Public opinion has always played a role in the success or failure of products and services. Before social media, opinions took a little longer to reach critical mass as the messages about a particular brand or company took longer to circulate — generally moving via word-of-mouth. Now, anyone can share their opinion about a brand instantly and to varying audience sizes.
Understanding how instantaneous public opinion can affect your brand’s reputation, and what to do about it, starts with knowing how to track and measure it using something called sentiment analysis.
What Is Sentiment Analysis?
According to Wikipedia: Sentiment analysis (also known as opinion mining) refers to the use of natural language processing, text analysis and computational linguistics to identify and extract subjective information in source materials. In simpler terms, sentiment analysis aims to determine the attitude of a speaker or a writer with respect to some topic.
Sentiment analysis is a way to scan a large number of conversations to determine the underlying emotion that is present.
Are the people who are Tweeting about your brand happy? Or, are they upset about a recent change you made? Are the reviews that have been posted online or to blogs favourable or are they damaging? If the online sentiment toward your brand is positive, you can continue on the path you’re on but if it’s negative, you may want to consider heading in a different direction.
Before you can take action, however, you need to know how to measure your brand’s sentiment online.
How to Track Sentiment Online
A quick search in Google produces over 13.6 million articles on the subject. If you worked for Bungie / Activision, the video game creators, and were tasked with sifting through this many results to determine audience sentiment, it would take a painstakingly long time.
Even social media presents a problem for brands looking for a quick way to measure how much they are liked online. Companies are realizing that they can’t rely solely on “vanity metrics” any longer.
Vanity metrics include things like follower count, the number of re-tweets a piece of content has received, the number of likes a post has or even the reach your online material has achieved. For example, this expansion pack share from Destiny on Facebook, five hours prior to this screencap, shows that over 14,000 people have liked the post and nearly 1,700 people have shared it. On the surface, this looks successful but the real story lies in the undercurrents.
Brands need to learn how to dig a little deeper than surface level and the best way to do that is to listen.
Harnessing the power of a “listening tool” allows you to measure the sentiment of your audience in real-time and across multiple reference points.
Whether it’s a blog, a Tweet, a Facebook post or any other content-sharing platform, these tools will suck up the data and spit out a beautiful graph that will allow you to get a better sense for what the public is saying about your brand and whether or not the sentiment is positive or negative.
Tracking the Conversation with Meltwater
Meltwater, one of the tools that can help you tune in to what’s being said about your brand online, ran a search to determine the sentiment around the two week period leading up to the launch of House of Wolves. Working with Riana and Michael, from the Meltwater team (thank you!), we were able to look at the sentiment surrounding the launch in a variety of ways.
First, sentiment by day on social. The green bars represent the positive mentions and the red bars represent negative mentions. As you can see, there was a fluctuating opinion over the course of time but today, launch day, it’s been much more positive than negative.
Next, sentiment by day on news outlets. There appears to be much less negativity on news outlets about Destiny and House of Wolves than on social. This is fairly common as most (not all) news outlets report their findings without emotion. Due to this, they are more likely to receive neutral or positive ratings as the criticism is often harder to pick up on.
Now, the overall sentiment score. This graph shows the sentiment per day for Destiny in traditional and social media as calculated by Meltwater’s proprietary algorithm. You’ll see from this graph that the social sentiment around the launch has been consistently less favorable than the sentiment amongst traditional media outlets.
For fun, Meltwater also sent me the trending themes on both social (the first word cluster) and news outlets (the second). It’s interesting to see how the two differ – social tends to be much more casual whereas the news outlets tend to weave in terms like NASDAQ, shares, revenue, etc. The second is much more focused on the business of gaming whereas the first is very consumer-oriented.
If you spent some time looking at the two weeks leading up to the launch of House of Wolves, you’d likely be able to plot major news releases or game announcements against the sentiment charts. Perhaps a really strong, favourable article came out on a day when public opinion was high or alternatively, some release note for the game may have sparked a bit of gamer outrage causing a more negatively-driven day.
This data is incredibly useful when measuring the emotional effectiveness your marketing activities have on your consumers.
Once you’ve spent some time reviewing the data and you have a good handle on how people feel about your brand, you’ll want to take that information and do something with it.
Leveraging the Results of Sentiment Analysis
Using the release of Destiny’s House of Wolves as our example, there is a good chance that Bungie and Activision will be paying close attention to what is being said about the DLC over the coming weeks and months. In fact, their team may be using a tool like Meltwater to track these reports in real-time.
Short-term, their strategy for listening may be to thwart potential disasters, open up a line of communication to unhappy fans and to create opportunities to build relationships, connect with the audience and turn disgruntled naysayers into promoters and advocates.
Long-term, the listening strategy will likely become more about data collection and analysis. The focus here will be: “What can we improve upon for the future? How can we give our loudest voices what they want? What did we miss this time that we don’t want to miss next time?”
Both of these listening strategies, when applied to your own brand in your own way, will allow you to improve upon your brand in a way that your audience is anticipating. Arriving at a place where your customers feel seen, heard and validated is a fantastic achievement for any company and it truly will set you apart from your competition.
In a future post, we’ll explore each of the listening strategies in-depth and look at specific things you can do to engage with your audience at all levels. We’ll also dig a little deeper into the data and look at how to read it and pull out what truly matters.
In the meantime, please post any questions you may have as a comment and weigh in — are you using sentiment analysis for your own brand? If so, how? If not, is it something you’ll consider after reading this post?