How do customers really feel about your brand and company? What about your competitors? Or the latest trend? Companies can leverage sentiment analysis tools to answer these questions and better understand how audiences feel about any topic.
What is Sentiment Analysis? Don’t be fooled by it’s official-sounding name; sentiment analysis is a very fundamental, and very old principle. All brands and companies need to understand how their audience feels about certain topics. Like what motivates consumers to buy Beats headphones instead of Bose? This is where sentiment analysis is instrumental.
In the past, when brands wanted to understand how consumers felt about something, they had to pay big money for market research firms to run focus groups and administer surveys. Today, sentiment analysis tools allows brands to answer these questions much more quickly and easily than in the past.
On the most basic level, sentiment analysis, or “opinion mining,” strives to answer the questions “what do people think?” or “how do people feel?” about a particular topic. To get more technical, sentiment analysis is the measurement of positive language and negative language.
“Sentiment analysis is the measurement of positive language and negative language”
While there have been studies about what people think and feel for decades, the term “sentiment analysis” was coined by researchers Bo Pang and Lillian Lee. Their work focused on the exponential growth of internet, and its potential as a source of data to analyze how people feel about anything.
The most accurate way to measure sentiment is to have a human determine the sentiment manually. But new technology allows us to apply sentiment analysis to text-based conversations on a large scale, quickly and accurately.
Positive, Negative, Neutral and Beyond
The simplest sentiment breakdown would categorize posts as positive, negative, or neutral. This type of analysis is useful for looking at the big picture of consumer feelings on a topic, but obviously, misses some of the nuance of human emotion. The next level of sentiment analysis categorizes posts based on specific emotions. But which emotions?
Some of the most agreed upon “universal emotions” were determined by psychologist Paul Ekman in the 1960s. Ekman’s six basic emotions are: Anger, Fear, Disgust, Joy, Surprise, and Sadness. Using these emotions gives sentiment analysis a deeper context for understanding the consumer feelings about a topic. It’s one thing to know that an advertising campaign was negatively received, but knowing that it made people angry instead of sad or disgusted can help you develop a plan to bounce back faster.
Use Cases for Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment and emotion add important context to social media analysis. Often, simple measurements of conversations provide the “what” without the “why.” What really matters is why more people are talking about your brand or your competitor. Sentiment analysis provides a window into consumer feelings about any topic, brand, or product:
- Identify a potential crisis: Without looking at sentiment, simply measuring your volume of brand mentions could be misleading. You might assume an increase in mentions is a positive sign that more people are talking about your brand. All press is good press, right? But what if all those mentions were negative?
- Evaluate overall brand health: There could be examples of one-off event that had a large impact on audience sentiment, but how did it fit into the company’s overall relationship with its audience? That’s where overall brand health comes in. There are a lot of metrics to look at when measuring your brand health, but sentiment is key. Establishing a baseline for how people feel about your brand and products is essential to tracking the performance of your brand over time.
- Track the reaction to new products or branding: Knowing how people feel about your new products or new branding is important.
- Compare yourself to your competition: Understanding how consumers feel about your own brand is only part of the story. How does consumer sentiment toward your brand compare with your top competitors? Identifying a brand crisis of a competitor can signal an opportunity for your brand. Knowing what consumers like or dislike about your competitors can help with positioning your brand for success.
- Market analysis: Beyond analyzing your own brand and your competitors, there are plenty of ways to use sentiment analysis for broader market research