Thursday, January 12, 2012

Social Media Sentiment: Don’t Get Caught Up In Raw Counts

Are you obsessing over the total number of mentions, number of positive mentions and negative mentions? If you are then you are not alone.

This same issue came up recently while I was speaking on the subject of Social Media at a local event. One person got very concerned when I said that a lot of social media conversations are marked “Neutral” in most of the social media monitoring tools. The reason is that tools are not yet advanced enough to classify everything and so when in doubt the conversation is marked “Neutral” rather than “Positive” or “Negative” .

So what do you do in this situation, when you know that the sentiment numbers are not right?
Short answer is: Don’t obsess over the raw counts.

Let’s face it; you will never get an exact count of mentions about your brand, products etc. let alone the sentiment counts. Here are few reasons why the number won’t be accurate
  1. Tools - The number of mentions will change with the tool you are using. Different tools have different sources of data and different way of classifying spam, and hence the numbers won’t match between various tools. In other words you will never know exactly how many mentioned about your brand, products etc. are happening in Social Media.
  2. Tool Setup – The way you setup your tool will result in different count of conversations.
  3. Keywords - A generic keyword like “Windows” will bring many more results than “Microsoft Windows” however “MS Windows” will bring a different count and so on. The mention count will change depending on your keywords.
  4. Tool Updates – Tools are changing every day. The count of mentions and sentiment change as tools roll out updates to their algorithm. As for the sentiment, tools are changing the way they assign sentiment to the posts, so if last month something was classified as “Neutral”, similar post this month might be classified as Positive, due to changing algorithm as tools become better each day.
So you can’t really count on the raw numbers, so don’t obsess over them. A better measure of sentiment is the directional movement in sentiment which I calculate using what I call: Sentiment Indicator. I wrote about Sentiment Indicator in my post Sentiment Indicator: Social Media KPI

Sentiment Indicator = (Positive Conversations – Negative Conversations)/(Positive Conversations + Negative Conversations)

Sentiment indicator allows you to see if you making an improvement in positive direction or not. Though it is still dependent on actual count, the impact is minimized or neutralized as tools become better in classifying both positive and negative mentions.

Also, keep in mind that there is a lot more value in the actual conversations than just the counts. Finding value in actual text of the conversation requires manual scanning of the social media conversations. In these conversations is where you will find valuable information to help you optimize your marketing, products, PR etc.

Comments? Questions?

Other Social Media Analytics posts that you might have missed:
Follow Me on Twitter: @anilbatra
Web Analytics Jobs

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would like to hear your comments and questions.