Finally, take notice if registered users are writing these postings or if they are posted by guest users This isnt to say a fired employee or aggressive marketing person wouldnt go so far as to register under a fake name, but it is less likely.
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2. Blogs. There has been a lot of stink recently about how some bloggers have had their opinions about Microsoft products subtly influenced by some savvy marketing folks at Microsoft. This is because targeted influential bloggers received a free laptop with no strings attached. While many of these bloggers disclosed this, others did not, causing a few of the non-disclosing bloggers to be outted. Whether this type of marketing ploy actually results in positive reviews is up for debate.
The key issue here is that these bloggers are for the most part independent, thus you must consider if they are required to follow a code of conduct. You can Google the bloggers name to see if they have been called out on product reviews in the past, but once again, be careful not to give too much credence to a single posting. In a somewhat ironic twist, the bloggers online reputation can impact the products online reputation.
This can really make your head spin. For example, if Blogger X says that Product Y is the cats pajamas, yet Blogger Z says that Blogger X was bought off by Company that made Product Y well you get the picture. Id suggest you give more credence to a blogger you like and read regularly than to one that you stumble upon in a search.
3. Analyst Reviews. Have you ever read an overtly negative review from a big time research firm? Probably not. This is because these analysts usually write reviews about product firms who are clients. Not always the case, but especially for the smaller vendors, it helps to pay to play. The research firms spend a lot of time trying to debunk this, but many of us who have worked in the space know it to be a fact. These reports are at least well thought out and for the most part written by experienced analysts. However, dont assume any analyst is truly independent. And of course, a likely downside is that you have to pay for these opinions.