July 23, 2008

Facebook Pages Now Linking Old Professional Colleagues


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Charleston's municipal judge has one. So does a Kanawha County's family court judge.

Even a former gubernatorial press secretary is part of the trend of adults establishing their own pages on Facebook, the popular social networking web site.

A year ago, Amy Shuler Goodwin, 37, was just learning the ins and outs of the popular site.

"(My students) are the ones that alerted me about MySpace and Facebook and all of that," she said.

Shuler Goodwin, who served as press secretary to former Gov. Bob Wise, and her sister run the Goodwin Group, a public relations firm based in Wheeling and Charleston. She also teaches public relations and communications classes at the University of Charleston.

Facebook burst onto the scene about four years ago. Founders Mark Zuckerburg, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes launched the site from their Harvard dorm room. It now has 80 million active users worldwide.

At first, the site - which allows a user to post a profile and photographs and communicate with other participants - was available only to college students.

Then high school students were allowed to open accounts.

In September 2006, age restrictions were lifted.

According to the site's log-in page, it's the "social utility that connects you with the people around you."

These days Facebook isn't viewed as just a social tool for friends.

Many users, especially those already on a career track, are using the site for job-related networking.

When Shuler Goodwin started hearing from colleagues and friends that they had developed Facebook pages for themselves, she flirted with the thought of joining.

"The students laughed at me when I started digging about it," she said. "I thought I better get with it."

So she signed on and set up an account and profile.

"My husband and I laughed about it," Shuler Goodwin said. "My friends said, 'What are you, 17?' "

While Shuler Goodwin's first dozen or so friend requests were from high school students, the next day about 35 business colleagues from around town "friended" her. The word "friend" used as a verb is the Facebook term for asking to be included in a user's network.

"It's instantly connected us, and it's such a great social tool," Shuler Goodwin said. "But it's not just a social thing."

Working as she does in a business that has her constantly interacting with people, Shuler Goodwin always had a certain belief about the right type of communication.

"I say all the time that grass-roots communication is the best communication you can have," she said. "For me, (Facebook) serves a lot of the grass roots that I talk about in my class."

Other professionals agree Facebook is a different but advantageous way to connect with potential clients, employees and the community.

Alex Morgado, 37, is the creative director at Blackwell and Co., a marketing and creative strategy group. He jumped on the Facebook bandwagon a while ago.

"I think I joined for the same reasons," he said, "because everyone's on it."

Morgado said the size of Charleston's business market has friends and business often mixing.

"Things like this make connectivity easier, especially if you're busy," he said.

Skip Lineberg, 42, is chief creative officer at Maple Creative, a Charleston marketing company. He said Facebook has helped him network, recruit, promote events and notify his friends when his company blog is updated.

Lineberg was a member on LinkedIn, a professional networking system. A friend recommended Facebook, saying it would someday take over the business-networking site.

"I still use both," Lineberg said. "To me, LinkedIn is more of a chamber of commerce atmosphere. It's more professional. Facebook is business after hours."

The fun format and interesting ways of staying connected also appeal to the adult crowd.

While many opt for MySpace, the other major social networking site, Morgado believes that site appeals to a younger crowd. He also finds the design unappealing.

He said Facebook is more aesthetically pleasing and its users have more power over their pages.

"Facebook does give you a lot of control," Morgado said.

Facebook allows members to disable or enable different applications and add or remove friends as they see fit.

Lineberg said Facebook is merely a "quick and fun way" to stay in touch. He said the News Feed on the home page lets users know what is going on in friends' lives.

Kanawha County Family Court Judge Jane Smallridge, 46, joined Facebook simply with fun in mind.

"I decided to set it up so I could play Scrabble with my friends," she said. "It's a hit."

Smallridge also has reconnected with former classmates and friends.

"I love the Internet. I just love it, and I think a social networking tool like Facebook is so much fun," she said.

Charleston Municipal Judge Shawn Taylor, 41, got some professional advice to set up a MySpace or Facebook page.

When asked by the company designing Taylor's law practice Web site if he used either network, he said, "No, of course not. Why would I?"

The Web designer suggested he set up an account as a research tool.

While joining the network didn't direct him to more leads in his casework, Taylor's friend count has gone up.

Taylor said the other day a high school classmate he hadn't talked to in 25 years friended him on Facebook.

"It's been almost exclusively a social tool," he said. "It's great. It's neat."

With the Internet changing and social interaction becoming more and more technology-based, Facebook may very well be the new tool to stay in contact with old and new friends and colleagues.

"This is where we're going, like it or not," Shuler Goodwin said.

Contact writer Tricia Fulks at [email protected] or (304) 348- 7939.

Originally published by DAILY MAIL STAFF.

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