A Guide to Online Sentiment Analysis

Online consumer sentiment is a window into the psyche of your audience. Social media users are at liberty to express their opinions online about brands, and these expressions tell the story behind consumer behavior.

An online sentiment analysis captures the discussion revolving around your brand, allowing you to understand how and why they feel the way they do. Opinions and behaviors rise and fall like ocean waves leaving unobservant brands tossed about on the currents. As such, an online sentiment analysis is a must-have navigational tool for brands seeking satisfied customers and overall brand health.

We’ll explore online sentiment analysis in further detail with a focus on

  • What is online sentiment analysis?
  • Top strategies
  • Online sentiment analysis in the real world

how to use social sentiment to perform a competitor analysisOnline sentiment is measurable, and every online brand mention can be quantified as positive, neutral, or negative. Understanding sentiment in conjunction with trends helps you understand how your brand should react to your current circumstances. Here are a few statistics pulled from a recent McKinsey report that shows some trending consumer behaviors you’ll want to keep in mind in your quest for positive brand sentiment

  • Overall consumer spending is up 11% year over year. Millennials showed the most significant increase, ending the year up 18%.
  • Nearly 50% of consumers are engaging in everyday activities outside the home again. Interestingly, people are still investing in their homes as they’ve done throughout the pandemic.
  • 60% of consumers have faced out-of-stock messages over the past three months, and only 13% wait for the item to come back.

Aligning your brand with trending behavior is a great way to keep your online sentiment in the green. However, an online sentiment analysis helps you go into specifics with your audience, so you capitalize on what they want and patch up their pain points. Let’s take a look

What is Online Sentiment Analysis?

An online sentiment analysis relies on artificial intelligence to capture and categorize consumer opinions found online. Through a process known as natural language processing (NLP), your social listening tools return every mention of your topic and assign a sentiment value to the parts of speech found within posts and online articles

A negative word or phrase will be given a value of -1, while positive statements will be given a 1 and neutrals a 0. The terms and phrases will then be cumulated to return your overall net sentiment score as a percentage on a scale of -100 to 100.

Your online sentiment analysis can be displayed in several ways depending on your social listening tools, including word clouds, pie charts, or timelines. For instance, here’s a one-month sentiment analysis of a major CPG brand currently undergoing a PR crisis:


Online sentiment analysis showing growth of negative sentiment during a crisis for a major CPG brand. 11/15/21-12/15/21

We can see negative sentiment growing and dig into the posts behind it to understand what’s going wrong. And this is one way that an online sentiment analysis can help you protect your brand. Once you know the actual volume and perception behind your brand’s online sentiment, you can spring into action, knowing you’re targeting the problem head-on. Without it, your brand is still operating in the realm of guesswork.

Let’s talk about the different ways online sentiment analysis provides value to brands.

Online Sentiment Analysis Top Strategies

Consumers talk about everything online, which is great for brands because we can measure their sentiment around any topic. As such, an online sentiment analysis is where the rubber meets the road with the voice of the customer. Here are a few of the most common use cases to help your brand get ahead.

Measure Brand Health

As we saw with the above timeline, knowing where your brand sentiment is matters. Using your online sentiment analysis at crucial points throughout the year provides snapshots of your brand sentiment

Doing so allows you to establish a baseline sentiment measurement so you know where your standard is. You can then set alerts to notify you whenever your sentiment travels outside of preset parameters. Time is of the essence in a time of crisis, and being proactive here can save your brand a world of headaches by getting ahead of the situation quickly.

Understanding Your Audience

Since NLP assigns sentiment to each part of a sentence, you can discover how your consumers feel about anything. And since it aggregates word usage, you can use it to learn the top trending words and phrases within your topic. Additionally, you can get hyper-focused on a particular audience segment by using filters to isolate them

For instance, here we’ve run an online sentiment analysis on Target over the past month. We filtered the conversation to find the top keywords with the male audience and colored them by sentiment. It’s a quick way to get a feel for trending brand conversations with all or part of your audience.


Top keywords with sentiment used by Target’s male audience in social media discussions. 11/15/21-12/15/21

Getting a Handle on Emerging Trends

While emerging trends come and go, brands should pay attention to whether they are important to your audience or not. An online sentiment analysis is your best bet when coming to terms with how your audience perceives each and every one.

Whether you’re looking at sustainability, e-commerce, climate change, fast fashion, or upcoming elections, a sentiment analysis will tell you how your consumers feel about it. And NLP breaks each trend down into its component parts so you can understand the topic from the bottom up.

For instance, cryptocurrency has hit the global radar over the past couple of years, and social media users either love it or hate it. Regardless, you’ll want to know how your audience feels about it before attaching your brand to the conversation.


Capture Feedback on Products and Services

Consumers are telling brands how they feel online, and it’s all free of charge. While they don’t always mention your brand directly, top-tier social listening tools can pick up every brand mention – even if they don’t @ you – or worse, misspell it.

And making sure you capture everything matters because it’s an expression of consumer sentiment. If you’re missing out on product mentions, then your dataset is incomplete – and so is your online sentiment analysis.

Regardless, having consumer sentiment on your products at your fingertips lets you know what consumers love about it and what they dislike. This type of consumer intelligence goes a long way to help with your R&D, marketing, and customer service strategies.

Online Sentiment Analysis in the Real World

Running a successful brand entails finding creative solutions to consumer pain points. The thing is – you have to be aware of the problems in the first place. Sometimes they’re glaringly obvious, and other times not so much. And that’s where online sentiment analysis can shed light on the deepest recesses of your audience.

Each department within your brand has their unique capabilities, but they’re not going to work on a problem they don’t know exists. Online sentiment analysis allows you to crosscut your brand conversation for consumer insight into a variety of brand issues, channel metrics, emotional targeting, industry themes, life moments, etc. And these are helpful in exploring pain points in further detail.

You may want to explore themes in your brand discussion related to your marketing department right off the bat. Or you may elect to let your analysis lead you directly to consumer pain points. An online sentiment analysis is often used both ways, and which direction you go depends on your brand’s unique circumstances.

For example, let’s pretend for a moment that your brand is Apple and you’re curious about how your audience feels about your AirPods this holiday season. As such, we can run an online sentiment analysis on the topic of AirPods and quickly get a rundown of general sentiment with a timeline and some handy wordclouds.

But let’s say we want to get into some specifics with how consumers feel within our purchase funnel. In that case, we can filter the global conversation using themes that target specific phrasing. Here’s an example that isolates social media users talking about our purchase funnel sub-topics and excludes everyone else. We now have targeted consumer insights that directly apply to our area of interest.


Remember, net sentiment is scored from -100 to 100, so most of these metrics look pretty good. However, since each of these themes is searchable, a quick look into why evaluation is so low appears to be in order. We can then uncover the problems consumers are facing to see if we can move them over into the purchase intent column.

Finding users focused on specific issues shows you where you need to apply your R&D and marketing dollars. And once you correct the problem or offer a workaround, you can move potential customers like this forum user into the post-purchase category.


An effective online sentiment analysis can inform your brand on virtually anything you can think of – and a lot that’s never crossed your mind. As we demonstrated here, it can be as broad or as focused as you need it to be. If your social listening tools are up to the task, then the voice of the customer can be sliced and diced to your heart’s content to show you precisely what you should be focused on.

If you’re ready to seriously upgrade your voice of the customer skills, reach out for a demo, and we’ll walk you through the deep customer insights you can expect – tailored to your brand.

how to use social sentiment to perform a competitor analysis

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