Think “sexting” is only about sending nude pictures via cell phone? Think again. It can be so much more.

Sexting is also the explicit sexual dialogue people have via text, which is meant to sexually excite one another.

Referred more generally as “flirtexting,” two people sending text messages can lead to a hot date, a sexual partner, and/or sexual relationship. It can add more fuel to fires already ablaze.

So what is it about this form of communication that is quickly making it the first step in hooking up for old and new lovers alike?

“Text me” has become the latest of mating calls. This digital, wireless communication is enabling potential partners to make first impressions like never before. It’s helping couples rekindle the passion. It’s bowling over flirts who are literallyl looking to charm the pants off one another.

According to Debra Goldstein and Olivia Baniuszewicz, authors of “Flirtexting,” text messaging is the most widely used mobile data service on the planet. In 2007, 363 billion text messages (TMs) were sent in the United States alone. These master flirtexters maintain that your short message service (SMS) is ideal because:

— Messages are short, sweet, and to the point;

— The witty banter can reflect just how brilliant (thus attractive) you are;

— You’re totally in control of the conversation, and not subject to awkward phone moments;

— They allow people to explore their sexual feelings and mutual attraction for one another;

— You’re more approachable and can be more open with your feelings in a low-risk way;

— This mode of communication increases your confidence, helping you to overcome shyness;

— For singles, it’s a non-committal; no-strings attached way of saying “I like you;”

— You can flirt with many potential partners at once.

Established and would-be lovers alike are having a blast spicing up their sex lives with naughty texts. Whether shooting off “XOXO” (hugs and kisses), “French” (French kiss), “IWSN” (I want sex now), “<3” (heart), or “LOML” (love of my life), flirters feel connected throughout the day.

This form of flirting suits today’s fast-paced society, which is oh-so-tight on time. Flirts can easily and quickly let the other know they’ve got sex on the brain, planting the seed for good times to come – if they practice proper textiquette, that is.

Like anything in life, there are rules to this messaging madness, and players should adhere to them:

1. Timing is everything. While it can be tempting to respond right away, being overly eager can be a turn off. This is especially true for those just getting to know each other. Rein in your enthusiasm from time to time, using time as a tease in responding to certain TMs. This makes you appear laid back and easy-going. This increases the perception that you’re fun to hang out with, and more...

2. Texting has a curfew. Unless you’ve got a 24-7 passion policy for booty calls, most people are not going to be keen on TMs after a certain hour. Know that if you TM somebody after 10 p.m., it’s considered a late-night booty call.

3. Don’t beat around the bush. TMs can be easily misunderstood. People like them for the fact they’re succinct and direct. You want to flirt, and with that hint. Just don’t be cryptic. These are supposed to be time-saving titillations.

4. Don't drink and text. Getting drunk equals getting stupid. And while it can be funny, it’s not so sexy. So stick with sober messages.

5. Avoid breaking major news via text. Texting should not involve first professions of love, marriage proposals or the breaking of bad news. For example, would you want to receive the message “Have herpes. Sux. U should get checked 2” on your cell phone?

And while new love interests may handle rejection better via text, do not dump somebody you’ve been involved with for weeks, months, or years via SMS. That’s just cold.

6. Discretion is the best option. If you’re sexting more than one person, do not leave your phone out while on a date. Do not check your phone in front of a date. Turn off your phone if you find yourself having a “sleepover.”

7. Proofread. Any TMs involving sexual encounters, especially those complemented by racy pictures, need to be double-checked. Is it being sent to the intended receiver?

Perhaps most importantly, don’t become reliant on texting. The convenience of TMs is a double-edged sword. There is a point where reachability can lend itself to “addictive” tendencies. You also don’t want to come across as making little effort.

Lazy is not lust-inducing. While they involve minimal effort, TMs are meant to maximize the action you get during face time. You need to make every effort to ensure that you continue your carnal conversation as effectively in person.

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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