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What do women want? The age-old question has baffled men and marketers for centuries. NetBase, a social media intelligence company, set out to find the answer by listening to and understanding what women—and men—say in social media, and then asking them for more information via a Harris Interactive survey.

We found that starting with social research to learn what people spontaneously say they want, then using a survey to flesh out details, generates useful and revealing insights into customer behavior.

Via an analysis of the sentence "I want [blank]" mentioned on the Web over 365 days in 27 billion conversations, NetBase found that the No. 1 thing women say they want is ice cream, whereas the No. 1 thing men say they want is a car. Comparing the statements of men and women, NetBase found that 70% of their answers were the same, and the top three "wants" were exactly the same (ice cream, cars, and pizza) but were ordered differently.

But when 1,000+ men and 1,000+ women, age 18-65, were directly asked via a survey, "What is the one thing you want right now? Please be as specific as possible," the answers of men and women overlapped 60% of the time, with "money" the No. 1 want for both genders.

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Lisa Joy Rosner is CMO of NetBase. She contributes to the NetBase blog, and she can be reached via Twitter (@lisajoyrosner).