What Is Social Sentiment and Why Is It Important?

How to understand, measure, and use social sentiment

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Marketing on social media can be a daunting task. Your business needs to produce excellent content, interact with customers, and keep up with the conversation about your brand and your industry, all while quickly mastering each new digital platform.

Like any marketing platform, using social media effectively requires tracking and analyzing the right metrics. One of these measurements is social sentiment.

What Is Social Sentiment?

Social sentiment, sometimes known as brand sentiment, is a way of measuring the emotions behind social media and other online mentions. Social sentiment can be:

  • Positive: consumers are enthusiastic, happy, or excited.
  • Negative: consumers are angry, annoyed, or frustrated.
  • Neutral: consumers seem satisfied but don't express any particular feelings.

Why Social Sentiment Is Important

Social sentiment doesn't just look at how many people are talking about your business. It adds context by measuring the tone of those conversations, comments, and mentions.

Without sentiment, data can be misleading. If your company receives a large number of mentions on social media while launching a new product, you might assume the launch has been successful. However, if the majority of posts are negative, then the opposite is true.

The presence of negative sentiment doesn't, however, mean that a product or brand is a failure. The ratio of positive to negative is also important. Not every consumer will love your business. Even those who are loyal customers will sometimes discover products they don't like or have a negative experience.

As long as the majority of customers have neutral to positive feelings toward your company, your overall social sentiment will be positive.

How to Measure Social Sentiment

Like any other marketing metric, you can't use the information that social sentiment provides without first measuring and analyzing it.

Depending on the size of your company, and the number of social media posts it has, measuring sentiment can be a huge undertaking. A comprehensive review might include reading through each and every post and assigning a numerical score based on the tone of each post.

For businesses without the time and staff for a comprehensive review, there are a number of free or inexpensive tools available to measure and track sentiment. Most social media platforms provide some sentiment analysis, as do many third-party social media applications. Tools like BuzzSumo, Google Alerts, PeopleBrowsr, Rapidminer, and HootSuite all provide similar services.

These tools identify sentiment based on descriptive words that customers or followers use in reference to your brand. "Great bargains at Your Business" would be identified as having a positive sentiment, whereas "Awful customer service at Your Business" would register as negative. "Bought this sweater at Your Business" would be considered neutral.

Social Sentiment Versus Semantic Analysis

While social sentiment and semantic analysis are similar, there are some key differences.

Semantic analysis is the study of the meaning of language and how language is understood. For example, when someone says the word “banana,” do they mean a specific brand of banana, or are they just speaking generally? Semantic analysis is similar to keyword analysis; it can also be thought of as topic analysis.

You can use semantic analysis to extract information from large amounts of text or to analyze foreign words and regional colloquialisms. This is especially useful if your brand generates large amounts of discussion online or if your products are marketed in different regions and countries. When combined with social sentiment tools, semantic analysis can give a more complete picture of how customers view your brand.

Four Ways You Can Use Social Sentiment 

Evaluating Your Brand's Health: Measuring your brand's sentiment provides a snapshot of how customers feel about your company, product, or service at that point in time. For regular analysis, you can use an automatic sentiment analysis tool to obtain a simple overview of your brand's health without analyzing each post. For big launches or other major brand events, dig a little deeper to make sure your marketing efforts are received positively.

Dealing With a Crisis: Social sentiment can indicate dramatic shifts in your brand's health. A spike in negative posts about your brand might indicate a developing crisis that needs to be addressed quickly. Your public relations department can use your brand's sentiment tools to find the root of the problem and develop a plan to counter the negativity. 

Researching the Competition: Doing a comparison of different brands' sentiment can show how your product or brand is perceived compared to your competitors. Once you understand your competitors' respective sentiments, you can strategize ways to improve the conversation about your brand or appeal more successfully to your target market.

Moving Your Marketing Forward: Social sentiment is a powerful tool for understanding the relationship between your brand, your customers, and your competitors. If you measure it regularly and act on what you learn, your team can create new marketing strategies for keeping up with the ever-changing needs and opinions of your customers.