Sentiment analysis tools can be valuable to any brand, providing they’re used with caution. In the real world, sentiment is not just positive, neutral or negative – there are nuances, contradictions, irony and humour to take into consideration as well. If you’re just starting out as a DIY market researcher, these top tips will help you to get the most out of sentiment analysis tools.
Context always matters
On Twitter, people are saying 12 Years a Slave is ‘brutal’, ‘horrifying’, and ‘depressing’ — and many are confessing they cried. But these comments aren’t negative at all if you take the nature of the film into consideration. It’s supposed to have that effect. Other terms are even more ambiguous, like music fans using ‘killed it’ to describe a fantastic performance — or a bad cover version.
If you’re using a free sentiment analysis tool, there’s really not much you can do about this except take the results with a grain of salt. The expensive tools tend to be more advanced, and allow you to filter out certain keywords.
Manual sentiment analysis can be valuable, too
Small businesses really don’t need to waste money on fancy sentiment-analysis tools. Entering the brand name into Twitter’s search tool can be just as effective — and, if you do this on a daily basis, you’ll be able to reach out to any disgruntled customers and thank any positive ones. When your reach starts to grow, sentiment analysis tools can be useful. For companies just starting out, there’s no need.
And manual analysis has other benefits, too. A Tweet like ‘I was furious, but they apologised and gave me a refund, and now I feel bad for getting angry’ would seem negative to a computer, but a human could tell it was positive.
Neutral sentiments are important
Neutral sentiments are often seen as less important than positive and negative ones. To a human, is there really such thing as a neutral feeling? We either like something, or we don’t, or we like certain aspects of something, and dislike others. Opinions aren’t empty, and the more complex ones are often the most useful.
You can get a really good feel about how people perceive your brand just by reading through the ‘neutral’ Tweets, or seeing which words pop up the most frequently. Bigger companies will benefit from having a professional analyse their data, but by the time you need to worry about that, you’ll probably be able to afford one. Sentiment should be relatively easy to track using basic tools and manual analysis if you have under 10,000 followers!
Of course, there’s no use analysing sentiment if you’re not going to do anything with the results. Finding out how people feel about your brand might satisfy your curiosity, but it won’t change how they feel, and it won’t help you grow your reach. The data you gather should be used to influence future decisions, target problem areas, and focus on your strengths. From there, you can do just about anything.
By Sam Wright
Sam Wright is a freelance writer working for Brand Republic. He would recommend Twitter’s advanced search over most sentiment analysis tools.