3 Tips for Conducting Research Online – Tip #3

Over the last couple of posts, I have suggested that the problem with conducting research on the Internet is that it is difficult to find facts. Even Wikipedia uses “social opinion” to shape and shift information; although they also require corroborative evidence or support from encyclopedias and/or newspapers for much of their new content. Isn’t that ironic? I wonder what Wikipedia is going to do for corroboration when it puts encyclopedias and newspapers out of business.

Until then, any potential customer or client researching a product or service online finds herself or himself in the wild, wild west. All you can really do is follow a few simple tips. I posted Tip #1 (determining the legitimacy of the source) and Tip #2 (Look at the date of the content) previously.

Tip #3 for Conducting Research Online: Analyze multiple sources

If you were thinking about buying a new BMW, would you go to the Mercedes Benz website to conduct your research? Perhaps. But you certainly wouldn’t stop there. You would probably also go to the BMW site. And then you would look at some car review sites and/or magazines.  Then you might read testimonials from people who had purchased the same BMW.  And you might read testimonials from drivers of other cars.  In other words, you would locate multiple sources and analyze all the information.   Rarely would one online comment that “BMW sux” be enough to completely sway your $60,000 decision.   And yet many people allow a single random comment on the Internet to sway their decisions on less expensive decisions all the time.  When you consider going to a new restaurant, does one negative YELP review point you in a different direction?   “Hamburger Joes SUX.”    Isn’t it the same concept as “BMW sux” — one person with one opinion? In fact, if anything, the LESS expensive a product or service is, the MORE it requires many different opinions to reach a worthwhile consensus.  This is because the barrier to adoption for less expensive things is so low, there will be many more opinions of it, so statistically speaking, you need a larger sampling to get an accurate average.

With the cost of our most popular publishing package coming in at $999, I wouldn’t necessarily say we were “less expensive” (although when you compare that to the average cost of independently publishing your book yourself with the cost of a professional book designer, cover designer, and off-set print-run, we certainly are).  Since our services fall in the realm where comparative research is important, I recently compared four sources to arrive at an average score for 20 self-publishing companies, and those results are here, where Outskirts Press received an average of 33.41 points out of a possible 40.

But the point of all this is that, even if the service/option/product you are considering is “cheap” or “free,” comparative research is a must.   The opinion of the person who writes “Hamburger Joes SUX” isn’t any more or less valid than the opinion of the person who writes “Hamburger Joes ROX.”  For authors, it comes down to this: After the months or years it took to write your book, do you really want to rest the fate of it on “cheap” or “free” or on the opinion of one random “Hamburger Joes SUX/ROX” individual?

So, for readers of my blog who are in start-up mode themselves, or running/managing/operating their own business, my piece of advice is this:  Get mentioned and reviewed in as many sources as you can. One might be bad. Others average. Hopefully most are good.  And get lots of testimonials. Your satisfied clients are your best advocates.  I’m pleased to say that we are in wonderful position as far as author praise is concerned; we get so many heart-warming and touching comments about our services and company every day, it just reinforces my personal drive to keep delivering even more value for them.