Today’s marketers are rightfully obsessed with metrics.

But don’t forget that your customers are more than just data points.

And it’s easy to overlook your customers’ feelings and emotions, because they’re difficult to quantify.

However, consider that emotions are the number one factor in making purchasing decisions. With so many consumers sharing their thoughts and feelings on several social channels, brands need to monitor the chatter to understand how their products make people feel.

Enter the world of social media sentiment analysis. It’s a tactic that savvy brands use to translate social media behavior into actionable business data.

Jamia explains the connection between artificial intelligence (AI) and sentiment analysis in the video below. Watch the video to hear examples of how you can use sentiment analysis to fuel business decisions and how to perform it too:

In this guide, we’ll break down the importance of social media sentiment analysis, how to conduct it and what it can do to transform your business.

What is social media sentiment analysis?

Social media sentiment analysis is the process of retrieving information about a consumer’s perception of a product, service or brand.

If you want to know exactly how people feel about your business, sentiment analysis is the key. Specifically, social media sentiment analysis provides context for your customers’ conversations around the social space.

Think of sentiment analysis as a subset of social listening. While businesses should obviously monitor their mentions, sentiment analysis digs into the positive, negative and neutral emotions surrounding those mentions.

Why social media sentiment analysis matters

Does your product give customers a sort of warm, fuzzy feeling? Are you meeting their expectations with your quality of service? Sentiment analysis can answer these questions and then some.

Let’s look at some of the reasons you should monitor social media sentiment sentiment.

It helps you understand your audience

Bear in mind that your mentions, whether they be positive or negative, don’t happen in a vacuum. Rather than focus on a one-off compliment or complaint, brands should look at the bigger picture of their audience’s feelings. For example, a flurry of praise is definitely a plus…and should be picked up in X (formally Twitter) sentiment analysis.

example of a twitter exchange reflecting positive sentiment

…and a flood of complaints can alert you to problems with your product or service that need to be addressed.

You can gather actionable data

The beauty of social media for sentiment analysis is that there’s so much data to gather. With more and more consumers tagging and talking about brands on social, you can tap into real data that show you how your brand is performing across time, and across all platforms where you have a social media presence.

You can meet customers where they are

Social media sentiment analysis helps businesses identify when and how to engage with their customers directly. Publicly responding to a negative sentiment and solving a customer’s problem can do wonders for your brand’s reputation.

You can get meaningful insights about your brand messaging

As you look at how users interact with your brand and the types of content they prefer, you can retool your brand messaging for greater impact.

How to conduct sentiment analysis yourself

With a basic understanding of what positive and negative sentiment analysis is, let’s talk about how you go about conducting it. Although sentiment analysis can result in valuable insights for brands, it’s not without its challenges.

Find out where folks are talking about you

As noted, consumers are sounding off about brands like never before. This rings true both on social media and off.

Businesses obviously need to track their social mentions on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Doing so is a great way to capitalize on praise and address criticism in a timely manner.

That said, you also need to monitor online review forums and third-party sites. This includes Google Reviews, Reddit and sites such as Yelp!

Many customer conversations are happening off-social, including third-party sites and Google

And if you’re in the realm of ecommerce, your on-site reviews are particularly valuable. Don’t neglect the insights from loyal customers who mean the most to your business. Here’s an example of positive sentiment from one of Girlfriend Collective’s product pages.

On-site reviews are important when conducting sentiment analysis for ecommerce

Monitoring all of these platforms manually can be time-consuming. That’s why we recommend a sentiment analysis tool such as Sprout Social. For example, with Sprout, you can pick your priority networks for listening to avoid monitoring your mentions “by hand.” You can also track keywords related to your brand in cases where customers don’t tag you directly.

Sprout topic builder

Choose your terms for sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis is most effective when you’re able to separate your positive mentions from your negative mentions.

That means searching for relevant terms which highlight customer sentiment.

Some sentiment terms are straightforward and others might be specific to your industry. Either way, your sentiment terms need to be divided into positive and negative terms. Below is an example of what some of those terms might look like for a sentiment search.

  • Positive: best, love, high-five, amazing, perfect, thanks
  • Negative: worst, hate, ugh, disappointed, bad, avoid

Put your mentions into context

This is where sentiment analysis gets tricky.

The volume of sentiment-related terms in your searches doesn’t always tell the full story of how your customers feel. It’s crucial to double-check your mentions and leave some room for analytical error.

Here’s a good example from Netflix’s Facebook page. Fans are obviously singing the praises of their programming, but they’re also throwing in terms like “ugly,” “cry” and “depressed” while doing so. If you saw those terms pop up in your mentions without context, it might be cause for alarm.

Context is crucial for monitoring comments for sentiment analysis

Sarcasm can likewise create confusion when it comes to sentiment analysis. When somebody Tweets “I love it when I lose my luggage after a nine-hour flight,” they obviously aren’t thrilled about their experience.

Although sentiment analysis is going to be accurate most of the time, you’re always going to have these sorts of outliers. A combination of manual listening and machine learning is ideal for getting the most “complete” sentiment analysis possible, which leads us to our next point.

Let a sentimental analysis tool do the work for you

The sheer volume of conversations happening right now is reason enough to invest in a social media listening tool like Sprout.

Sprout’s social listening capabilities eliminate most of the time-consuming tasks related to social listening.

For starters, Sprout monitors and organizes your social mentions in real time. With the help of our query builder, you can choose terms related to sentiment analysis that you want to track.

Sprout query builder

Meanwhile, your Active Listeners tab allows for one-click access to queries including complaints, compliments and specific customer experiences.

Sprout active listening topics

Sprout’s sentiment analysis widget in Listening Insights monitors your positive, negative and neutral mentions for a particular time period and reveals how those mentions have evolved over time. In other words, you can determine whether your brand perception is improving from month to month.

Sprout listening sentiment analysis

How to build a better business through sentiment analysis

The insights you gain from sentiment analysis can translate directly into positive changes for your business.

These are some of the benefits of regular social media sentiment analysis:

Step up your customer service

As noted earlier, sentiment analysis encourages brands to keep a closer eye on their mentions. This means being more attentive to comments and concerns as they pop up. Addressing these mentions—both negative and positive, signals that you’re listening to your customers.

Sprout users on the Advanced Plan can tap into AI-powered sentiment in the Smart Inbox and Reviews Feed. Posts will automatically be assigned a positive, neutral, negative or unclassified value, making it seamless to triage messages and even assign Automated Rules according to sentiment.

Spot opportunities to improve your products

On a related note, monitoring compliments and complaints can help you understand what people want to see from you in the future. Consumers today are anything but shy when it comes to sounding off, but it’s still up to brands to open their ears for feedback.

Conduct comprehensive competitive analysis

You want to know how people feel about your business, but you should also have a sense of how your audience feels about your competitors. Through social media sentiment analysis, you can understand why someone might bounce to a competitor or prefer their product to yours.

Make sure your messaging is on-point

Finding your tone on social media can be a challenge. Right now, many customers are engaging with humorous brands like MoonPie specifically because of their snark. Increasing your positive mentions might mean tweaking how you talk to your customers to build more buzz.

Monitor your long-term brand health

This is the big one.

Just as you monitor your traffic and followers, tracking sentiment over time ensures that you have a positive relationship with your audience and industry.

Social media sentiment analysis is particularly important when your business is making big changes—product launches, pricing increases or rebranding, for example.Keeping an eye on social media sentiment can provide you with peace of mind or spot a potential crisis before it occurs.

And with that, we wrap up our guide to social media sentiment analysis!

Do you know how your followers and customers feel about you?

Your customer’s feelings and emotions are too important to ignore.

With sentiment analysis, there’s no second-guessing what people think about your brand. Monitoring and analyzing the conversations happening on social media and beyond can help you make data-driven decisions for your business.

Check out Sprout’s social media listening map to learn more about how listening can impact your strategy.