To check out the chats between community members, browse the Answers tab for questions and responses, or the Groups tab for discussion about particular interests. You can even vote in online polls from the Polls tab without having to join the site.
As with many social networking Web sites, you have to sign up for CaféMom to contribute content. Click the sign-up link at the top to join, and complete a basic form including your name, e-mail address and birth date. You must also agree to the Terms of Service, which state that users must be at least 16 years old, and it explains your options to preserve privacy. CaféMom immediately e-mails your new screen name and password to the address you provide.
Right after you sign up, you can start customizing your CaféMom experience. You can select different themes for the site, and you can adjust the content and layout of your home page, too. In your profile, you can list information about your kids or pregnancy, and you can elect to receive free products from sponsors for you to review. For privacy, you can also hide information from certain users by adjusting the security levels for that info.
Like other social network Web sites, CaféMom has features for both sharing yourself with the community and for interacting with community members. Here is a quick summary of those features:
- Thought bubble and mood -- Update these settings on your home page; they're displayed with your screen name on comments and posts throughout the site
- Photos -- Upload and manage photos, organize them into albums, and create and vote in Showdowns where uploaded photos go head-to-head for user votes
- Journals -- Create and edit your own jounal posts, and follow and comment on other users' posts; includes an option to publish the post to the CaféMom Marketplace, a classified ads section of the site
- Answers -- Post questions on any of several categories, and respond to questions from other users
- Groups -- Find topics that interest you, whether related to motherhood or not, and join groups to participate in the discussion; some groups are members-only while others are open to all CaféMom users
- Messages -- View and send messages directly to other CaféMom users with features similar to Web mail
- Instant messages -- Send real-time messages to other CaféMom users currently logged in, or use the built-in Meebo tool to connect to accounts from other instant message networks, like AOL Instant Messenger
Beyond these social networking features, CaféMom also has a Widget Directory that you can access from the Home drop-down list in the top navigation bar. Each widget is a fun game or helpful tool that you can use in the Web site, and each is sponsored by CaféMom or by a product brand from a CaféMom advertiser.
Continue to the next section to read about the benefits, competitors and downsides of CaféMom.