Ok, we’re being provocative here (but when are we not?)
Perhaps sentiment analysis is not dead, but it will be if we forget one of the basic tenets of social business: it’s all about the people, the human side of social.
One of the many lessons we’ve learned from the past few years working in social business, is that sentiment analysis works best when real live people are on the social media front lines, in the muck of it all actively searching and engaging in conversation. Building your audience is done by listening and reacting to what people are saying in a real-time environment, as it happens – in short, paying attention. Humans, interacting in the social spaces you’ve found useful to your brand, sharing things which your target audience wants, and providing the assistance they demand, that is where your investment in social needs to be and where your investment will begin to reap the rewards of human connection.
Without a human team to watch the reports, sentiment analysis will only cling to life in the marketing space as a way to understand simple A/B, yes/no, good/bad leanings. What really matters, and where you want to be spending your marketing dollars, is on quality social teams; people in the muck of it all who can actively analyze and understand the value in your sentiment reports and take those insights into actionable items.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective:
You have 5 spoons. Each one of these spoons represents a 40 man hour work week. You have two projects in which to disperse these spoons: Automated Sentiment Analysis, and Proactive Social Business.
- The first project, Automated Sentiment Analysis, provides you with daily, weekly, or monthly reports on what your audience and the wider social spheres are saying about your products. The end result of this project in one week’s time is a better understanding of what people feel and say about your products. This business intelligence can then be delivered to other organizations for action based on this information. One might argue that social sentiment packaged up and delivered on any schedule less than daily is irrelevant. It’s almost certainly not directly actionable, and it’s stale in this highly automated fashion. As it stands this may only take one or two spoons to run.
- The second project, Proactive Social Business, provides you with real-time sentiment analysis and business intelligence in the form of direct conversation and the ability to immediately address any issues to which can impact sentiment within minutes. Simply by actively participating in the social networks, sharing content, amplifying others’ content, active network curation, and running ad hoc reports to locate relevant conversations, each spoon in this team can take immediate action on the discovered data using the right tone and voice as each discovered post dictates. More importantly, active listening and paying attention on social channels is MUCH more accurate, focused, and timely. While this takes a few more spoons to ensure success, something as simple as a follower reporting a broken link can be actioned immediately. More importantly, a quick response shows the company is listening, interested in feedback, and cares about the end-user experience.
After all, that IS what social business is about, right? The ability for clients, customers, and general audiences to break down those corporate walls and directly connect and engage with companies – not bots, not automatons, but humans in companies – in conversations to resolve issues, gain insight or knowledge or champion for brands. Social business isn’t about passive listening, nor is it a marketing communications channel. It is about relationship management, real-time engagement with your clients, seekers, business partners, and potential customers to provide them with value when and where they want it. To accomplish this with any modicum of success, you need a team of dedicated, socially savvy people, on the ground with their hands in the soil of social conversations, and paying attention to both real-time sentiment and the garden/network they are cultivating. You need to put your spoon investment in the right places in order to get the right results.
Because it stands repeating: Humans, interacting in the social spaces you’ve found useful to your brand, sharing things which your target audience wants, and providing the assistance they demand, that is where your investment in social needs to be and where your investment will begin to reap the rewards of human connection.