Copenhaver ventures to online world

It's the online equivalent of going to the hottest spot for twentysomethings. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have already caught on to the trend, and now congressional candidates and Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver have started using Facebook as a tool to reach the younger generation.


"What I've found it extremely useful for is getting input," Mr. Copenhaver said.

Facebook is a social networking site that began in 2004 as a way for college students to connect online through self-created profiles that list interests, beliefs and activities. The site grew when it opened to nonstudents.

It recently added pages, which allow businesses, organizations and politicians to coexist with its base of users. Users can become fans or supporters of pages, which links their profile to the page.

Mr. Copenhaver's favorite music list on Facebook includes the Rolling Stones, The Replacements, James Brown and The White Stripes. His work information is listed as mayor of Augusta.

Mr. Copenhaver has a personal profile; a group, "Deke Copenhaver ... the mayor;" and a politician page.

"The cool thing is that I didn't start either (group)," he said.

The group, started by two University of Georgia students, and the politicians page, started by a Tuskegee University student, each made him an administrator over the pages.

Facebook is a site where a lot of people are logged on, but they haven't been directly engaged in politics, Mr. Copenhaver said.

He posts questions to the pages, asking about Augusta and what it has to offer, such as the Westobou Festival. He also replies to messages.

Most of the members are in their 20s and 30s, people Mr. Copenhaver says he's trying to retain and recruit to Augusta.

The most common feedback to his postings, he said, is that no one had asked their opinion before.

He's also heard about climbing walls, performing arts center development, the proposed downtown baseball stadium and recruiting more high-tech jobs.

"There's a lot of emphasis on downtown redevelopment," he said.

Mr. Copenhaver said he checks the site every day and sends replies two or three times a week.

"It's a great way to reach out to people, and obviously by the response I've gotten, they reach back," he said.

For other politicians, such as the candidates for U.S. House District 10, Democrat Bobby Saxon and incumbent Republican Paul Broun, Facebook can translate into volunteers or votes. District 10 covers 21 counties, including part of the Augusta area and Athens, home of the University of Georgia and more than 25,000 undergraduate students.

"I think to say it complements the campaign would be an understatement," said Tommy Valentine, Mr. Saxon's campaign manager.

It's been a way for supporters to tell friends about the candidate, get yard-sign pledges and connect with supporters, he said. Using the site also has helped gain campaign volunteers.

Mr. Saxon has a "Bobby Saxon for Congress" group, with 487 members as of Monday; separate county groups; and a politician page.

Mr. Broun has a personal profile and a politician page that includes posted Web links and a photo album, "Town to town with Congressman Broun."

Jessica Morris, the spokeswoman for Mr. Broun, said he went to the site for technology-savvy voters.

"It's a little more fun because there's more interaction involved," she said.

He uses the site only in a campaign capacity, Ms. Morris said, because ethics rules don't allow him to mix congressional business with his re-election campaign.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or


PROFILE: (n.) A personal page for an individual, which can list everything from favorite music to religious and political beliefs, birthday and fraternal affiliation.

GROUP: (n.) A social network group that links profiles together with a common interest or shows membership in an organization.

FRIEND: (n.) 1. A personal profile that will show up in your friend list. 2. (v.) The act of adding someone to your friend list.

PAGE: (n.) A business, organization or politician's Web page on the site. Personal profiles can be linked to the page as supporters. Pages that personal profiles support are linked onto their profiles.

TAG: (v.) To add a link from a photo uploaded on Facebook.


BY THE NUMBERS: Of the 238 supporters -- as of Tuesday -- on Deke Copenhaver's politician page:

47 PERCENT - 25-34 years old

26 PERCENT - 35-44 years old

17 PERCENT - 18-24 years old

Visit Mayor Copenhaver's facebook page group Deke Copenhaver ... The Mayor