What is it?
When do I use it?

What is it?

Online research is both secondary and primary. Online is an important source of secondary information because so many libraries and information databases are in electronic form accessible at your desk. Primary research online is well-established with large panels of users and respondents. Commercial research companies have online panels to examine products, services, issues and ideas. Online research includes:

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Perceptual tracking and analysis of company/product/service/issue/trends.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Instigation of discussions in newsgroups/forums/elsewhere for feedback: These are less than focus group but still valuable, especially if discussion participants are among the target audience.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Competitor information.

Green_Ball4100.gif (257 bytes) Soliciting user reactions to products.

When do I use it?

Perceptual and competitor tracking should be a part of your public relations tools. Throughout this Web site, we have discussed the need for tracking. It is important to repeat that finding information is not enough without careful interpretation and recommendation.

Instigation of discussions in newsgroups and user reactions to products should be done carefully based on the product, service or issue you are researching. One must remember that newsgroups and forums are self-selected sites, and they do not represent a statistical cross-section of a population. Therefore the choice of the site in which to instigate a discussion is as important as the discussion.

Before taking an active role in newsgroup discussions and soliciting user reactions, you need to do advance work. One part of advance work is to analyze the newsgroup or forum in detail to determine the kind of people who show there regularly, their temperament and civility and topics they usually discuss.

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