ResearchNOTES 2012


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A compilation of of the 2012 ResearchNOTES email bulletins - a year of my top tips for web searching

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ResearchNOTES 2012

  1. 1. ResearchN OTES_______________________________________________________________________My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012Marcy
  2. 2. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012Author:Marcy Phelps Marcy Phelps is the founder and principal at Phelps Research, where she provides insights for better business decisions. Marcy frequently speaks and writes about topics related to business research, and she is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information. Follow her on Twitter @marcyphelps!
  3. 3. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012Table of ContentsJanuary 2012: Turning information into insights ........................................................................ 1February 2012: Whats new in local? .......................................................................................... 2March 2012: Navigating the maze of U.S. government resources ............................................... 3April 2012: Quick cures for writers block................................................................................... 4May 2012: Private-company information .................................................................................... 5June 2012: Book lovers special edition ...................................................................................... 7July 2012: Ready-to-use information graphics ........................................................................... 8August 2012: Questions about products ..................................................................................... 9September 2012: Keeping up with the candidates and issues .................................................. 10October 2012: U.S. government resources - an update ............................................................ 11November 2012: Tips for using LinkedIn for learning ............................................................... 12December 2012: Tips for using Twitter for learning ................................................................. 13
  4. 4. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012January 2012: Turning information into insightsTheres more to research than just finding information. The next step is making sense of what youvefound and determining what it means to you and your organization. In this issue of ResearchNOTES, Idlike to share some of my top tips for turning information into insights:Charts, tables, and graphs turn boring numbers into meaningful information. These representationsmake it easy to spot patterns and connections in the data. Use the Chart Wizard feature in MicrosoftWord to simplify the process. I also like to create templates, and just add the numbers when needed.Create a matrix to facilitate comparisons. I use these when comparing my clients products and servicesto those of their competitors, because they help with identifying gaps in the marketplace and keydifferentiators. Let me know if youd like a copy of my template.Put it in PowerPoint. This format encourages brevity, and its a great way to distill the information andhighlight key points. Be sure to include the answers to your original research questions and any relevantnew insights.You can read more quick tips for turning information into insights at my blog, 1|Page
  5. 5. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012February 2012: Whats new in local?Its hard to believe that its been nearly a year since the publication of my book, Research on MainStreet: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information. Since Im always on the lookoutfor new sources of local-level business information, this issue of ResearchNOTES spotlights some of mylatest finds for learning about places:For local demographics, I frequently recommend American FactFinder. Now, a newly-remodeledAmerican FactFinder simplifies the process of drilling down to the county, city, town, and even ZIP Codelevel. Just click the Geographies filter on the left side of the page, and youll see links to the dataavailable for your selected area.From the Urban Institute, MetroTrends provides a handy snapshot of the state of metropolitaneconomies. Look for charts and tables, expert commentary, and downloadable datasets covering suchtopics as crime, arts and culture indicators, well-being of children, and much more.Finally, not a new site - but new to me - Eurostat: Regions and Cities offers one-stop-shopping forEuropean subnational statistics. Try this site for local demographics, economic accounts, agriculturedata, living conditions, and other topics.Let me know if you have recently come across a new site for finding local business information. Id loveto include it in the update of Research on Main Street. 2|Page
  6. 6. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012March 2012: Navigating the maze of U.S. governmentresourcesThe U.S. government is one of the largest publishers of free information on just about any topic. Butwith all those resources from so many agencies, its difficult to find exactly what you need. In this issueof ResearchNOTES, I share some of my favorite tools for navigating U.S. government resources:Try the search engine at I like to use this sites image search when I want tofind free photos to use in my reports and presentations.From to, theres a subject-related site just for you. Visit U.S.Government Portals and browse this extensive and up-to-date list, created and maintained by librarianRobert Teeter.Many libraries offer online guides to government resources. My favorites include one from the FederalDocuments Task Force at Vanderbilt University and another from the Best Information on the Netcollection from St. Ambrose University Library.What tools do you use to search U.S. government resources? Let me know. 3|Page
  7. 7. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012April 2012: Quick cures for writers blockBlogs, articles, whitepapers, and other content are great tools for branding and marketing.Unfortunately, writers block often gets in the way of creativity, and your monthly newsletter can turninto a quarterly publication. To help you come up with new ideas for creating relevant and usefulcontent, this months ResearchNOTES focuses on three quick cures for writers block:Writer, editor, and fellow Business Marketing Association member Rita Braun has compiled an excellentlist of blog post ideas. I keep this list handy to review when Ive been staring at a blank document formuch too long. I especially like Ritas advice on lightening it up every now and then.Over at Copyblogger, theyve created an infographic, 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content. It includesmy favorite method for finding my muse: Take a walk. I always come up with good ideas while on awalk, and the dogs love it!For inspiration try Mind Mapping, a visual representation of ideas and concepts. What is Mind Mapping?(and How to Get Started Immediately), from, offers a nice explanation of this simpletechnique - and some great tips for creating your first mind map. 4|Page
  8. 8. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012May 2012: Private-company informationPrivately-held companies - companies that do not offer shares to the public - dont need to disclosemuch beyond their names, addresses and officers, so researching them can be quite a challenge.Generally, any available information needs to be pieced together from a variety of sources, so thismonths issue of ResearchNOTES focuses on some starting points for finding private-companyinformation...Before we get started, though, always remember two very important rules for researching privatecompanies. First, lower your expectations. Youre never going to gather as much as you would for apublic company - or as quickly. Second, take whatever information you gather with a grain of salt.Youre only going to find what the company wants to tell you, or what other people think they knowabout the company.Read more… Share this! 5|Page
  9. 9. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012Private company information (more)I always like to start with the obvious - the companys own website. While the types, quality, andamount of info you find will vary greatly from company to company, look for information about locationsand facilities, products and services, pricing and pricing models, job openings, partnerships, and anyother accessible information relevant to your needs. A systematic approach saves time and will help youcatch every detail. I learned a great tip from Amelia Kassel about using Adobe Acrobat Pro to downloadthe company website, making it easy to search by keyword.Search local news for the region in which the company is headquartered, since local companies get lotsof coverage in newspapers, magazines, television and radio news stories, and even journalists blogs. Inaddition to scanning for answers to your questions, look for leads to sources, including local journalists,business leaders, and other experts. Go to Google News and enter the company name and location inyour search, or try ABYZ News Links, a directory of global news sources.More and more, Im incorporating social media into my company research. Mining Facebook pages andLinkedIn profiles often provides valuable insights into a companys products and services, current andpast employees, and connections. Use tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and Addictomatic to monitorconversations about your target company and their executives.Finally, when you really need to dig deep, a fee-based resource may be your only option. For example,Hoovers provides self-reported sales figures, employee numbers, key personnel, ownership structure,facility size, and much more. PrivCo company profiles include financials and business metrics in usefulcharts and graphs, and insights into ownership, major sources of revenue, major costs, VC/fundingactivity, and other hard-to-find information.Whats your favorite source for private-company information? 6|Page
  10. 10. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012June 2012: Book lovers special editionIve started packing for my summer vacation, which once again involves sun, surf, and a fully-loadedKindle. Also keeping with tradition, this issue of ResearchNotes highlights a few of my favorite sites forbook lovers:At Goodreads, an online community for bibliophiles, members share their lists of books they want toread by August at the 2012 Summer Reading List page. With free registration, you can create your ownbook lists and share recommendations.Librarian Grove Person shares his 2012 collection of summer reading lists on Pinterest. Hes included anice variety of lists, from Scholastic.coms Keep Your Kids Reading All Summer to NPRs SummerCookbooks.From Libraries Unlimited, the Readers Advisor blog offers Summer Books 2012. Look for book lists of alltypes, including science fiction, graphic novels, and summer reads for entrepreneurs.Enjoy – and please let me know your book recommendations! Share this! 7|Page
  11. 11. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012July 2012: Ready-to-use information graphicsA picture is worth a thousand words...Displaying data in a visual format adds impact and brings clarity where words and spreadsheets oftenfail. Charts, graphs, and maps make it easy to identify patterns, trends, and clusters and transform thenumbers into insights. Rather than create my own graphics for my research reports, I often save timeby heading to sources that do the work for me. In this issue of ResearchNOTES, I share a few of myfavorite sites for data in ready-to-use visual formats:Eurostat provides options for customizing and downloading European economic, demographic, and otherdata in graphs and maps. After selecting a data set, follow links at the top of the page for non-tabularformats.The Data section of The World Banks website contains global statistics in map and graph formats. TheBy Country and Indicators sections include the most options for and the easiest route to visual formats.American FactFinder offers mapped U.S. demographic data from the Decennial Census, AmericanCommunity Survey, and other Census Bureau products. From the Table Results page, click the Create aMap button.And keep an eye on The Data Visualization Gallery from the U.S. Census Bureau. Part of an effort toincrease the use of visualization in making Census data available to the public, this site will eventuallyexpand its coverage.You can find more sources of ready-to-use information graphics at Do you have anyto add to the list? 8|Page
  12. 12. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012August 2012: Questions about productsIn my research business, clients frequently ask questions about products - their own and their competitors. Itsa hot topic in our competitive business environment, and this issue of ResearchNOTES offers tips for answeringsome of those product-related questions:Where can I find manufacturers and distributors of certain products?ThomasNet has always been my go-to place for this type of information, and some new features have reallymade the search easier. Find suppliers, source products, and read product news with this free resource.Where can I find product manuals (spec sheets, marketing collateral, etc.)?I usually start with Google searching. Combine your keywords with filetype:pdf, since these types of documentare generally in PDF format. You can also use the filetype feature on Googles advanced search page. If the webdoesnt bring the results you need, try calling the company directly. But remember to alway consider howconfidential you want to keep this inquiry before contacting competitor companies.What countries might make good markets for our product?I just learned this creative tip from research expert Mary Ellen Bates: In Google, run a search for your producttype or category (e.g., hand sanitizer). On the left side of the results page, click "show search tools," and thenclick "Translated foreign pages." This narrows the results of the search to just pages that have been translatedinto English (or any other selected language). At the top of the results page is a breakdown of the most-translated languages, which provides insights about the countries in which theres a lot of buzz about andpossible interest in this product.How can we monitor what customers are saying about our or our competitors products?Customers use social media to talk about products, and you can listen to the conversations using a fewspecialized tools. For many of my clients, I run Twitter searches with HootSuite and set up Google alerts thathelp keep them in the loop. Read about these and other tools for monitoring brands at 9|Page
  13. 13. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012September 2012: Keeping up with the candidates andissuesIts that time of year in the U.S. when we have to put up with mud-slinging political ads that tell usnothing about where the candidates stand on the issues - or what they plan to do about them. To helpyou become an informed voter, ResearchNOTES features some of my favorite go-to sites for realinsights during this election season:Project Vote Smart, a political research organization, covers candidate biographies, voting records, issuepositions, speeches, and campaign finance information. It even includes a Political Courage Test, which"measures each candidates willingness to provide citizens with their positions on key issues."Brought to you by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, monitors the "factual accuracy ofwhat is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews andnews releases." Look for articles, FAQs, and the Viral Spiral section - a list of their most asked-aboutfalse or misleading viral rumors, with brief summaries of the facts and links to the full describes itself as "the nations premier research group tracking money in U.S. politicsand its effect on elections and public policy." Check this site for financial information about thecandidates, politcal parties, lobbyists, and more.Get informed - and vote!BTW – Read my latest article in ONLINE magazine, Visualization Tools for Turning Information IntoInsights, for tips on working with charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps. 10 | P a g e
  14. 14. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012October 2012: U.S. government resources - an updateIts always a challenge to keep up with current sources of information from and about the U.S.government. In an effort to streamline and update their online resources, the government definitelygiveth, and it taketh away. This month in ResearchNOTES, read about two new sites from the federalgovernment, and one thats going away:Still in beta, will eventually replace THOMAS for information about legislation, thelegislative process, and members of Congress. New features allow you to quickly search all contentacross all available years, narrow and refine search results, and identify bill progress or status - and itsmobile-friendly. is still a work-in-progress, but its worth a look.The Federal Register, published daily by the U.S. government, includes proposed rules, final rules, publicnotices, and Presidential actions. A new site,, offers an easy way to read, search,browse, and subscribe to the article collection, dating to 1994. Much different than the older, lessinteractive site from the Government Printing Office.Say good-bye to FedStats, a portal to statistical information from more than 100 federal agencies.Unfortunately, the site is no longer being updated, so it may not include the most current resources. Asan alternative, try the Data and Statistics page at the latest posts on social with data vizKnowledge in 140 charactersMarket research on a budget 11 | P a g e
  15. 15. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012November 2012: Tips for using LinkedIn for learningWhile many of us use the social web for communicating with family, friends, colleagues, and customers,its also a great tool for professional development. The trick is cutting through the clutter and findingthose valuable links to content-rich articles, white papers, and other resources shared by the experts.This month in ResearchNOTES, Ill cover some of my top tips for using LinkedIn for learning:Note: You will need a LinkedIn account to use these features.LinkedIn Groups provide a forum for discussion on just about any topic. Search for groups by keyword,or take a chance with the Groups You May Like link under the Groups drop-down menu. You can thenmonitor the conversations on the Your Groups page or by email notifications, which are availablethrough each groups Settings link. Also useful is the Top Influencers This Week listing on the right sideof a groups Discussions page.LinkedIn Today - found under the News menu - gathers articles shared by your connections and otherson LinkedIn and Twitter. Customize your Front Page by selecting the industries and sources you want tofollow. You can also save articles of interest to read later.Your LinkedIn connections are your greatest source of knowledge. Did you know that by creating tagsfor your connections you can sort by area of expertise? Also try limiting your list of connections tocertain industries, companies, or locations to find experts within your network. Identify possible newcontacts through the advanced people search feature.Next month in ResearchNOTES - My top tips for using Twitter for learning 12 | P a g e
  16. 16. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012December 2012: Tips for using Twitter for learningNow that weve stopped talking about what were having for lunch and started posting meaningfulcontent, social media has become a a valuable forum for professional development. Last month inResearchNOTES, I covered some of my top tips for using LinkedIn for learning. This month, read how Iharness the knowledge lurking in those Twitter updates:Explore Twitter Lists, groups of Twitter users organized by other users. Once you create a list, you canfollow the tweets from the people on that list. I like to subscribe to the lists created by the people Ifollow to find out whats important them.Try the #Discover link at the top of your Twitter page. In this section, Twitter gathers new sources ofinformation to follow, including tweets from people you follow and those they follow; favorites,retweets, and follows made by the people you follow; tools for finding friends; and more - all in oneplace. Its a great way to expand your horizons.Use a Twitter management tool such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck to organize the influx of tweets. Thismakes it easy to keep up with your lists or follow the activities of selected hash tags without becomingoverwhelmed. I find it especially useful for keeping conference-related tweets in one place.How do you use Twitter for learning?Happy New Year - and may all your wishes come true in 2013! 13 | P a g e
  17. 17. My Top Tips for Web Searching: 2012Subscribe to ResearchNOTES, a monthly email bulletin withmy favorite tips and sites for web searching.Read about turning information into insights Phelps can be reached at+1 303.239.0657mphelps@phelpsresearch.comwww.PhelpsResearch.comConnect with Marcy: 14 | P a g e