Social Automation Tools: Can They Really Measure Sentiment?

ContextMany companies have bought into monitoring their brand reputation via social automation tools such as Radian6, Meltwater Buzz, etc. But can they really measure the sentiment of your fans/followers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for social automation. I practically live out of HootSuite. But do I use any of them to measure brand sentiment? No and quite frankly speaking, it’s because I think they cannot measure the sentiment accurately. In fact, they’re about as accurate as the weather and here’s why:

  1. It’s a keyword algorithm. Social automation tools that claim to measure sentiment are simply filtered by keywords. But those keywords are input by a human and they are not inclusive of all positive or negative keywords. 
  2. It can’t discern grammar very well or sarcasm. For example, if I say: Let’s eat Grandma vs. let’s eat, Grandma. It means two different things. And if you’re Grandma, it could be a scary situation.
  3. Context means everything. Often social automation tools have a tough time measuring context. Context can  e the social network it’s coming from, for example, something scaled down on Twitter might have convey a different context than something on Facebook or Google Plus. Also the time, the day, or if something happened in the news that sparked a comment that might seem normal, but instead it was negative due to when it came out.
    Or what about when someone says, “I need a Visa” do they mean they need an immigration Visa or a Visa credit card?

Bottom line, in the words of my friend Neil James, ‘social media software just doesn’t have the capability of parsing out emotion from words alone,’ and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Do you use an online social automation tool that supposedly measures sentiment? Do you think it’s accurate?

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About Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is CEO and Chief blogger at Social Strand Media. She is also the author of Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field -- Social Media Fundamentals for Business.