Mastering Your Social Sentiment Analysis

Carol Feigenbaum |
 09/15/16 |
7 min read


Nothing is more important to understanding and connecting with consumers than social sentiment analysis. So you don’t want to just dabble in sentiment – you want to become a full-fledged master. Here’s how:

The truth is out there

It’s easy to make assumptions about who your audience is, and what they want from your brand – but assumptions are often wrong. What’s more, you don’t need them. Consumers are telling you what they care about all day long on social media, so ditch the assumptions and listen!

One major airline assumed young business travelers probably liked loyalty benefits like priority wait list, complimentary preferred seats, and waved baggage fees most of all. The truth, however, was that first class upgrades were their favorite perk. Having this information about consumers’ desires changed their marketing strategy.

When you pay attention to all the clues consumers are sharing, you get a much more accurate picture of how to proceed with wooing them – and that is what you have to do. In-your-face or brand-centric advertising isn’t very effective in the social realm. You’ve got to make friends with your target audience and get them to like you as a “person.”

So how do you get there? First you need to remember it’s not all about your brand, so don’t spend all your time looking for declarations of undying love for your laundry detergent. Start with your presumed audience and find out everything else they care about.

Laundry detergent is a great example, because it’s something a lot of people need. But obviously not everyone will respond to the same messaging.

You can’t limit yourself to just “mom” – or you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to get your brand out there. In this case your target audience includes moms, dads, college students, singles, and anyone else who does laundry. You can find them with a bit of keyword analysis through your social monitoring tool.


Many things, but not a “mom.”

Once these consumers are identified, your next priority is to find out what they’re talking about besides laundry. Maybe they do talk about how to remove stubborn stains and brighten their whites, but that’s not all they talk about. Here are some topics you might encounter:

  • Moms and dads: activities for kids, nutrition/cooking, balancing work with parenting, wine and beer, Netflix, particular TV shows, date night, working out, etc.
  • College students: missing home, studying, partying, friends, Pokémon GO, the latest iPhone, music, being broke, etc.
  • Singles: TV and movies, music, where to meet people, work, pets, restaurants, nieces/nephews, etc.

You want to take note of things they love and hate – because both offer bonding opportunities. Now you’ve got something to talk with them about. And each audience segment needs its own messaging, because modern consumers most appreciate personalized marketing that feels like it’s just for them.

Expand your horizons

The beauty of learning what consumers really love/hate is you can then expand your audience by finding others who care about the same things – meaning, they might also love your brand, even though they didn’t fit the demographic mold.

You can go still further by exploring consumer emotions about your competitors. On the “love” side, can you offer up something similar to make them love you instead?  On the “hate” side you have a real opportunity to answer a need or solve a problem not being addressed by another brand. That kind of attention can swing consumer loyalty in your favor.

Also important is how consumers express love on social – because if you’re not hip to all the ways they communicate, your sentiment insights won’t be accurate.

With text you might think things are pretty straightforward, but that’s not exactly true. Between sarcasm and slanguage – like Netspeak and pop culture jargon (like “Belieber”) – there’s plenty your social listening platform needs to understand.

Sarcasm, for example, can turn a simple emotion like hate on its head – meant to convey the exact opposite, and vice versa. Your social listening tools need to have natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to apply context and arrive at the proper analysis.

Netspeak also presents a challenge demanding solving. Do the initials “RN” mean the consumer is a nurse, or do they stand for “right now” – as in “I WANT SOME PIZZA RN?” For your data to be accurate, these sentiment indicators must be reliably translated by your software.

pizza rn

And what about emojis? These micro-images pack an emotional punch – and sometimes are the only clue that points to sentiment within a social post. So they’re important too. You have to understand everything consumers are saying to get a precise read on sentiment. Ignoring even a single facet can skew your results in a big way – making it impossible to have confidence in any decisions based on your data.

What matters when you DO look at your own brand

Insights close to home are also important, of course. You can’t look only at your brand in relation to the insights you surface, but you do need to look at it.

What you want is strong positive emotions about your brand – that’s why you’re doing all that audience segmenting, and individualized messaging. You want consumers to love everything about your brand – your products, your service, and the way you connect with them online.

Additionally, you want to know the intensity of emotions – so you can identify influencers. We break down our Brand Passion Index into two metrics:

  • Net Sentiment – or whether consumer emotions are positive or negative, on a scale of -100 to +100
  • Passion Intensity – the strength of those emotions, on a scale of -100 to +100

Active users with the strongest positive emotions – and 500 or more followers – are the ones you can look to as influencers. They’re the ones who love your brand so much they want everyone to know it. Show them a little love and they’ll return the favor tenfold.

And you don’t need a huge budget to accomplish this – just ask Stance. Up against major competitors like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, the sock innovator knew social was their best chance to break through the noise and create organic, authentic relationships.

They were picky – and rightfully so. To stand out it’s not about having the best or most popular athletes and celebrities – it’s about find the most passionate people, the ones who’ll have the most impact on the social conversation.

Stance put together a group of influencers called Punks & Poets, which they describe as “Curators of originality: Creating an appeal that any individual can relate, and aspire to, their mediums are as diverse as their message, but they all speak the same language of bold and creative expression.”



From athletes like golfer Bubba Watson and street skater Al Davis, to singers like Rihanna and Willow Smith, Stance knows who loves them most – and they’ve created brand influence worthy of a Super Bowl commercial partnership with Kia.

Haters gonna hate

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, however. There are plenty of social consumers ready and willing to complain about your brand at the first misstep, so you have to monitor negative emotions too.

Some will simply be customer service issues – and if you don’t already have a social customer service protocol, you need to get on that yesterday. Others might be potentially damaging reputational threats on the brink of going viral.

To be notified of such posts immediately you need a platform that will alert you to posts that hit a certain negative threshold. These are issues you need to take care of immediately so they don’t get out of control. It only takes a single tweet to start a brand disaster – so don’t shrug off anything that has that potential.

Any drop in sentiment should be investigated so you know whether you need to take action or not. Sometimes you won’t. This was the case for Camp + King, the agency promoting the Sacramento Kings’ logo redesign.

Though NetBase alerted them to a drop in sentiment surrounding a leaked version of the new logo, an investigation into the themes driving the negative sentiment indicated the problem would be solved when the actual new logo was finally revealed. Rather than fan the negative flames by overexplaining, they held course for the two days until launch, and then – as predicted – everything sorted itself out.

But they couldn’t have made that decision if they hadn’t had a close eye on sentiment to understand where Kings’ fans were prior to the leak, and what had them upset about the leaked logo.

Sentiment helps you succeed

Even when you don’t have a plan, sentiment is your best bet. This was the case for the Georgia Aquarium when trying to craft a marketing strategy to attract more visitors during a period where there were no new exhibits to promote.

To create a general campaign, Ames Scullin O’Haire (ASO), the agency working with the Georgia Aquarium on this initiative, used NetBase to understand what visitors loved about the aquarium – and penguins were in the top three.

With this in mind, the campaign “The Waddlesworths Are Coming to Atlanta” was created. The campaign tracked the journey of a family of African penguins coming to the aquarium, using an interactive map complete with blog posts, pictures of the “Waddlesworths,” and an adorable penguin mascot named George.

boy with penguin

They also highlighted additional aspects of the aquarium surfaced with sentiment analysis: “Behind the Seas” and “Sips Under the Sea” events, held regularly.

The campaign made the Georgia Aquarium the most Instagrammed location in Georgia, and the #1 U.S. aquarium as ranked by TripAdvisor. Best of all, there was an 8% rise in attendance.

These results aren’t unusual when sentiment is prioritized. If the key to consumers is love, the key to social listening is recognizing and reflecting back that love via sentiment analysis and subsequent messaging.

So if you want to be a social sentiment master, just keep looking for the love – it’s out there.

And if you want our help putting sentiment analysis into practice for your brand, just give a shout!

E-Book: The Importance of Social Analytics for Consumer Insights

Image from JD


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