How to Use Social Sentiment to Anticipate Trends in Your Vertical

Kimberly Surico |
 03/11/20 |
6 min read

How To Use Social Sentiment To Anticipate Trends In Your Vertical

Ever wonder how some brands seem to have a sixth sense around what will be hot with consumers next? You can do this too by mastering the art of using social sentiment to anticipate trends in your vertical.

When using a powerful next generation AI-powered social analytics tool to power your search, you’ll be the one leaving competitors in awe of your predictive capabilities. And that’s a good thing. If you don’t respond to consumer whims, after all – your competitors surely will. And you might miss the party altogether.

This next section of our Complete How-To Guide: Social Analytics covers how to identify and track trends, and the tools that help you do so.


Trends are dependent on one thing: passion. No trend blows up because consumers are apathetic or ambivalent. Trends gather steam when consumers can’t get enough of something or become obsessed with it. And one trend that’s capturing consumers attention in a variety of ways right now is sustainability.

We see consumers going ga-ga over everything hemp-derived and CBD-infused. And brands taking advantage of this newfound passion in a big way, including:

And this sustainable trend travels far beyond hemp to everything organic, ecofriendly and nontoxic:


It also captures consumer mindset around what is fair an ethical, including eating ethically. We can see the financial impact clearly:


Exploring Trends in AI Studio

And when we explore “sustainability” in AI Studio, we can predict related themes that may be headed your way! AI Studio’s theme discovery connects and surfaces semantically similar terms to help brands identify important conversations about a topic.

For example, one of the many conversational clusters we see below is around upcoming festivals that will include a sustainable element. Is that somewhere your brand should be? Will your competitors be there? This could represent an opportunity to carve out a niche – and become trendsetters in your own right, while generating tons of goodwill with festival participants:


Narrowing sustainability (or any) trends down to see how they relate to your vertical, or to your company specifically, is as simple as applying a theme or filtering results. And using whatever criteria you apply, there’s always the ability to take a deep dive into the terms, hashtags, emojis, brands, people and things that are trending in the moment:


These sustainability trends are good to watch regardless of category, as they’re changing the cultural zeitgeist in a permanent way, even though trends, as a rule, defy permanence. These trends are the tipping point for cultural shifts that are changing everything as a result. Other examples include:

  • The iPhone
  • Binge-watching Netflix
  • Allergy-friendly trick-or-treating

Whichever type of trend is emerging, if it could have impact for your brand, you want to know about it as quickly as possible – so you can take advantage of windows of opportunity while they present.

Here’s how to ensure you won’t miss out.


Trend-spotting is all about paying attention and investigating anything with potential to grow.

At its simplest, you can look to the left of your Twitter feed and find “Trends for You” based on your followers, geographical location and other settings. Or you can visit Google Trends to see what people are searching on at any given moment.

Both these options give you a direction to start from – but they aren’t by any means definitive. Nor do they tell you why something is trending. And this is equally important to understand, as too many brands jump on a trend unaware and face disastrous results. Just because a topic is receiving a lot of attention doesn’t mean it’s a trend worth engaging with. You need a way to assess the passion mentioned above, and how it relates to your particular audience. It won’t always be relevant and you don’t want to lose credibility with followers over a misguided attempt at relevance.

That’s where Sentiment Analysis comes in.


Social Sentiment is the most important metric available to brands. It’s what contextualizes every other piece of social data. This is done using two values, combined:

  • Net Sentiment – whether emotions are positive or negative from -100 to +100
  • Passion Intensity – the strength of emotions from -100 to +100.

And together these measurements create a weighted value called Brand Passion. If you have a million mentions, but Passion Intensity is low, you know there’s not much enthusiasm behind them – even if Net Sentiment is positive.

However, when you have high Net Sentiment and Passion Intensity, even if you have a smaller number of mentions – let’s say 300K – you’ve got more to work with. A few thousand passionate people are more powerful than millions of people who don’t care one way or the other.

For example, if you noticed the sudden appearance of teal pumpkins on the shelves leading up to Halloween the past couple years, you might search on the term to find out what it’s all about. Sentiment is certainly high at 93%:


That’s because the #tealpumpkinproject offers a solution for the many families of children with severe food allergies. Displaying a teal pumpkin indicates non-food, trick-or-treat goodies are on offer.

Identifying the Opportunity

If you’re a candy company, this is a trend worth exploring. How can you ensure you stand out in a world where candy is no longer the go-to on the biggest candy holiday of the year?

Start by looking at Social Sentiment – like Attributes – to understand the topics driving the emotions:


Words like “assure,” “safer,” “inclusion,” and “awareness” pop out right away. These are valid concerns for parents who want to keep kids safe, while ensuring they can enjoy a typical childhood experience.

Now imagine the potential for a brand like Nestlé or Reese’s if they added non-candy treats, packaged for Halloween, in support of the Teal Pumpkin Project.

It’s a great trend to jump on for stores that sell Halloween decorations and food as well. Making it easy for consumers to participate in something that matters to them is smart business.



Not every trend is relevant to your brand, of course – though it’s worth exploring what you see and hear out in the world to assess potential using Social Analytics tools. What you don’t want to miss are trends that can definitely impact your brand.

To avoid that, use Social Monitoring alerts to keep on top of sudden spikes in emotion surrounding your brand, competitors, or keywords you choose.

This is something you should do anyway, to be aware of any reputational threats – which negative sentiment could indicate. However, it could also indicate negative opinions about a trend your particular audience doesn’t align with.

This is why Sentiment Analysis is so important. Just because your audience mentions something constantly doesn’t mean they want it to happen. It could mean just the opposite.

Tools like LIVE Pulses let you track trending topics to understand what they’re really about. That’s the information that lets you take action.


Applying Sentiment Analysis to terms and topics tells you a lot, but it’s not the full story. Be sure you analyze Social Sentiment within images as well. Social users share images constantly, but they don’t always tag brands in their images – which means you can miss a lot of information.

Understanding the content within images can indicate trends as well. In NetBase, brands can capture objects, memes, scenes, faces, and emotions! This capability adds greater depth and context to your keyword and audience analysis, capturing a complete picture for your brand, and helping you spot trends early.

And it’s important to capture every instance of logo mentions out there as well, including those that are partially hidden, rotated or altered:


Adjusting the precision of your image analytics logo recognition to return images that aren’t an exact match is super useful to have on hand when tracking trends on social media before something goes viral. If you were only tracking your brand name and a less-than-flattering visual was circulating, you’d want to know it!

Keeping tabs on visual “conversations” clues you in to where consumer hearts lie as well as text does.

Getting to the Trend First

With trends, the idea is to get there first – or at least early. You can’t do that if you don’t know what has consumers buzzing. Social Sentiment reveals what consumers love and hate most, so you never have to guess at what they care about.

Follow Sentiment in real-time, and when you see patterns emerge, pounce – before competitors do.

Use your arsenal of Social Analytics tools to understand the deeper nuances of emotional drivers, and proceed accordingly. Who knows? You might just lead the next shift in the culture.

Be sure to check out the rest of The Complete How-To Guide: Social Media Analytics as well as its companion The Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics. Additional topics include how to:

Want to learn more about trend-spotting tools and how they work? Reach out and we’ll lead you through a custom demo.


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