There is a value to social media data, both a quantitative significance and a qualitative importance.  Businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and others, leverage data to learn about consumers and clients in order to tailor and enhance experiences, both online and offline.  But when is data a crutch?  When do we value hard numbers too much, and lose sight of sentiment and emotive data?

Sentiment analysis a technique that’s implemented in computer software programs to distinguish and measure the emotions, attitudes and viewpoints throughout online conversations.  This method is analytically performed by both computer and the individual.  The analysis can be performed to evaluate conversations within social mediums (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.).  Sentiment analytics lets a business, researcher, marketing professional and the like, explain and quantify online behaviors.  This is a targeted analysis to gain insight into online conversation trends and consumer behavior.  The issue; however, is whether or not marketers, social media managers, and other professionals, are leveraging this data?  Many companies rely on “likes” and “re-tweets” and less on the quality and “sentiment” of conversation that can be mapped and analyzed for mutual benefit.

The online community is generating massive amounts of information on a daily basis that is very difficult for marketing professionals and community managers to quantify; proving their positive efforts towards the bottom-line.  The challenge for companies and other organizations is to use sentimental analysis and other types of emotive data to generate an actionable narrative of community knowledge.  This is where the crutch comes in…

Let’s take a look at American Airlines, ranking as one of the most-hated companies in the United States, according to MSN Money.  American Airlines has 346,259 “followers” on Twitter and 273,591 “likes” on Facebook.  The amount of money towards social media and online marketing for American Airlines, I assume, is quite large; and yet, it ranks (allegedly) as one of the most disliked companies with negative trends of online conversation.  We look at the large amount of “followers” and “likes” on Facebook and we leverage that to prove our online efforts fruitful; engaging the greater social media community.  American Airlines, and companies in similar positions, must direct their focus on sentiment and emotive data, not the hard numbers they push towards their executives and department directors.  Though American Airlines has been mentioned as the most disliked, they need to focus on the “correct” types of incoming data sources to improve upon their image.

There’s a design flaw in social media metrics. We use the crutch of numbers, of hard data; numbers from transactional media processing (“likes”, “follows”, etc.) rather than leverage the (what some would call) better data of sentiment and emotion.

The cliché here, and possibly, the message some will get from reading this, is “quality over quantity”.  In this case, I am not saying that.  Quantity of positive sentiment and emotive data trump quantity of the hard number.

In social media and measuring our impact upon it, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. We continue to redefine the value of online exchanges between people, businesses and government.


This guest post was written by Bennett Resnik. Bennett Resnik is a consultant on social capital and networks.  He is an expert in networking strategy and social capital retention.  Bennett advises his clients on how to locate and access social capital within their present networks and create a framework for future network strategy  Visit him at