Ears Wide Open: Measuring emotion online

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of Marketing Social media has moved marketers from impressions to feelings, but measurement still counts If you were sitting at a bus stop and overheard people nearby talking about your brand, you wouldn’t turn away, would you? (You’d actually probably lean closer and start doing an […]

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of Marketing

Social media has moved marketers from impressions to feelings, but measurement still counts

If you were sitting at a bus stop and overheard people nearby talking about your brand, you wouldn’t turn away, would you? (You’d actually probably lean closer and start doing an informal focus group…)

With a huge selection of tools out there to monitor and measure the sentiments behind the millions of comments, conversations and blogs flooding onto social media every day, there’s no reason marketers shouldn’t be plugged into what consumers are saying—and perhaps more importantly, feeling—about their category or brand in that space, either.

That can mean using social monitoring software offered by companies such as Sysomos, Radian6 and SAS—which will automatically analyze data from conversations and, as SAS’ website states, “quantify interaction among traditional media/campaigns and social media activity”—or devoting living, breathing staff, such as your community manager, to scour the web and dig to the heart of the opinions people share about your brand in social.

Because, as far as technology has come, it takes a human to identify sarcasm and slang—and sometimes even to properly gauge enthusiasm. In a blog post titled “Automated Sentiment Analysis is for Suckers,” Minnesota-based digital strategist Neil James points out that after configuring sentiment analysis for “iPhone” in his primary social monitoring software, a tweet from one iPhone fanatic that read “If I break/lose my iPhone 4S, I’m seriously going to commit suicide” was rated as negative with respect to the product. Oops.

So there are still issues to iron out, but one thing is for sure: the days of bragging about the number of hits your website gets are long over. And the “amounts and counts” era of placing tons of value in your volume of Facebook likes or Twitter followers is also coming to an end.

The marketing world has moved past impressions and into feelings. And not in a sappy John Tesh kind of way, but in a measurement-driven way that uses social monitoring and analysis to get to the emotional root of consumers’ online comments. “Today your brand isn’t about the number of impressions anymore—it’s the sum of the conversations about your brand,” says Renny Monaghan, Salesforce.com VP, head of marketing for Canada. “That change is significant.”

Measuring and analyzing social sentiment not only reveals people’s preferences and satisfaction levels around a brand, but also gives insights on how brands can tweak their messages and how they should talk about themselves to match how consumers are talking about them.

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