Specifically, there are two categories of data that would go a long way to helping marketers navigate these new centers of gravity: traffic statistics and aggregate user figures.
Traffic statistics on the community sites are easy to come by. By now you may have read YouTube attracted 19.6 million visitors in June, according to Nielsen/Netratings. This is up three-fold since January. Hitwise has been doing a great job tracking these sites as well. Even better, they publish much of their data on their weblog, aptly found at ilovedata.com.
Unfortunately, where the research companies fall short is in providing data on individual blogs or users within these larger social media galaxies. For example, if I want to find out how much traffic popular Web 2.0 blog TechCrunch sees on a daily basis, I need to rely on its data. There's no third-party auditing traffic on blogs like these. Needless to say, that's a critical hole we need to fill if blog advertising is ever to take off. The research firms should start by giving ad-supported bloggers the right to opt-in to auditing.
Now when it comes to aggregate user data, the social networks have been doing a terrific job of providing rather rich public information. This is mission critical because it helps marketers identify their most prolific enthusiasts.
For example, Digg and Netscape both publish lists of their top users. Another fantastic resource is Share Your OPML. Although it focuses on a relatively small universe of tech influencers, Share provides rich data on RSS feeds. You can identify which feeds influence others. Meanwhile del.icio.us, the Yahoo-owned social bookmarking site, last week began publishing lists of their most active users for many of their individual tags. This makes it a snap to pull up data on brand -- for example, the most influential del.icio.us users who post on Apple.
The next logical step is for the social networks to give their advertisers more proprietary data than what they make available publicly.
So what should marketers do with this data? Simple. Use it to find and measure the influence of your evangelists. Discover rich insights on their wants and needs and then build programs that make their dreams come true. It's all about them -- not us -- and data is your friend in this new world just as it was in the old one.