Last month I talked about traditional customer information purchases. I discussed how these large databases of U.S. prospects and households help marketers target the most likely prospects and how this business is changing. Another profound change impacting the data purchasing industry is that organizations’ hunger for transactional and behavioral information is spilling outside of their walls. Organizations are looking for other behavioral information to triangulate hypotheses, identify segments and needs, and verify brand attributes. And this information may not always be found within their own systems. Most likely it exists on other Web sites, partners’ systems or social networks. Last year, I discussed in this column the way firms were aggregating information from Internet service providers to help industries understand how their Web site was functioning versus their competitors. They were able to rank themselves regarding traffic patterns, understand which products were being viewed versus competing products or understand how their own product launches and their competitor’s were resonating in the marketplace. The new twist on aggregating Internet behavior is the penetration of social networking and feedback sites. These sites allow people to provide feedback on products and services, and allow consumers to interact with like-minded people in order to receive recommendations from the right people.

Social networking sites are providing an avenue for dialog between consumers and any interested party. Through blogs, feedback and other postings, individuals are commenting on any and all things - from hotels to the iPhone. As organizations increasingly leverage their online capabilities to involve customers in product development and improvement, this type of information will increase exponentially. Marketers are hungry for this type of unsolicited primary research data that takes customers out of the focus group or survey scenario. The information that can be obtained from these types of sites includes:

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