It takes major confidence to unveil a new product model with an updated feature that completely dismisses previous models – and Apple certainly has confidence. The new iPhone 7 wireless AirPods are an innovative change, but may strike consumers as the brand exploiting the loyalty of its customers, who must make an extra spend on new technology to get the most of the current model.

So where do consumers stand? Will the iPhone 7 be the latest and greatest success for the brand? We ran a brand analysis and looked at the conversations happening around the iPhone 7 launch – here’s what we found:

First, some basics

There have been more than 9 million posts about the latest iPhone model, with a nearly 50/50 split between original posts and retweets/reblogs. Replies and comments represented only 3.2% of posts, and potential impressions were 85.8 billion.

Net Sentiment, the metric indicating whether emotions are positive or negative – on a scale from -100 to +100 – is at 49%; a healthy enough number, but not overwhelmingly positive. There’s some serious “like” happening, but we can’t quite call it “love.” Passion Intensity – or the strength of consumer emotions, also on a scale from -100 to +100 – is at 59%. That’s a decent amount of intensity, but again, consumers aren’t burning with passion in a positive way.


Apple users are typically pretty loyal and passionate – which is how Apple made their way to the #2 spot on our NetBase Brand Passion Report 2016: Top 100 Global Brand Love List, as well as #1 in Europe, the UK, and France – so these lower metrics indicate a bit of negative sentiment pulling the numbers down, which is what we see here:


There’s definitely some negative conversation in the mix, with the most chatter happening on September 7, the date the new model was announced.

When we look at who’s doing the talking, it’s not a huge surprise that Technology is a major common interest and profession, but it’s not the only one. Gaming and Fashion are also major interests, at 8% and 7% respectively. Sales and Marketing, Student and Blogging make up the next three professions talking about the iPhone 7, at 17%, 13% and 11% respectively.

Millennials and Gen-Xers are the generations behind the bulk of posts:


The heart of the matter

When we look a little deeper, we get into what is driving the emotions of these social users, and that’s when things get interesting – and when it makes sense for a brand like Apple to pay attention.

Sentiment is a value that tells you a lot of what you need to know in your social media listening. It defines what consumers love about your brand, but also where you’re failing them, how, what you can do to make things better, and more. So what specifically are people talking about, and what emotions are attached to these topics?

Consumers are talking about a number of iPhone features, like the missing headphone jack, the phone’s water resistance, and the new Home button:


Games and game insight are also popular topics, along with the new jet black finish being offered. Hashtags are similar, with a few others like #giveaway and #Samsung thrown into the mix.

The gender breakdown shows men are talking a bit more than women, but more women are talking about some topics – like gaming – than men:


Is that an assumption Apple – or any tech brand – would make? That’s why social listening is so crucial – the truth is often different than any assumption we’d bank on.

Looking at Top Attributes within Brand Sentiment Analysis, it’s clear plenty of users are excited – as they would be for any new iPhone launch – using terms like “best thing,” “excellent,” and “fun waiting.” There’s lots of talk about YouTube videos being shared, promoting giveaways or illustrating new features, as well as talk of the upgraded camera, and waterproof feature.

But not all the talk is positive. The lack of a headphone jack is majorly negative, and some clearly don’t like the changes to the Home button or camera, among other things.

top attributes

And the Emotions and Behaviors word clouds bear this out:

apple emotions

Still though, more people feel the phone is “pretty awesome” and the “best,” and “want” or “cannot wait” for its release. But the margin of positive emotions over negative isn’t so large Apple should ignore the naysayers.

Best practices for all brands

The iPhone 7 launch offers plenty of information for Apple to consider – not just with regard to this launch, but overall. And it demonstrates a few key principles of social media intelligence as well:

Speak the languages of social

For example, in a collection of tweets curated by BoredPanda, sarcasm is a common theme – so it’s imperative to have social media listening tools able to decipher snarky posts:

fromthefuture tweet


Is this tweet positive or negative? It might be neutral, but could safely be considered a negative take on the direction of Apple’s products. But without clear-cut negative words, social monitoring tools that can’t detect sarcasm could mistakenly identify it as a positive mention based on the hashtag alone.

And what about this one, which lists the only benefit of having an iPhone 7 being that of image?

benefits of iphone 7


Pay attention to consumer needs, wants and desires

 Brands need to be aware of consumer sentiment in all forms to accurately understand how their brand is faring, and whether or not issues need to be addressed. In Apple’s case, there are plenty of issues consumers deem more important than wireless headphones, like wireless chargers:

wireless chargers tweet


And tougher screens:



And missing song files:


These posts seem to indicate that Apple isn’t really listening to its customers when they have problems, but are instead overly focused on “what’s next.” That may not be true, but if it’s the overarching perception of consumers, Apple would be wise to step up their social customer service game to help change that perception.

This is what sentiment monitoring is best for – getting down to the brass tacks of consumer emotions, connecting with social users as humans, and building relationships that can transcend the occasional issue. Apple has largely done this, as evidenced by users who speak to the general concept that consumers will buy “anyway.”

Moments after this Twitter user, @NYCsouthpaw, was joking that Apple doesn’t care about their lost files, they admitted that Apple loyalists will not likely change brands:

implanted headphones


In the end, most Apple fans are simply happy to have the latest device.

Keep track of competitors

But no brand should take consumer loyalty for granted. Your competitors monitor social as well, and who knows what they may offer to sway consumers over to their camp when they unveil their next release? The only way to stay on top is to use real-time social listening to know for sure where you stand with your audience.

It’s great that Apple was above the fray in not capitalizing on the Samsung 7 Note battery issues, but that doesn’t mean other brands will keep to the same standards. And who knows if consumers will decide to defect?

Apple is currently in a class of its own, compared to other brands vying for the same Android/Windows phone space – but the only constant in this world is change. And plenty of seemingly “untouchable” brands have been subject to sudden upsets.

Focus on the good, and get influencers on board

Of course, consumers will always find something to complain about – so while it’s important for brands to acknowledge complaints and genuine issues, it’s also smart to focus on what’s positive when you can, ensure consumers are aware of their options, and task your influencers with amplifying positive messaging.

For all the hoopla about adapting to new technology, or even the price of the AirPods, Apple did offer an adapter that connects to the charging port on one side, and traditional earbuds on the other – so users have an option if don’t want to spend on the new AirPods:



And with no headphones at all, the sound quality is much better than the iPhone 6, according to some users:



These are the kinds of tweets worth amplifying.

Even with all the hubbub amongst consumers, Apple is one of few brands that can not only survive such a disruptive change, but likely thrive as a result of it. Though social users love taking to social for the sake of complaining and commiserating, it’s not always an indication they’re going to take their business elsewhere.

Brands need to know their customers well enough to know when they’re ready for a change without even realizing it. Audio buyer Katrina Mills told The Sun, “Last night’s announcement will drive the biggest sales in wireless headphones yet. Ahead of the news we had already seen an increased demand for wireless headphones, with noise cancelling functionality and sport models proving popular.”

Which means Apple is doing what they perhaps do best – keeping up with trends, and finding a way to be out in front of them.

And that’s another best practice for brands on social media – to stay in tune with both short- and long-term trends, acting on them when it makes sense.

Is now the right moment for Apple and wireless headphones, or was this move simply too risky even for them? The voice of consumers is mixed, making the social data complicated at the moment – there’s a lot of positive sentiment overall, with the most popular emoji being the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji:


But they should pay attention to the negative sentiment bubbling just under the surface, so it doesn’t boil over and become a problem.

With a little real-time social listening, and some well-placed alerts, Apple and all brands can track consumer sentiment at every stage of product development, from concept to release. And if they listen to the voice of the consumer, they’ll always know how to proceed.

Want to see in-depth sentiment data for your brand? Get in touch for a free demo of our social listening tools!

Image from Blake Patterson



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