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External public social networking services, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Friendster, can be valuable sales, marketing, and support tools. The friend-of-a-friend (FOAF) trust model that connects social network users together presents marketers and advertisers with a potentially lucrative audience for promoting goods and services. However, this same trust model can lead to inappropriate connections between business contacts and personal contacts.

This research note includes:

  • A detailed explanation of how social networks function, especially the FOAF trust model.
  • A discussion of some valid business scenarios using public social networks.
  • Key considerations and recommendations for implementing business use of public social networks.

Careful analysis of target customer segments, segment-specific goals, and social network user demographics must be conducted before adopting these networks for business purposes.

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