Companies, vying for an edge, are tapping into social networks, blogs and video sharing to gauge consumer sentiment.
Take, for example, the new business usages for blogs. While only 3 percent of North American consumers last year published or maintained a blog, these bloggers can bear a disproportionate influence on a company's brand, according to Forrester Research Inc.
"In the early days of consumer-generated content, people dismissed it as a lot of adolescent diaries from bedroom philosophers who lay in their beds looking at their belly buttons while writing about the meaning of life," said Peter Kim, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
"The posts on blogs and social networking sites are beginning to really influence customer decisions, and that will have a ripple affect on consumer purchases," he said.
Traditional methods for collecting consumer feedback fall short because they are too bias, expensive, slow, and often misdirected, the Forrester Research analyst suggested.