Driving a deeper strategic approach to sentiment analysis

We all know it is important for an SME brand to listen to what is being said about it online. While this is important it is not the whole story. If we want sentiment analysis to be used truly effectively as a tool to protect an SME’s reputation and build stakeholder relations I believe we need to go deeper.

My experience of sentiment analysis has been that while many SME brands understand the need to monitor what is being said about their brand and organisation they rarely go any deeper than that. Usually they will only monitor for mentions of their brand or products online. This is a mistake I believe as sentiment analysis monitoring and assessment should not be limited purely to monitoring for mentions around an SME brand name or organisation online. It should go deeper than that and extend into monitoring the wider political, societal, technological and economic environments they operate in. It should also look at online sentiment around individual employees in their SME brand who have a visible public profile or are the face of their brand. The personal digital footprints of high profile public employees will impact on the reputation of the organisations and brands they work for.

Equally public and stakeholder opinion on political, societal, ethical and technological issues never remains static. It is constantly changing and evolving. SME brands need to be in that space more. They increasingly need to measure and respond to public and stakeholder sentiment on a range of political, societal, ethical and technological issues. There is a business need to ensure their business activity, policies, strategies, brand values and ethics are aligned closely with public opinion and sentiment. In this way they can help protect the reputation of their SME brand or organisation creating the right fertile environment for strengthening stakeholder relations and building brand advocates.

We must also accept that sentiment analysis data is actionable data. Actionable data adds value. I have seen instances with SME businesses where sentiment analysis data is rarely shared outside the corporate communications department. It should be shared without fear with all business unit managers to become truly actionable data. They need sight of the data in a meaningful easy to digest format in order to add value and ensure that the policies, strategies and actions of their business unit are aligned as much as possible with public and stakeholder opinion on societal issues.

To conclude my key points in this month’s column are we need to go beyond monitoring just the sentiment of a brand but also the wider external environment. We also need to share sentiment analysis data more widely within an SME enterprise so the data becomes truly actionable and adds more value. Finally, while there is an active and competitive marketplace for sentiment analysis software we should not rely entirely on it. It cannot entirely replace human analysis. I have seen instances where sentiment analysis software has judged an online comment to be “negative sentiment” when it was not due to the context it was written in. My argument is that only when we adopt this deeper strategic approach to sentiment analysis can we maximise the value from it.