If you need to gather a lot of data very quickly and only have a few dollars to spend, check out MechanicalTurk. You can hire an army in a matter of minutes to find out almost anything you need to know.
What is MechanicalTurk?
MechanicalTurk is an Amazon service that lets you pay people tiny amounts of money to do very simple things. Correctly used, MechanicalTurk is like the world’s smartest and easiest to program computer. You can divide up a complex job into a series of very simple steps and use the people on MechanicalTurk to execute those steps with more intelligence than would be easy to program into an application. One great application for this very versatile service is information gathering.
Every business owner and marketing executive is familiar with the tedious process of collecting data about the market their products and services are sold in. Identifying competitors, analyzing their offerings and figuring out their pricing is something a company has to do to ensure its own products and services aren’t priced out of the market based on the advantages they offer. Finding contact information for decision makers at companies you want to work with, collecting contact information for resellers you want to sell to, learning where to find suppliers you want to work with are all tasks that take far too long. In a perfect world you’d have a bright assistant you could assign these kinds of jobs to, but assistants can’t always be kept fully occupied, they don’t work twenty-four hours a day and they have to be paid a living wage.
You can use MechanicalTurk to do these jobs instead:
- Go to Google Docs and create a form with fields for the information you want to collect. Name, Address, Telephone Number, Website, Email Address, Product Description, Price, etc. Google docs will give you a URL you can give to anyone who wants to enter data in the form.
- Go to MechanicalTurk and set up a Requester account. Create a “Hit”, which is to say a job, by describing, very specifically, the information you need, how you want it collected and whom you want to collect it from.
- Set a price for each lead, or group of leads, collected. Generally speaking you may find you get better results if you set a high price and collect several entries (ten for example) from the same worker. You may decide to pay as little as a dime for each piece of data submitted or as much as a couple of dollars. It is rare for a job to pay more than $5, but such jobs do get done very quickly.
- Fund your MechanicalTurk payment account and wait for the data to roll in. You’ll be prompted to review and pay workers periodically. If you don’t reject work from someone MechanicalTurk will eventually just pay them.
This process for gathering data quickly from all over the Internet takes just a few hours to setup and you’ll be surprised how quickly and cost effectively you can collect any information you need to know.
If MechanicalTurk has a shortcoming it is that having a lot of workers undertaking a task leads to some duplication of effort. This is to be expected and the price of the work is so low that usually it’s not a problem to pay workers for duplicate data. After all, they are in no position to know what information others have gathered.
What are you waiting for?
If you’ve never heard of MechanicalTurk, now is a great time to go check out the service. You will find that it vastly accelerates the rate at which you can gather, verify and use data and that it increases the time you have to spend doing the things only you can do. You might well come to consider Mechanical Turk your “secret weapon” because it can deliver such a wide range of services and resources so quickly.