Almost two years ago I had a talk to a friend of mine about online communities and mechanisms that can be used to analyze relationships between them and their preferences to products and services. The principal idea was based on the fact that social communities consist of people who has common preferences, points of view on some facts, etc. This gives a field for market analysts how to find out the most effective advertisement for the target audience.
Today I looked through some research papers searching for a comprehensive description of sales opportunity estimation. I found a site of Claudia Perlich, a former IBM researcher at Watson Research Center, who has become a chief researcher at Media6Degrees recently. The company makes a bridge between social networks with tons of private information and ads providers. The company holds a number of patents allowing them to make decisions without direct access to user data.
Didn’t you know what social networks are needed for?