Friendster, the pioneer of social networking, was recently acquired by the Malaysian company MOL Global Pte, which is an affiliate of MOL AccessPortal Berhad, a company that operates and develops payment systems in Asia, for $1.8 billion. I assume at this price the return on investment was pretty nice for the founders of Friendster, but the price for Friendster reveals much more. The use of social networking as a marketing tool continues to grow and so does its importance.

More and more companies are developing or using social networking Web sites to connect with their customers to create brand loyalty and otherwise connect with their customers. For example, Kodak published Social Media Tips to help any business integrate social networking into their marketing plans. Some companies have created social networking Web sites for specific products. And it’s important for companies to consider developing social networking Web sites because it has become the norm for consumers to consult some form of social media before purchasing any product or service. 

But why should a company develop its own social networking Web site? For starters, control. As the owner of the Web site, you control the content and overall image the Web site conveys to consumers. A company does not want to exercise too much control over the content because it is important to create a space where consumers are free to speak, but some control is necessary to comply with certain legal protections afforded to Web site owners like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Communications Decency Act. 

Additionally, the development and maintenance of a Web site can be inexpensive. However, do net let the low price tag trick you into believing development of a Web site is simple. There are a host of legal issues that can trip up even the most sophisticated business. And because there are many companies that provide marketing automation software products and services, it is important to be aware of the legal issues facing both the software developer and end users so that the two can form the most productive relationship.