Blogs are a great source of information, but they can also be a great source of misinformation. Bloggers have a responsibility to their readers to provide accurate information, and that certainly includes bloggers in the marketing space. Publishing incorrect “facts” and shaky assertions can cost readers a good deal of money if they implement faulty marketing campaigns based on that information. Here are a few ideas for properly researching blog posts.
- Don’t go for sensationalism. Coming up with a fantastic title or shocking idea may attract a lot of readers, but if the underlying ideas are based on poor data (or none at all), you’re not really helping readers — potentially, you’re harming them. In the long run, reliable information is what attracts and maintains loyal blog readership.
- Don’t draw sweeping conclusions from small samplings. Every now and then you’ll see a blog post that reports an unexpected conclusion, only to learn that it is based on a survey of, say, 10 customers. A sampling of 10 does not a conclusion make. Much more reliable is a survey of 100 or 1,000, or a survey of 10 that is repeated 10 times or 100 times with the same result. If you come across a survey in your research that doesn’t state its sample size, then it’s wise to assume it’s a small sampling or flawed in some other way.
- Verify data with at least two sources. When I’m doing research, I’m amazed by how often two seemingly reputable websites publish contradictory or inconsistent data on points you’d expect to be cut-and-dried, such as the date of a particular event, the production cost of a particular ad or the average monthly traffic of a particular website. Dig deep. Cross-check data and make sure you understand how each source came up with its data. This process takes time, but it helps explain differences in the numbers or exposes flaws in a reported number. When you go the extra mile in this way, you are doing a real service for your readers, by helping them avoid making a mistake and giving them a better understanding of an issue. If you must report data of which you’re not sure, let the reader know.
- Don’t be afraid to report data that doesn’t support your conclusion. Full disclosure is a hallmark of successful bloggers. Readers trust bloggers who present multiple sides of an issue, rather than stacking the deck with only the facts that support their case. In marketing, very few ideas are universally applicable anyway, so there’s no harm in letting readers know your suggested approach is not the only approach that works. By presenting a wide range of data, you build trust with readers because they know you’re trying to inform as well as persuade. Informing without persuading is not practical for business bloggers, but persuading without properly informing is counterproductive in the long run.
Once in a while, you’ll change your point of view or conclusion as a result of your research. That’s healthy! If a deeper look at the facts helps you form a more accurate perception, just think of how much your readers will benefit. Never be afraid to admit a mistake or a change of mind.