The Internet has become an unparallelled tool for research - able to answer most questions a user could seek to ask. And when potential franchisees begin to mulling over a franchise opportunity, it's usually the first place they look for information.

Franchise rankings, reviews and articles are abundant, but can oftentimes overwhelm interested individuals. Being able to parse through sites and gain perspective on a particular franchise is key to finding the best matched business.

According to AllBusiness.com, there are several tips that potential franchisees can employ to use the Internet carefully to get past the hype and learn the basics facts of a business.

The Web site recommends that first-time franchisees read a number of franchise lists and rankings. These lists are a good starting point thanks to the amount of research and thought that goes into them.

Of course, people shouldn't trust everything they read on the Internet. A certain level of cautiousness should be applied when reading any article or information. The Internet is an "unregulated environment," with information that can be "tainted, biased and flat-out wrong," All Business warns. Potential franchisees should make sure they are getting objective opinions, rather than trusting a publication that may be trying to sell them something.

To that end, it is best to trust well-known, reputable sites whose success is dependent on providing honest, reliable information. Official company Web sites, while being inherently biased, are held to government standards and regulations and thus know that any misleading statements or facts could lead to potential lawsuits.

Opinion boards like Unhappyfranchisee.com and Bluemaumau.org should be taken with a grain of salt. However, All Business does advise that this information can be used to craft questions to investigate and ask the franchisor.

Franchisees should also use the expanding resources that social media offer. Web sites such as Facebook offers investors a unique tool to reach out to current franchisees, as well as see what the community is saying about a company.

While the Internet is an invaluable resource to gain insight and knowledge into a company's business practices and general philosophy, potential franchisees should make sure the Internet is only one method of research. Interviewing existing franchisees face-to-face is great way to get straightforward opinions about the benefits and challenges of working with a specific company.

The Liberty Tax Service franchise opportunity is #9 on the fastest growing franchises list of the 2010 Entrepreneur “Franchise 500.” Our tax franchise is an affordable and viable business choice. Each office provides thorough, computerized tax preparation coupled with superior customer service. For the best small business opportunity in the income tax franchise industry, choose Liberty!