We sometimes talk about how social media metrics don’t always tell you the full story. Too often, they tell you the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’ or ‘how.’

Basically, they can lack context.

One metric where that doesn’t apply is sentiment. Sentiment is kind of like a metric that adds context to other metrics.

It’s important to get as much context as possible around online mentions, especially. Yeah, it’s important to know how much people are talking about your brand, but you also need to know how they’re talking about you.

Is it glowing praise?

Bashing rants?

Utter indifference?

A mention from each of those categories of sentiment mean very different things for your brand. A glowing mention is a reputation management win, where a rant may be a customer service issue, and indifference probably won’t be high on any team’s radar.

Most brands lust after big jumps in social media buzz. But it’s a much different story if those mentions are negative. And how can you tell the difference? Sentiment analysis.

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About social media sentiment analysis

Sentiment is pretty simple to understand. It’s just a feeling or emotion, an attitude or opinion. On social media, the sentiment of a post can be seen in the tone or emotion conveyed in a brand mention.

Some social media management tools offer algorithms or filters to make it easy to gauge sentiment. In social listening tools, sentiment analysis features will measure and report on the tone or sentiment of your social mentions.

Most tools group different sentiments or feelings into positive, negative, or neutral categories. For example, in Mention we use those 3 categories, and assign a color coded smiley to each mention to denote sentiment.

Use Mention's sentiment analysis tools

How to use social media sentiment analysis

So, how does having sentiment analysis in your social listening tool help you? It goes beyond seeing context in your weekly reports.

1. Prioritize your social media engagement

When you log in to check on social media every day, you want to make sure you’re dealing with the most important mentions first. You always hope there are no fires to put out, but you need to be prepared and timely if there are.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re responding to any unhappy customers as quickly as possible.

So wouldn’t it be great if you could see all negative mentions first? Placate any unhappy customers before they become more unhappy? Surely that’s more important than thanking people for including you in their #FF, right?

In lots of social listening tools, you can filter your unread or new mentions by sentiment. Filter out the lower priority items and focus on things that needed to be dealt with first. For example, in Mention, you can set the filter at the top of your unread mentions stream for any alert.

Mention comes with sentiment analysis tools included

This will come in handy when you need to:

It’s not only handy for new mentions, either. Any time you need to find and browse mentions, sorting by sentiment can help you drill down to what you’re looking for.

For example, say your product team is making improvements to a certain feature. You could search for that feature’s name in your feed, and look at negative mentions about it to see what customers don’t like about it.

2. Measure your brand’s reputation

So that’s how you see the sentiment for each individual mention, but what about aggregate info?

You can also collect data on sentiment trends and patterns and use it to get a better picture of your brand’s reputation.

Reports on social media sentiment can help you see how positively or negatively your brand is perceived on social media, based on the tone of mentions.

mention sentiment analysisCreate custom reports with Mention’s Insights Center

You can look out for changes in average sentiment to signal shifts in perception – if the general conversation around your brand is changing. Watch for different trends and patterns in sentiment, as well as how it correlates to other social media metrics.

Another way to use sentiment reporting is to see the response to certain campaigns, launches, or events. Then, again you can tie that to the bigger picture to add context to your social media mentions.

For example, you may be able to attribute a jump in negative sentiment to your website going down a few days ago. Or you can check the aggregate data a week after a new product launch to see how the product’s being talked about.

(In Mention, check the listening dashboard to view sentiment data.)

3. Assist with potential crises

You always hope your brand never experiences a social media crisis, but need to be prepared to deal with one anyway.

There are lots of ways social listening helps you be on the lookout for a possible crisis. Sentiment analysis is just one of them.

Working with whoever handles your company’s PR or corporate communications can make it easy to spot a sticky situation before it turns into a full-blown crisis.

And if a crisis does hit, being able to measure and filter things by sentiment makes it easier to manage communications and get things sailing smoothly again.

For example, I’m sure you’ve seen some of the buzz Chipotle’s been getting. It’s probably meant a huge jump in mentions for their social media team. But it hasn’t been great:

social media

Using social media sentiment analysis during this PR crisis can help their team monitor how the E. coli outbreak has impacted their overall brand reputation, who’s talking negatively about the brand, and what they’re saying.

Having all that information would help react quickly and put a longer term plan in place for dealing with the situation (which they’ve done).

4. Perform competitive research

You know how much we love competitive analysis and research. And sentiment analysis is useful for that, too.

Creating alerts to monitor your competitors allows you to measure sentiment for them the same way you would measure it for your own brand’s mentions.

Use sentiment analysis to measure and report on how your competitors are talked about on social media. Keep an eye out for positive mentions to look for inspiration, and negative mentions for community building or lead generation opportunities.

Just like with your own brand, you can also monitor how certain campaigns, announcements, and events impact their overall reputation.

And when the conversation’s not about you, you can still jump in when the time is right. For example, you can turn a competitor’s detractor into your next customer:

sentiment analysis

If you only reply to tweets where it makes sense to join the conversation, and are careful not to be too pushy, it’s a great real-time way to engage with the community in your industry.

5. Add context to share of voice

Share of voice is another great way to benchmark yourself against competitors. But once again, metrics like that don’t always give you the full picture.

For example, let’s say you start celebrating because you have the majority share of voice for your industry. But then you find out most of the conversation is actually negative.

Still feel like celebrating?

You don’t want the majority share of voice if most of the talk is negative.

So when you’re looking at share of voice during your social media competitive analysis, make sure you’re also looking at sentiment over time:

social media sentiment analysis

It will add more context to your share of voice metric, and compare and contrast the sentiment of different competitors’ social mentions. You’ll be able to report on how the market views your brand in comparison to your competitors in response to different campaigns and events.

It’s all about context

At the end of the day, sentiment analysis is about making it easier to view context around a social media mention.

Other metrics may tell you what people are talking about, but sentiment shows you the gist of what they’re saying.

Do you look at social sentiment in your listening? Share how it helps you in the comments.

Learn how to use listening to increase engagement on social media:

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Brittany Berger is a content marketer helping B2B companies and entrepreneurs create unicorn content that shows personality and demands attention. Connect with her on Twitter at @thatbberg.

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