Like_Sean MacEntee_420

Like or Dislike?: Five Tips for Analyzing Social Media Sentiment

Photo by Sean MacEntee via flickr


As companies prepare to implement their new social media strategies for 2011, there’s an important metric that shouldn’t be overlooked. In addition to conversation volume, share of voice, level of engagement and monthly trends, is social media sentiment a part of your monitoring process? If not, this may be an important factor missing from your listening routine.

Included in one of the three areas in which Ogilvy 360° Digital Influence categorizes metrics as part of its Conversation Impact measurement model, sentiment can be one of the most valuable aspects of social media. Facebook, Twitter and blogs give anyone the power to dash off their opinions to friends, followers or readers; but more importantly, these comments leave a traceable mark online. If it’s posted on a public profile or page, companies have the ability to access these remarks and gain insight into how people feel about their brands and products. During a new product launch, brand transformation or a crisis, this kind of knowledge on consumer sentiment is essential.

There are several listening tools that offer the feature of sentiment analysis. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

    • Be aware of accuracy: When pulling percentages of positive and negative mentions, the accuracy of different monitoring tools varies substantially. Human emotion can be difficult to read correctly by a computer program and may be thrown off by sarcasm or slang. Some tools are built to rank sentiment mathematically after being trained by the user. While these are capable of providing very accurate data, they will also come with a higher price tag. Simpler tools may not provide reliable statistics unless a user manually categorizes posts, but they can help to quickly (and more affordably) identify strong positive or negative verbatim about a brand. Examine your budget and priorities to determine what will best fit your brand’s needs.

  • Think long-term: Statistics on sentiment about a topic will usually provide more insight over an extended period of time. Make the investment to track sentiment historically by purchasing archived data or committing to analyzing it on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis and comparing the results over time.



  • Dig into the conversation: While numbers and percentages are important to gauge people’s responses to a brand, campaign or product, they’re not the only important factor. Make sure to spend time digging deeper into the results and examining what people are really saying, especially negatively. It’s important to understand not just the volume but also what specifically people are praising or criticizing online.



  • Listening tools won’t cover everything: Each listening tool will offer different functionalities. Ones that do provide highly accurate sentiment data may not allow the same level of ease in pulling and exporting search results as others. In addition, mentions on LinkedIn are not accessible by listening tools as of now. LinkedIn is an important platform to monitor, especially for professional organizations, and requires manual analysis to get a sense of the conversation.



  • Determine the actionable value: The larger meaning of sentiment analysis will be different for every brand. Organizations will need to determine what importance the information holds for them and how they will act upon it. Will pulling sentiment results on a frequent basis help your company efficiently respond to customer complaints online? Or will it help inform changes in a product line or campaign strategy?


Have a goal in mind and a plan prepared for how tracking sentiment will help your company improve. What value have you seen in analyzing sentiment?