What's a Friend Worth?

61k4zigaW5L._SL500_AA280_BusinessWeek's cover story this week says that companies are scrambling to decode the swarm of data about our online relationships, hoping for profitable insights. Marketers are leading the way in this effort. Research indicates that if we buy something, our friends are likely to buy the same thing.  The goal for marketers is to use this relationship data to improve targeting and conversions. One of the keys to figuring this out is learning which of friends we listen to and trust, especially when we make purchases.

Marketers need to tread carefully when it comes to analyzing and exploiting social data. As Facebook's failed Beacon initiative showed, consumers will rise up in protest when they believe that data about themselves and their friends is being mined and used without their active consent.