How to Use Sentiment Analysis to Transform Your Digital Marketing Strategy

The goal of sentiment analysis is to increase customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. Moreover, it helps put the right brand messaging in front of the most interested eyes.

Sentiment analysis is a fascinating concept.

Brands use it to better understand customer reactions, behaviors, and opinions toward their products, services, reputation, and more. The goal of sentiment analysis is to increase customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. Moreover, it helps put the right brand messaging in front of the most interested eyes.

Before the digital age, gauging and understanding sentiment was an incredibly cumbersome process. It typically involved sending out surveys manually, going to the streets and asking people, or gathering focus groups in one place at one time. The big data-infused model of sentiment analysis we know today hit its stride on the political scene in 2010. Since then, it has morphed into a key tactic in marketing plans. These days, most of the grunt work is automated.

However, even with all of the advances in areas like martech, voice search, conversational commerce on social media, virtual assistants, and big data analytics, understanding how to actually use sentiment analysis to improve the bottom line is a complicated task.

Here are a few key approaches to help you get the value you need.

Know the Terms and Phrases That Indicate Intent

Most businesses today (hopefully) don’t even begin their digital branding and marketing efforts without a list of keywords relevant to their industry and a plan on how to target their audiences. You should have a good idea of the terms and variations that bring you traffic to your website, when used in conjunction with your brand and products. If you run an auto repair shop, people are likely finding you on the web through terms such as: body shop near me, auto repair, replace brake pads, etc.

Google Search Console gives you a great, fairly accurate idea of what’s bringing people to your website:

google search console
Credit: Author’s own

In terms of sentiment analysis, to gain actionable insight, you need to know how people are using these keywords in a way that indicates interest and engagement potential. Now, this is perhaps the biggest gray area in sentiment analysis, because not all positive sentiment equates to sales. Just because there are a lot of positive words around luxury cars doesn’t necessarily mean people are about to buy.

However, there are certain terms and phrases that signal people have entered your buyer’s journey. Let’s say you run an SEO agency and one of the terms you’re tracking for sentiment analysis is “Google update.” If you notice that a lot of people are searching for things like “what to do after a google algorithm update?” or “how to recover from a google penalty?” it’s a good indicator that they might need your services at the moment; you should target them accordingly.

Spot Patterns in Product Reviews

At its core, sentiment analysis is a game of pinpointing patterns and reading between the lines. Simply put, the more genuine and meaningful feedback you get on your product, the better insights you will gain into your customers.

Of course, gathering such high-quality feedback is easier planned than executed; especially for newer or smaller companies. Only 10% of customers will review or rate a business after a purchase, while half of consumers will leave a review only some of the time. However, the number of reviews jump significantly to 68% when a company asks the customer directly to leave one.

In order to find fruitful, up-to-date patterns, you need to make it a marketing process to consistently seek out new reviews. Then, you’ll want to start by searching for common adjectives. These should include words like:

  • great, simple, easy,
  • or awful, difficult, poor, etc.
trustpilot review
Credit: Capterra.com

In the above image, there are a good amount of reviews that include the word “great” for this product. Looking at the context around this term, we notice recurring patterns around components, like features and usability, and “not so” great opinions on customer service.

Finding recurring themes in customer sentiment will give you a better picture into the positive and negative aspects of your business or product. These can indicate the level of trust people have in your brand and how likely they are to give you a recommendation. When you are looking for patterns, try to come up with several adjectives that shed light on both sides of the spectrum.

  • What words are commonly used to describe their experience?
  • Is there an issue that forces multiple people to leave negative reviews?
  • What part delights them the most?
  • What’s preventing you from solving common problems?
  • Which products or solutions are users comparing yours to?

The answers to these important questions can help you understand user sentiment better and build a customer-focused marketing strategy.

Look to Social Media for Unabashed (Unfiltered) Opinions

Oftentimes, social media is one of the best places to get raw opinions, where people don’t hold back —  both in positive and negative lights. Knowing how people feel in an unfiltered environment can be a great way to tell which parts of your business are working very well —  and not so well.

A social listening platform is an important tool to keep in your portfolio for monitoring online mentions and gathering important datasets. Tools like Mention, Talkwalker, and Brand24, not only keep an ear on social mentions, but also turn these comments and hashtags into valuable customer analytics to help your marketing team understand your customers even better.

For instance, the online gaming developer Wargaming used brand monitoring techniques to analyze its customer’s desires and see which products performed best. The company tracked its users’ social media conversations to see what they were looking for, what parts of the games they liked or disliked, and any suggestions they offered for improvements.

Similarly, you can use a social listening tool to combine all your brand mentions into one database, giving your marketing team a bird’s eye view of audience sentiment on social platforms and identify areas to work on.

talkwalker
Credit: Talkwalker.com

While gathering this sentiment is good, the most important thing is knowing what to do with it. About 83% of customers who make a social mention of a brand —  specifically, a negative one —  expect a response within a day, and 18% want one immediately. Unfortunately, a majority of these mentions go unanswered, which can really impact a brand’s image. By utilizing an effective real-time social listening program, you can not only stay on top of social buzz, you can intervene and reply to any negative sentiment right away.

Some of the next steps will be fairly obvious, especially when you’re dealing with negative feedback. For instance, if your customer sentiment from social listening reveals that people are having trouble updating their software or there are issues with the product itself, this indicates that some redesign is necessary. However, don’t get too comfortable when you are getting positive reactions —  these tend to trick companies into thinking that no improvements are needed.

This kind of feedback can support a stronger marketing strategy. Let’s say your business sells pool supplies. While your customers may not be tweeting about your great chlorine chemicals, they are more likely talking about the fun pool floaties and games your website sells. Therefore, it would be helpful to highlight these fun accessories, as well, by listing them more prominently on your page and even including UGC to promote them.

poolfloatz
Credit: Instagram

Use Predictive Analysis to Spot Trends and Automate Actions

Now that you have all these valuable insights, you need to know how you can use them to shape your current and future business strategies.

Plugging your sentiment analysis into a predictive model is crucial for spotting trends, getting a feel for how opinions are progressing, and determining your next steps. Predictive analytics use machine learning and AI technology to not only gather, but analyze loads of consumer data and make accurate projections. These systems gauge historical behavioral data to help determine the best plan of action in the future.

In fact, customer segmentation and targeting (which is the logical next step after you analyze your audience’s sentiments) is one of the areas where applying AI and predictive analytics has the highest chance of working well for business.

applications of AI
Credit: Emerj.com

In order to develop an optimal predictive model for sentiment analysis, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to know?
  • What is the expected outcome? What do you think your customers are thinking?
  • What actions will you take to improve overall sentiment when you get the answers? How will you automate these actions?
  • What are the success metrics for these actions?

The Wrap

Chances are, your customers are already telling you what you need to make improvements to your business. By gathering as much data as possible on customer sentiment, your marketing team can understand just what needs to be done to provide a better experience, tweak campaigns accordingly, and acquire and retain more customers in the process.

Be sure you know what to data to collect, how to mine it, and how to apply it to keep raking in the revenue.

Data, Customer Experience and Calculated Risk in the Marketing

When I used to be heavily invested in music, teachers would often say, “The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.” This is equally valid with regard to digital information. For example, the more online digital information I knowingly or unknowingly provide through browsing habits, forms I fill in, subscriptions, purchases, games I play or any corner of the Internet I visit, the more I get back.

Editor’s Note: While this piece was written for the promotional marketing audience, the author’s discussion of data and customer experience is relevant to all marketers.

When I used to be heavily invested in music, teachers would often say, “The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.” This is true with my career, in my relationships and with my health. This is equally valid with regard to digital information. For example, the more online digital information I knowingly or unknowingly provide through browsing habits, forms I fill in, subscriptions, purchases, games I play or any corner of the Internet I visit, the more I get back. And delving a little deeper, it’s interesting to discover that my returns are tangential to my online patterns.

Have you ever noticed that after you’ve been researching a particular product, it “magically” appears as an advertisement on an unrelated website? That marketing tactic is called retargeting. Had I named the tactic, I may well have called it “echo marketing,” because what we “shout” into our Internet browser echoes back at us in fascinating ways. Those of us that shout the loudest endure the most intense echoes.

Not surprisingly, the majority of human beings don’t do a lot of changing in their adult years. For the most part, we create patterns and routines that provide us the comfort of habit as opposed to the discomfort of change. It’s a survival mechanism that must date back to our ancestral days: Repeat what works, or die by repeating what doesn’t. Thus, it’s ingrained in us to perform habits that result in the least amount of hardship. And as the years have gone by and survival has become less of an issue in the technological age, the instinct is still there, but the cost is progress.

What companies inspire you the most? Which individuals motivate you to be your best self? Chances are that the companies and the people that inspire you are evolvers. According to Fortune, the world’s most admired companies in 2018 were Apple, Amazon and Alphabet. Apart from starting with the letter “A,” these three companies embody the spirit of innovation, evolution and change. These are companies that are dismantling the very walls and mountains, whose colossal size create the largest echoes. Unwilling to suffer the same fate as Blockbuster Video or Toys R Us, evolvers aren’t interested in an echo. They’re more interested in following the sweet sound of unencumbered curiosity.

In math, the equal sign is flanked by two expressions that share the same value — a universal concept that’s largely accepted by society. But what’s interesting is that we’ve begun to apply the equal sign to behavioral equations that are becoming shockingly accurate (though never as absolute as in pure mathematics). It is in this fascinating environment in which we find ourselves today. Here’s an example: Someone who visits antique car websites frequently = someone who is interested in antique cars. Though this may be correct or incorrect, we can add to the equation to increase the probability of its accuracy. Here’s the new equation: Someone who visits antique car websites frequently and shops for antique car parts online = someone who has an antique car. Again, though it may be correct or incorrect, the likelihood of its accuracy increases.

When we start to accumulate and add variables such as when this person browses antique car websites, how long they browse for, how often they browse, what specific pages they navigate, and what their age and gender is, the equation becomes eerily precise. What I’m getting at is that we’re now capable of creating a personality profile for every browser. As an advertiser armed with this kind of knowledge, it becomes quite simple to launch appropriate messages to the person behind the profile, thus adding a song to their echo chamber.

We can view this reality in many ways. One way to see it is to accept the efficiency of the system in that the information that interests us now comes to us automatically. In other words, I get what I need. What an amazing time to be alive, right? Or, we can see it a little differently by understanding that our habits, in this technological age, are putting us in a prison in which reality is only what we know. Those who choose to see it this way may contend that this myopic view of the world is potentially quite dangerous and doesn’t encourage open-mindedness and curiosity.

As a supplier (as well as a marketer), I must ask myself, does the possession of data come with a responsibility, not only for the obvious safekeeping of said data but for how I use it? Of course it does! Today, I’m using your precious data to fulfill the needs you already have, and I’m using it to broaden your horizons (and my own as well). What our company is attempting to do with data is to create opportunity. We can do that by highlighting which products your customers are likely to want. We can do that by showing you the evolutionary patterns your customers are exhibiting, which results in new roads, which lead to new destinations, hitherto uncharted. We’re using data to learn what we don’t already know — and I find that exhilarating and exciting. Soon, we’ll be able to move into new products categories that we’d never imagined getting into, catering to the needs of our customers.

And this is precisely why so much is being made of customer experience (CX) these days. Cultivate the right experience for your customer and you’re golden. But miss the mark, and you’ve lost a customer. Blockbuster Video failed to understand the changing needs of its customers and ultimately failed to provide the time-appropriate experience that they demanded. Using data in a responsible, ethical and creative manner can both feed the echo chamber and enrich it.

The companies I admire the most in our industry are those that are category designers. They’re not fearful of failure. They take calculated risks and attempt to use creativity and foresight to create positive change, by orders of magnitude. Engineering and reengineering are part of their constitution. They are the masters of their echo chambers because they fill them with winning formulas, and they’re bold when composing new songs. They’re not afraid to transform their chambers by moving and manipulating walls to create new acoustics. Our industry is in the midst of the greatest transformation in its history. Using a combination of technology, experience, insight and curiosity, we’re reading minds. Telepathy isn’t a dream anymore; we’re already doing it. Scary? No way! If you’re like me, you’re building the most beautiful cathedral you can imagine. You’re an architect. You have a voice. Use it.