Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finding Local Business and Market Information

Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information

Sooner or later you're going to need reliable, localized, business information.

Ideally, you'd like it to be freely available and easy to

Until now there has been no targeted guide to this type
of research.

Research on Main Street fills the gap. We now have a guide
for finding business and market information at the local level that points to sources for researching people, companies, demographics, economics, and issues. Author Marcy Phelps has spoken widely on this topic and done her own fair share of local business and market research as owner of Phelps Research.

In this one-of-a-kind resource Phelps provides background, search strategies, and key sources to help readers find reliable local-level information on a budget. Phelps puts this research niche in context, coaching the reader to look at how a given geographic area relates to larger geographic areas, how it relates to nearby geographic areas, and how it relates to similar areas from other regions.

Learning this kind of strategic thinking alone justifies the cost of the book ($29.95 from Information Today). But wait. There's more.

After a general overview of the kinds of resources valuable to local area research and a reminder of how to discern quality information, the author moves into a detailed discussion of sources and strategies for finding demographic data, economic information, people, and ways to understand the issues that come to bear on a specific geographic region. Each chapter includes strategy tips. In addition, as Mary Ellen Bates points out in the Forward, Phelps offers short case studies throughout the book that help in "understanding when I could use these resources in my day-to-day work." Author Phelps has also called upon a number of experienced researchers to share their advice in Tips from the Pros. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that yours truly contributed one of those Tips.)

The final chapter provides guidance on when to turn to the fee based sources for information. "For local searchers, fee-based sources are often the fastest route to detailed information for small geographic areas." Here you'll find tips on how to pay (subscription, pay as you go, or other options), when to pay (calculating what your time is worth), and who to pay (listing key fee-based services.)

To get a sense of the valuable information offered in this 254 page book, try this one tip offered on page 26. To quickly find relevant information on local sites, try GovScan. Powered by Google, GovScan searches more than 5,000 city, town, county, and state government websites within all 50 United States. Now doesn't that just make you wonder what the other 253 pages contain?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Use LinkedIn to Build Relationships

Several readers have asked about social networking. What is it? How does it work? How can I use it?

This is the second in a series of articles on using social media.

kedIn, according to their website, "operates the world's largest professional network on the Internet with more than 100 million members" worldwide. Members include executives from all 2010 Fortune 500 companies and over one million LinkedIn Company Pages.

Individuals can leverage this network in at least three ways to identify prospects for collaboration or joint ventures, as well as likely clients and customers. Use Connections, Groups, and Answers. Using LinkedIn you can build a network of connections that expands "who you know." Remember the old saying "it's not what you know it's who you know"? With LinkedIn you can keep track of who you know, but also become aware of who "they" know. When you need a letter of introduction, a reference, or access to expertise, rely on your connections to put you in touch with the right people.

Join Groups. By joining groups you are immediately in the company of people having similar interests or expertise. Join groups that represent the people you would like to work with, the people you would like to work with you, or the people who know what you need to know. Joining a group expands your network. Visit the Groups Directory to browse or search for groups of interest. If that's overwhelming, click on Groups You May Like to view a filtered list.

LinkedIn Answers provides an interesting opportunity to demonstrate your expertise by answering questions, to seek advice by asking questions, or to identify experts who have answered someone else's questions. Remember, it's all about building a reputation and credibility which leads to trust. LinkedIn will generate a list of questions that have come from your network. That's a great place to begin answering questions as appropriate.

Leap in. Begin by inviting me to connect.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Get Up to Speed on Social Networking

Several readers have asked about social networking. What is it? How does it work? How can I use it for marketing?

Here we offer several resources that will introduce some of the social networking tools and begin to touch on how to use them, starting with some definitions.

Social Media - For purposes of discussion we will think of social media as Internet sites. These sites facilitate information sharing through various types of interactions. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are examples of very popular social media sites.

Social Networking - Social networking is interaction made possible by social media sites.

Social Media Marketing - I like the way SearchEngineLand describes it as the "process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites."

For an entertaining, rather ingenious explanation of Social Media in Plain English, watch this video about Scoopville.

In future postings we'll take a look at strategies for using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for social networking and social media marketing.

In the meantime, if you're wondering whether all of this social media stuff deserves so much attention, watch Social Media Revolution 2, dated May 5, 2010. This four and a half minute video provides statistics that are hard to ignore. For instance, Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year. Take a look, and let me know if you think social media is a fad.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Info Pro Culture

What defines the culture of the info pro?

Sharing? Sure. Info pros happily offer high levels of service to clients and customers needing guidance in finding and using information.

Learning? Definitely. Info pros generally learn something new every day while going about the business.

Embracing change? Not so much. Info pros have a reputation for liking things just the way they are, thank you very much.

How does our culture work for or against us? The culture of sharing makes us good at delivering valuable information, providing useful training to our constituencies, and mentoring new info pros. At the same time, the propensity to "give it away" makes it hard to monitor return on investment or charge sustainable rates for our services.

The willingness to learn helps us improve our skills and fosters the curiosity we need to help our clients and customers. Could learning ever work against us? I can't see how, but maybe you can.

The tendency to resist change has proven useful to info pros over time, as we carefully and systemically develop the cataloging and classification systems that make information findable. By the same token, we may have missed opportunities to better connect with users by holding on to the "we've always done it this way" approach.

What else defines the culture of the info pro?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Professional Development - Face to Face

What do you do for professional development? How do you stay current in the industry and keep your creative juices flowing?

Consider the options - podcasts, blog postings, online videos, and electronic newsletters represent some easy, at your desk options. What about face to face, you ask? Good question. How often do you get out of your office and rub elbows with colleagues from outside your organization?

Effective and essential professional development cannot happen without the occasional live, real time, face to face interaction. We're coming into the conference season for info pros. The Association of Independent Information Professionals met last month. The Medical Library Association meets later this month. Specialized librarians in SLA will meet next month, and the American Library Association meets in July, just to name a few.

AIIP drew over 100 attendees while ALA will draw over 25,000. What's the attraction?

First and foremost, humans are gregarious. We like to gather with people who understand who we are and what we do. It is refreshing to interact with colleagues who "get it", to share experiences, and even to commiserate.

Second, we learn from each other. We pick up ideas, solutions, strategies, and alternatives to take home to our own work environment. These learnings satisfy a professional need to know and make us even more valuable to our organizations.

Most importantly, however, is the "cross fertilization" that happens in a face to face environment. Here we encounter ideas, issues, and concerns that we may not have sought out. Unlike the RSS feeds and newsletter subscriptions that we opt in to, conferences foster serendipity and the friction of dialog that often sparks new ways of thinking. One does not have to cross the country to attend a large gathering like ALA. While I strongly recommend one such excursion every year or so, most communities have a local info pros group of some kind. Join. Attend. Participate. Cross fertilize. Learn. You and the profession will be better for it.

Professional development thrives in a face to face environment. In fact, without conference gatherings, withering on the vine is inevitable. Don't you agree?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Attention Info Entrepreneurs - The Tribe is Gathering

If you provide information services as a contractor, freelancer, or business owner, it's time to pack your bags and head to the 24th Annual Conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

This year the gathering takes place in Cleveland Ohio, April 29 - May 2. The conference offers professional development, networking, and social opportunities especially tailored for the independent information professional.

One of the many program highlights is the Roger K. Summit Award Lecture. This year's award recipient is Peter Shankman, Founder of Help a Reportert Out, HARO. HARO serves journalists on deadline, offering more than 100,000 sources around the world to be quoted by media.
Invest in your business. Invest in yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Social Media Searching for Competitive Intelligence

Real-time sources contain useful information about your competitors' organization and products. These sources also contain information about your organization and products. Trust me on this. It's not just about who just had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

Consider developing new services and products for your clients for competitive intelligence, brand management, and reputation monitoring.

Here are some tools.

Addictomatic is a federated search engine that pulls results from live sites such as Google Blogs, Wordpress, Technorati, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and much more.

OneRiot crawls the links people share on Twitter, Digg, and other social sharing services.

CrowdEye searches Twitter and compiles a bar chart of tweet volume over the last three days with a word cloud of keywords.

Backtype is the only free tool I know that searches blog comments.

There are also fee based products such as Radian6 and Attaain that offer powerful features to research, analyze, engage, and tract activity on real-time sites. Consider starting out with some of the free offerings mentioned here and dazzle your clients with the information you can deliver.