The ultimate guide to sentiment analysis

People are talking about your brand, sure, but what are they really saying? Sentiment analysis is trying to solve this problem.

And while it’s far from perfect- sarcasm is still hard for some people to detect online too- it’s the best way there currently is to keep tabs on the feelings around your brand over time.

With that in mind, we put together an ultimate guide to sentiment analysis so you can learn everything about how it works and how your brand can use it.

Got questions or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

A brief history of sentiment analysis

Obviously sentiment analysis as we’re writing about it now isn’t very old; the ability to mine the internet for mentions of your brand and decipher the tone around those messages hasn’t existed for very long, nor have most of the social media sites we now turn to when we’re tracking brand mentions and sentiment.

A 2016 review of existing sentiment analysis research sums things up nicely:

“We find that the roots of sentiment analysis are in the studies on public opinion analysis at the beginning of 20th century and in the text subjectivity analysis performed by the computational linguistics community in 1990’s. However, the outbreak of computer-based sentiment analysis only occurred with the availability of subjective texts on the Web. Consequently, 99% of the papers have been published after 2004. “


“In recent years, sentiment analysis has shifted from analyzing online product reviews to social media texts from Twitter and Facebook. Many topics beyond product reviews like stock markets, elections, disasters, medicine, software engineering and cyberbullying extend the utilization of sentiment analysis.”

So while sentiment analysis is a fairly new field, there’s still a lot it can do for your brand. Let’s dive into exactly what that is.

Sentiment analysis and influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is maturing. A large following doesn’t necessarily make someone influential to that following, and platforms are cracking down on the third-party services that allow influencers to inflate their numbers (which, ironically, dilutes their influence by wrecking their engagement rate; bots don’t interact like real people do). Smart brands will do a little research around an influencer before signing a deal to collaborate on a campaign or other project with them.

Sentiment analysis is one of the best ways for brands to tap into the mood around a particular influencer and avoid any potential brand crises from being associated with them; we’ve written more in-depth about this before.

And that also brings us to our next point.

Sentiment analysis and crisis comms

A comprehensive social listening program for your brand should be able to alert you to any issues on the verge of boiling over into a communication crisis and sentiment analysis can alert you pretty quickly to any overall shifts in tone.

First, it helps contextualize a crisis: Was there a moment you can pick out that was the turning point? Was this the case of a few very angry people, or a large group of mildly upset people? Each situation requires a slightly different approach in how you handle it.

Sentiment analysis also allows you to identify the positive within a crisis- were any brand advocates or employees defending you? how can you thank them?- and see how quickly the entire event unfolded.

Get a more in-depth breakdown of all of this here.

Sentiment analysis and competitive intelligence

Finally, how does your target audience really feel about your brand? What about your competitors? What about any influencers your competitors are working with?

Sentiment analysis gives you the details around each of these things, and more. See more about how they interact here.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash