Popular social networking Web sites such as MySpace and MyChurch, Facebook and FaceParty, offer interactive, user-submitted networks of personal profiles, blogs, photos, music and videos for people of all ages to peruse.
The business marketplace has taken friend-making a step beyond, creating professional development sites to help registered members generate referrals from colleagues and their lists of acquaintances. While social networking sites are geared toward discovering what people like and dislike, and professional networking sites strive to uncover who knows whom, both systems of communication often generate an "I-did-not-know-that!" reaction from curious surfers.
LinkedIn may be the most credible and reputable relationship marketing site on the Internet, which is supported by its net worth of $1 billion. The company's philosophy states that its mission is to help men and women become more successful in their daily work by exposing connections and opportunities that are within reach. Call it a virtual business card swap, LinkedIn is a business-of-all-hours society made up of 25 million subscribers who want to be kept in mind as they keep in touch.
What you find out, though, may surprise you. Charleston, in particular, is "LinkedIn" with thousands of professional profiles, many of which are in the legal community. By clicking through rosters of firm names, readers can learn a little or a lot, depending on lawyers' personalities.
For example, Tom Hurney, a long-time attorney with Jackson Kelly, serves as the firm's manager of litigation. "Hurney", as he is called, once worked as a bartender at Flanagan's Pub in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (as well as The University of Dayton), and he enjoys music and basketball. He is actively involved with the Defense Trial Counsel of WV as the organization's president, and he is mentioned in nearly every super, best, top, or leading lawyer's guide in existence.
People who looked up Hurney's profile also researched the contacts of E. Patrick Magallanes, who serves as the vice president of marketing for High Falls Brewing Company.
Marc Weintraub, a corporate and commercial transactions lawyer at Bailey and Glasser, wrote in his LinkedIn profile that he is an adjunct professor at WVU, as well as city councilman for Charleston's east end (11th ward). Educated at the University of Maine, NYU, and Union College, Weintraub joined the professional networking community to learn about various business deals and leads. Viewers of Weintraub's profile also visited those of Natalie Tennant, Will Carter, Brad Sims, and David Clayman.
Nick Preservati's profile states that he is the managing member of Onyx Energy, LLC, Met Resources, LLC, and Amalgamated Mining, LLC. A graduate of Loyola University School of Law and the University of Notre Dame, Preservati is connected as a member of no fewer than 20 organizations in and around the region. People who looked for Preservati's profile also searched the backgrounds of people employed by JP Morgan, Virginia Tourism Corporation, and StateNewslines.com.
Chip Van Alsburg, National Sales Director for WeSave.com, posted 196 connections for LinkedIn members to use for their own networking objectives. Van Alsburg identified his allies at Steptoe & Johnson; Flaherty, Sensabaugh and Bonasso; Mark Blankenship Enterprises, and Mountaineer Capital, among others. Fans of Van Alsburg's work believe that he "consistently proves his ability as an effective collaborator", and feel he is "a trusted advisor and great asset to Maple Creative."
Marketing gurus argue that professional networking sites serve as business matchmakers, and they give insiders first shots at jobs before they are advertised. Business people can vouch for one another, signing their names to colleagues' best skills and areas of expertise, and they can strengthen relationships through frequent e-mail messages and above all else, referrals.
Given the market's enthusiasm for the latest business development cyber-tool, it is highly possible that if people aren't LinkedIn, they will be left out.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Given that people update their profiles daily, content included in this column was reflective of the day the story was written, and profiles may have changed since that time.
Brown is the managing member of The Write Word LLC, a professional writing and editing agency based in Charleston.