Imagine your business just released a product and everyone is talking about it on social media.

There are thousands of Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and tweets. There is seemingly no end to the chatter. But is it positive or negative?

You need more context.

Enter: Social media sentiment.

Social media sentiment is the attitude and feelings people have about your brand on social media. It adds context to all the @-mentions, comments, and shares.

To figure out where you stand on the positive/negative spectrum, you need to analyze these conversions.

Bonus: Get a free social media sentiment report template to easily track audience sentiment over time.

What is a social media sentiment analysis?

A social media sentiment analysis tells you how people feel about your brand online. Rather than a simple count of mentions or comments, sentiment analysis considers emotions and opinions. It involves collecting and analyzing information in the posts people share about your brand on social media.

Measuring social sentiment is an important part of any social media monitoring plan.

Why is social sentiment analysis important?

A simple tally of your social mentions only tells you how much people are talking about your brand online. But what are they saying? Social media sentiment analysis helps you answer this question.

After all, a high number of mentions might look great at first glance. But if it’s a storm of negative posts, it might not be so great after all. For example, Peloton saw a large spike in mentions after it launched its holiday ad at the end of 2019. But the sentiment expressed in those mentions expressed some pretty negative opinions.

Social media sentiment analysis is sometimes called “opinion mining.” That’s because it’s all about digging into the words and context of social posts to understand the opinions they reveal.

Here’s why your brand needs to track social sentiment.

1. Understand your audience

Marketers do their best work when they understand their audience. That means you need to understand how your audience feels about your brand, your social posts, and your campaigns, not just how much they mention you.

Back in the Mad Men era, marketers brought in focus groups to understand how people might respond to a new advertising campaign or slogan. Now, you just need to pay attention to what they’re saying on social media.

“We’ve used social listening in the past two months to report all the way to top management, to our CEO.” That’s what the Engagement Director for Absolut, Malibu, and Kahlúa told eMarketer. “We are showcasing that we can provide meaningful insights faster than traditional insight campaigns or surveys would do,” Simon de Beauregard said.

Ongoing social media sentiment analysis can alert you quickly when customer preferences and desires change.

The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic found that as COVID-19 became a world crisis in March, 57 percent of people wanted brands to stop marketing that was “humorous or too lighthearted in tone.”

Social sentiment analysis tools can help ensure you are on top of changes in what your audience expects from your brand.

2. Improve customer service

Monitoring sentiment provides major benefits for customer service and support.

First, it can alert your service and support teams to any new issues they should be aware of. Then, your company can prepare a proper response, strategy, or script. You may even learn about issues with a particular product run or product.

Second, monitoring for social mentions with negative sentiment allows your team to reach out to people who may be having a challenging experience with your brand. A simple response or follow-up can often go a long way to resolve a customer complaint.

3. Tweak brand messaging and product development

As you monitor social sentiment over time, you will start to understand how your messaging can influence the way your followers feel about you.

By following trends and investigating spikes in positive or negative sentiment, you can learn more about what your audience really wants. This can give you a clearer idea of what kind of messaging you should post on each social network.

You may even gain insights that can impact your overall brand strategy and product development. Or help you understand how moves you’ve made offline are resonating in the social sphere.

For example, look at Translink, the company that runs transit services in Metro Vancouver. They launched a campaign featuring Seth Rogan making etiquette announcements on the SkyTrain. They involved social media followers by asking which topics Seth should tackle next:

Over the course of the campaign, Translink’s social sentiment increased 5 percent. And much of that improved sentiment came from social media users reporting improved transit rider behavior in real life.

However, when Toronto’s TTC created similar announcements featuring Rogan, the reaction was not great.

Monitoring sentiment helps you understand how your fans and customers feel. How can you incorporate that into your larger strategy?

Bonus: Get a free social media sentiment report template to easily track audience sentiment over time.

Get the template now!

4. Understand where you stand in your niche

Brands cannot be all things to all people. Monitoring social sentiment can help you understand where you stand in your business niche. This, in turn, can help you reach the right audiences with the right messages at the right time.

It can also help you understand in which areas of your business you really excel, and what you might need to improve.

For example, using social media sentiment analysis, researchers found that Heathrow Airport is known for good wifi, washrooms, restaurants, and lounges. However, social media users were not pleased with the airport’s parking, wait times, immigration and passport control procedures, and staff.

With this knowledge, Heathrow could aim to improve the areas that customers are not happy with. Or it could choose to focus on the areas where it’s already doing well, branding itself as a comfortable airport with good facilities.

5. Spot brand crises in the early stages

You never want your brand to fall into a crisis. But if it happens, monitoring social sentiment can help you spot the problem early. You can implement your crisis response plan to minimize negative sentiment or avoid it entirely.

Coca-Cola recently placed a huge billboard in an area of Amsterdam that before the pandemic was heavily impacted by overtourism. It said, in Dutch, “I will never say again that there are too many tourists in my city.”

The problem? By the time the billboard went up, plenty of (often misbehaving) European tourists had already returned to Amsterdam. The residents of this neighborhood certainly didn’t agree with the billboard’s message.

The negative sentiment in response to the billboard spurred Coca-Cola to take it down within days.

It’s an especially important time for brands to listen to how consumers feel. The Edelman Special Report found that by the end of March, 33 percent of respondents had already “convinced other people to stop using a brand [they] felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic.”

Monitoring social sentiment would have helped these companies correct course in time to stop these customer losses.

How to conduct a social media sentiment analysis

The first stage of conducting a social media sentiment analysis is to collect data. In the section below, we get into some powerful tools you can use to help make the process faster, easier, and more accurate.

But if you’re not yet ready to invest in specialized tools, you can get started with a bit of extra research.

Monitor your mentions

The first step of social media sentiment analysis is finding the conversations people are having about your brand online. The challenge is that they won’t always tag you in those conversations.

Fortunately, you can set up Hootsuite streams to monitor social channels for all mentions of your brand, even when you’re not tagged. Here’s how to collect them all in one place.

1. In the Hootsuite dashboard, create a Mentions stream for each of your social accounts. This will track the mentions where people tag your accounts on social.

Hootsuite dashboard Mentions stream

2. You also need to track the posts where you’re not tagged. On Instagram, you can monitor hashtags related to your products or brand name. On Twitter, you can use hashtags or keywords. Be sure to create streams for your brand name and your product names.

Hootsuite dashboard add stream

For more details on getting set up to track your mentions, check out our full post on social listening.

Analyze the sentiment in your mentions

Next, you’ll look for terms that indicate sentiment within your mentions. Think about the kinds of positive or negative words people might use to talk about your brand. Examples might include:

Positive: love, amazing, great, best, perfect

Negative: bad, awful, terrible, worst, hate

There will likely be other terms specific to your product, brand, or industry. Make a list of positive and negative words and scan your mentions for posts that include these terms.

For Twitter, you can set Hootsuite up to do some of this automatically.

  1. In the dashboard, create a search stream using your name plus an important positive keyword.

Hootsuite dashboard name positive keyword

    2. Create a search stream using your name plus an important negative keyword.

Keep in mind that you need to watch out for the context. Is someone being sarcastic when she says he had “the best” experience with your brand?

What is a social sentiment report?

Once you’ve gathered the data, it’s time to analyze it and put it into a report.

At minimum, your social media sentiment report should include the following:

  • Total engagements with your brand in a certain time period
  • Total mentions of your brand
  • Number or percentage of positive mentions
  • Number or percentage of negative mentions
  • A calculation of your social sentiment score as a percentage (see below)
  • A graph of your social media sentiment score over time (so you can check for spikes and identify what might have caused changes)

You can calculate your social sentiment score in a couple of ways:

  • Positive mentions as a percentage of total mentions
  • Positive mentions as a percentage of mentions that include sentiment (removing neutral mentions)

Which method you use doesn’t really matter, as long as you are consistent. The second method will always result in a higher score.

It’s helpful to include a graphic representing the ratio of positive, neutral, and negative mentions. This shows team members and managers the latest sentiment details at a glance.

Some of the tools below will help you create graphics and reports automatically. Or, you can create a pie or donut chart for social sentiment manually in Excel or Google sheets.

Pie chart positive neutral and negative mentions

We’ve also created a free social media sentiment report template you can use to create a professional looking report in just a few minutes.

5 social media sentiment analysis tools

1. Hootsuite Insights Powered by Brandwatch

Hootsuite Insights powered by Brandwatch allows you to use detailed Boolean search strings to monitor social sentiment automatically. You’ll also get word clouds showing the most common words used to talk about your brand. Plus, charts that benchmark your social sentiment against your competitors.

In addition to positive and negative sentiment, Hootsuite Insights tracks specific emotions, like anger and joy, over time. This allows you to look for sudden changes, or ongoing trends. You can also filter sentiment by location or demographics, so you can see how sentiment varies across your audience.

Alerts are a handy feature that allow you to be notified if there’s a sudden change in sentiment. Then you can get ahead of any issues before they get out of control.

2. Metionlytics

Mentionlytics’s pitch is: “Discover everything that is being said about your brand, your competitors or any keyword.”

You can broaden the scope of your search to see what people are saying about your brand all over the internet. There’s a built-in sentiment analysis feature that works in multiple languages.

3. Digimind

Digimind helps you closely monitor your social media presence by identifying and analyzing all the relevant conversations about your brand and competitors.

It pulls information from more than 850 million web sources, so you know you’re getting a comprehensive view of sentiment toward your brand.

You can also analyze mentions and apply filters to highly customize your sentiment analysis process.

Digimind

4. Crowd Analyzer

Crowd Analyzer is an Arabic-language social listening and sentiment analysis tool. This is especially important for brands with an Arabic-speaking audience, since other social sentiment tools do not generally have the capability to recognize sentiment in Arabic posts.

5. TalkWalker

TalkWalker gathers information from more than 150 million sources and uses artificial intelligence to analyze sentiment, tone, emotions and much more.

TalkWalker

Social media sentiment report template

Our social media sentiment report template provides the structure you need to create an impactful social media sentiment report to share with your team.

To use the template, click the File tab, then click Make a copy. This gives you your own copy of the template you can use every time you need to create a new social sentient report.

Bonus: Get a free social media sentiment report template to easily track audience sentiment over time.

How to improve social media sentiment

If you were paying attention when we talked about the benefits of social media sentiment analysis, these tips for improving sentiment won’t shock you.

Know your audience

We’ve already said that analyzing social sentiment can help you understand your audience. But it works both ways: Knowing your audience helps you achieve (and maintain) positive social sentiment.

When you know your audience well, you can craft messaging that connects with them. Even more important, you can avoid messaging that angers or upsets them, like the Coca-Cola example above. Basically, it boils down to this:

Give your audience more of what they want.

Pay attention to your customers’ needs, desires, and paint points. What are they struggling with? How can you use social media to help solve their problems, entertain them, or make their lives somehow better?

By listening to your customers, you’ll learn how to engage your audience and increase sentiment.

For detailed tips on how to understand your audience, check out our guide to conducting audience research.

Engage

Engagement on social media falls into two categories:

  • Reactive engagement. When you respond to comments, mentions, and direct messages on social media.
  • Proactive engagement. When you make the first move and engage with other users. It’s especially helpful for increasing buzz around specific campaigns or product launches.

Both are necessary to increase social media sentiment. The key is to maximize positive interactions while providing a quick resolution to any negative mentions.

For more, be sure to read our article on social media engagement.

Play to your strengths

Social media feels most authentic when you use it to do what you already do best.

Do you have a great team? Look for ways they can become part of your social presence. Maybe you have in-depth expertise on a specific subject area? Share what you know with your followers.

Like in the Heathrow example above, you can use social sentiment to understand what your audience thinks is great about your brand. You can also learn what they think is not so hot.

While you work on improving the lagging areas, play up your strengths.

Above all, look for ways you can provide value to your fans and followers while remaining true to your brand identity.

Track social media sentiment—and manage all your profiles—from a single dashboard with Hootsuite. Schedule posts, respond to comments, measure performance, and more.

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