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Typically when we talk about sentiment analysis, we talk about the importance of real-time insights to inform your brand’s present and future. But sometimes it’s worth looking back at how you arrived where you are – so you can understand how to approach the next chapter of your journey.

Gonna take a sentimental journey…

How exactly did sentiment become the sun around which all social listening orbits? The evolution happened as all do – over time, based on observation and experimentation.

When Michael Osofsky founded NetBase in 2003, social media was in its infancy. Year-old MySpace was the closest thing to the social media we’re accustomed to now, and no one could have guessed how much the newly-launched Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube platforms would change everything.

Wei Li soon signed on as Chief NetBase Scientist, and the real fun began. Within a few years we had some major clients – P&G, Coca-Cola, and Kraft – and Wei and his team of data scientists were tasked with performing brand netnographies so we could illustrate how our tools worked. Netnography is basically an outdated word that has been replaced by “social listening.”

What these netnographies uncovered were topics surrounding a given brand, indicating consumer perception based on positive or negative sentiment. This early netnography of Listerine shows how thorough – and useful – these studies were, even in 2010.

It was clear even then that how consumers felt was as paramount as what they talked about. It all factored into the equation of understanding how they viewed brands. The problem back then was it took data scientists to perform these types of analyses.

Using social listening made social listening better

As valuable as these sentiment-driven insights were, not all brands could afford to invest in a team of data scientists. Even those that could weren’t necessarily convinced of the need for such data.

There were still focus groups and surveys, after all. Social media was just a way to be sure consumers liked you – and if enough of them mentioned you, that was a good indication, right?

We now know that likes and mentions are hardly enough – and that context in social analytics is powered by sentiment. But how did we learn this?

By analyzing the data, of course. What our social listening revealed was a constantly changing landscape brands had to consider. We saw consumers talking amongst themselves, and not talking so much to brands – unless those brands were making human conversation versus promoting themselves.

We realized brands needed to understand a variety of languages – not just the 42 global languages it can read – but human language, like sarcasm, slang, and emojis.

We saw the need for faster insights, so we launched Live Pulse in 2014 – which offered the first real-time view of brands’ social movements. This allowed brands to adjust live campaigns and save valuable resources. It also let brands spot potential sources of trouble, to nip them in the bud.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in front of a NetBase dashboard at Target HQ

Sarah Michelle Gellar picked the perfect spot to pose during a recent visit to Target HQ – right in front of their NetBase Live Pulse dashboard!

Audience 3D was another innovation that leveled-up the way social data was surfaced and applied. Our social listening revealed common segments of consumers who felt similarly about certain topics. This was a revelation that opened the door to personalization in a new way.

Instead of targeting a broad demographic like 30-year-old moms, for example, brands could now target psychographic segments like “caregivers invested in organic foods and giving back to the community.”

It’s just one more example of how sentiment has provided the roadmap in making a better social media analytics tool.

If you’re gonna talk the talk…

What’s the point of this trip down memory lane? It’s not just so we can pat ourselves on the back – though of course we’re super proud of all we’ve accomplished.

No, the real reason this matters is it’s yet another use case to prove what we’re always telling our audience. The way to dominate a market is by listening to your audience, and focusing on what they care deeply about.

Doing this has led us to diversify our tool offerings – developing Instant Search for those who want finding social insights to be as simple as Google. Listening closely to brands is what inspired customizable visual dashboards, audience segmentation, monitoring alerts, and more.

Everything we tell you to do is based on our experience doing the same – combined with the insights we pull from competitor analysis as well. We don’t want you to settle for lesser tools, like those with 3rd party add-ons you can’t control, or generic topic builders that can’t be customized.

And we can’t tell you to apply social listening to track emerging trends unless we’re doing the same – like building our own image recognition engine to keep your insights on the cutting edge.

What keeps your brand strong is the same thing that’s kept NetBase at the top of our industry for nearly 15 years: following the sentiment of our audience, and applying what we discover to all areas of our organization.

That’s how you dominate a market – and we’re here to make sure you dominate yours.

Ready to see our award-winning tools in action? Get in touch for a personalized demo.

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