Using sentiment analysis to monitor your company’s reputation

When you see your social media mentions suddenly spike, is that a good thing? Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s hard to know without conducting a sentiment analysis to understand the underlying attitudes and emotions online users are expressing with their updates, tweets and posts.

Sentiment analysis involves evaluating online opinions based on specific words. The sentiment is then judged to be positive, negative or neutral.

To put it simply, “I got a great deal at X Store!” would count toward positive sentiment, while, “X Store just ripped me off for the last time!” would go in the negative column. A neutral comment might be, “An X Store just moved into the neighborhood. I think I’ll go check it out on my lunch break.” However, it’s not always that simplistic. As brnrd.me demonstrates, there are many shades and levels of sentiment to consider, and a single tweet or post can contain several.

So how do you establish an effective social listening strategy using sentiment analysis? Here are some ways to get started.

1. Start by compiling social media mentions.

Tools that pull data from multiple sources, including forums and blogs, provide contextual information to notify you when your organization’s or product’s name is mentioned online.

Once this becomes an ongoing process, you’ll begin to spot trends in quantity and sentiment.

2. Filter mentions by sentiment.

Categorize mentions as positive, negative or neutral. Several tools will do this for you, but a one-stop platform is the most efficient. Once mentions are sorted, determine how sentiment has shifted in the last day, week, month and year.

3. Prioritize your top 25 to 50 sources.

Put the most influential at the top, so you can quickly judge the potential impact of an expressed sentiment. For example, a negative article in the New York Times will have far greater impact than a post by an industry blogger with 10 followers. The former will require serious damage control, and the latter? Not much cause for alarm.

4. Develop a baseline measurement.

You can use this to compare future analyses. Knowing, for example, that in a typical week, you have 80 percent positive, 15 percent negative and 5 percent neutral is useful when assessing future situations. It can help spot trends and pinpoint situations impacting social sentiment.

5. Compare your organization to your competition.

Know how you stack up to your competitors in terms of positive and negative media mentions so you can take advantage of shifts in those numbers. Google Alerts can help you find how many mentions a company has received. And when you see your competitors’ sentiment going negative, it may be time to raise your organization’s visibility as an alternate provider.

6. Reach out to individual users regarding their comments.

Publicly thank those with positive things to say, even offering tokens of appreciation where warranted. Address complaints and vow to take corrective action. You can make contact privately about the particular remedy to be offered, whether it’s a refund for a bad experience at a hotel or a replacement for a defective product.

7. Track sentiment figures over time.

This will allow you to identify triggers and monitor sentiments expressed by your highest-priority sources. Are figures trending more positive, meaning a higher percentage of positive mentions in the last six months? Or has something caused the relationship with this source to trend more negative? It’s important to conduct analyses over time, not just in the short-term.

Sentiment analysis can quickly alert you to shifting public opinion on a particular topic and allow you to effectively monitor changes in your organization’s brand reputation.

Marcia Layton Turner is an award-winning freelancer who writes regularly about small business and entrepreneurship. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Black Enterprise, as well as at Forbes, CNNMoney and Amex OPEN Forum, among dozens of others.

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