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Knowing your customers has always been the (not so secret) secret to success. This is why so many brands section off large sums of their marketing budget to proactive research and reactive data analysis. This information can often shed light on what your customers prefer in terms of shopping habits, product preferences, and other demographic information that can affect their behavior.

But what does this information tell you about how your customers feel about your brand?

Customer sentiment is tricky to pinpoint and apply, but it is just as important to know as any other detail about who you are selling to. In many ways, sentiment determines your customers’ actions. If they are skeptical, they will seek out information to build trust or confirm their doubts. If they dislike your brand, they will ignore your marketing messages. On the other hand, if the sentiment is positive, they will (hopefully) recommend your company or product to other people.

So, how can your online brand gain a better understanding of this critical metric?

  • Understand What Leads to Negative Sentiment

Unfortunately, there will always be some customers who will never be happy with anything you do. Whether it is because they love your competitor, dislike an inconsequential detail about your brand, or have a legitimate reason, you will discover that a certain degree of negative sentiment is unavoidable.

While you can never turn all of your “haters” into fans, it is important to understand the factors that lead to negative sentiment – as well as which ones are avoidable. One way to do this is through monitoring negative customer reviews and analyzing the meaning behind complaints.

The best way to gather the specifics that you need about your customers’ biggest pain points is by requesting 360-degree feedback by asking them to share the pros and cons of the experience. For example, Trustpilot asked their customers to offer specific details on the things they both liked and disliked about the product.

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Trustpilot’s customers are also prompted to offer recommendations and discuss the specific benefits they have experienced since using the platform. This leads to data-rich reviews that shed light on certain factors that lead to negative sentiment, as well as opens up opportunities for improvement.

By gathering this kind of data directly from their customers, Trustpilot is able to make better improvements and changes that their customers actually want.

  • Keep a Close Eye on Social Conversations

Using a social media monitoring system helps your marketing team keep track of any mentions of your brand’s name or product online. Furthermore, social platforms are also a great place to conduct research on the sentiment of your brand and see how customers really feel about it.

But, you will need to look outside of just your followers’ conversations to gather accurate sentiment data. Did you know that 96% of people who mention a brand on social media do not actually follow it?.

If getting more followers on Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media platform is a top goal, you will want to understand the best practices for online interactions in order to create and create positive experiences. Interacting with a customer at the right time can help you turn around their sentiments immediately if they are experiencing any problems.

You should also utilize social media to inculcate positive sentiment with other customers as they observe these interactions. For example, there was a public encounter when a Southwest Airlines customer left her bridesmaid dress at home. Since she flew Southwest to the destination wedding, she decided to contact them via Twitter about the situation. Their marketing team jumped on this opportunity for great branding.

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Southwest Airlines’s Twitter account followed the journey of this dress from the moment they found it to the minute it arrived at the wedding. This became a trending topic on Twitter and gained Southwest Airlines a lot of positive media attention. In turn, this helped to stir up more positive sentiment with a very wide audience.

  • Discover Brand Advocates and Micro-Influencers

Using influencers to promote your brand on Instagram and other social media platforms is a great marketing strategy. However, most of these campaigns are based solely on audience reach, not the fact that the promoter themselves like the product. 

This can obviously lead to inauthentic promotions or even some PR disasters, like the infamous Scott Disick Instagram post where the instructions to the post were published in the comment. Clearly, Disick (or his PT team) did not double-check before creating the post, nor was he an actual fan of the product since he was clearly not writing the caption on his own.

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Partnering with people who actually like your product can make your promotions much more effective. There could be some great opportunities for brand partnership right underneath your nose that only sentiment analysis and engagement tools, such as Scrunch or Tinysponsor.

These platforms track sentiment through searching specific keywords, you can spot accounts that have mentioned your product in the past or are super interested in your industry. For instance, say that you sell all-natural vitamin supplements. Through social media monitoring, you can identify accounts that post positive content about the types of products you sell organically –  or even mentions your own brand. This opens up the door for you to step in and see if there is a possibility for collaboration and advocacy.

Sentiment analysis can also help you to discover micro-influencers that may not seem directly related to your business, but could actually be extremely influential.

For instance, Soylent sells meal replacement beverages that are typically sponsored by health and fitness gurus. However, through social media monitoring, they discovered that their product was actually quite popular among gamers who were looking for healthy, fast meals that they could easily consume while continuing to play.

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Soylent was able to identify micro-influencer gamers that featured their product in live videos, helping them to reach thousands of new customers.

  • Implement More Effective Crisis Management

All businesses make mistakes from time-to-time, but having a deep hold on customer sentiment can help you manage crisis situations faster and more effectively. The key to avoiding a major brand crisis is addressing the issue as early as possible with your brand’s side of the story. This gives you more control over the situation.

If your marketing team is tracking customer sentiment on a regular basis, it will be far easier to notice any sudden changes, such as positive sentiment starting to plummet. This allows your PR team to step in and reach a solution (such as an apology or policy change) before things get worse.

Again, if you are watching brand sentiment closely, you can easily turn negative buzz into great PR. A few years ago, a tweet went viral when a customer posted a picture of pre-peeled oranges that were being sold in Whole Foods.

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Since the natural grocer claims to be committed to environmental responsibility, this quickly stirred up some negative sentiment about the waste of plastic. Whole Foods quickly jumped into action by pulling the products immediately and publishing an apology. Additionally, they made a joke about the situation to end things on a more positive note.

Sometimes, it’s best to simply own the mistakes that your brand made in order to stop any more negativity. For example, Shea Moisture (a hair and beauty product company) released some new marketing content that received immediate backlash due to their lack of inclusivity.

Shea Moisture took action by publishing a heartfelt apology on their Instagram page that spoke directly to their upset customers about this mistake. They also let their followers know exactly how they would rectify the problem by including more diversity in their marketing moving forward.

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The most important element of effective crisis management is timeliness. Your team needs to be aware of any issues the moment they arise so they can handle the crisis before things spiral out of control.

Conclusion

Understanding your customer sentiment data is not enough; your marketing team needs to know how to use the information properly to ensure better connections with your customers. 

This is best done by using sentiment analysis tools, social listening platforms, and keyword trackers to give your team a better picture of how your customers feel about your brand. This information can then be used to minimize/eliminate customer’s pain points or turn around negative social chatter with instant engagement.

Use your positive sentiment data to discover active advocates who can help you reach wider audiences. And finally, be sure to closely monitor this metric and be ready to take action when needed.

Mansi DhordaMansi DhordaMansi DhordaMansi Dhorda works at E2M Solutions Inc. - a Digital Marketing Agency. She is well-versed in all things Content Marketing and Branding. During her free time, she runs her Instagram page for handmade accessories. Feel free to hit her up anytime on her Twitter handle: @mansidhorda.View all posts by Mansi Dhorda
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