We have all heard a lot about the information collected via digital technology over the last year, the most high profile case probably being phorm, or at least the one that people became most dubious about. There are loads of benefits and also some things to consider in the usability of technology for targeting advertising, but that’s not the point for this discussion.

What I want to raise here is the huge amount of opportunity this also brings in understanding consumers, not just in tools we pay for and panels we have access to as media planners – Comscore, TGI, Mintel, Future Foundation, Hitwise – the list goes on and on. BUT also the free tools that anyone has access to and we can all use to have a greater idea of the online consumer.

This list is never going to be totally conclusive, but here’s a few useful things to get you going.

There are some good blog / buzz monitoring tools like

Nielsen Blog pulse – that will tell you levels of chat, example conversations and info on the blogs

Omglii – buzz graphs

Google blog search – does what it says on the tin

Technorati – Blog searcher and authority guide for those blogs

Facebook Lexicon – looks at the volume of wall posts in Facebook containing a given word

There are good ways to display a more “universal” search on a given term

Addictomatic – Searches videos, blogs, digg’s and news – a good snapshot of what’s going on on the web

Ways to filter RSS and news to collect relevant info

Yahoo pipes – a tool that takes a bit of time to get your head round, but will deliver in time

There are some good new media planning – site audience tools

(or there is one at least) Google Ad planner – much improved from when I last looked at it at the end of last year.

And last but not least…

Tag galaxy – a really nice way to generate the equivalent of a digital mood board.