The Paine of Measurement
Does sentiment matter? I raised this question to a room full of sentiment analysis providers at Seth Grime’s Sentiment Analysis Symposium (SAS11) in New York earlier this month. Needless to say I was not the most popular person in the room.
My point was that there are many many caveats to using sentiment analysis and the biggest one is that, unless you have proof that it makes a difference to your business, it’s all a tremendous waste of time.
The SAS11 conference was full of examples of great technology. Many of the problems that I raised concerns about earlier have been, if not solved, at least addressed with more sophisticated NLP and text mining software. But from my perspective, the bottom line is still the bottom line.
Unless you can tie an increase or decrease in sentiment to some customer action, does it really matter?
Sure if Apple or Southwest or Dell see a spike in positive tweets there may well be a correlation with online sales. But if they spot a big uptick in negative Tweets does that translate into fewer sales? And what about the millions of businesses that can’t make a direct connection between customer sentiment and customer action because they aren’t doing business online, they sell through distributors, or they don’t have enough volume of conversation to have a statistically valid sample?
My point is not that sentiment analysis should go away. Clearly it isn’t going to. But the significance of your results needs to be calibrated to the impact those results have on your business. And we should also consider that the notion of just defining and tracking positive vs. negative really is not sufficient in a world when people express their feelings about a brand or a company in so many other ways. Never mind the entire new version of the English language that Twitter has introduced.
Automated positive vs. negative sentiment tracking ignores what I would argue is the most important concept you can glean from social media – the relationship that your customers have with your brand. Nowhere in any of these systems did I see the concepts of trust, loyalty, or commitment addressed.
We at KDPaine & Partners are currently using human coding to tease these concepts out of social media conversations. We envision a time when we can pull at least some of these concepts out automatically, but it’s not exactly here yet.
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements.