The importance of understanding the sentiment behind high search volumes: Just because it's trending doesn't mean it's good!

Rosie Fleming

Audience Intelligence Strategist

What is sentiment alalysis?

As digital marketers, we rely heavily on performance metrics, and rightfully so. However, it is important to remember that people and audiences are more than just data points – they are a complex mix of feelings, attitudes and needs.

It’s easy to overlook audience sentiment because it’s harder to quantify, but emotions are the number one factor in making purchasing decisions. To truly understand customer demand, we must understand the context as well as the metric. Sentiment analysis builds this context.

Think of sentiment analysis as a subset of social listening. Social listening uncovers mentions of a brand, product, service, or topic. Sentiment analysis digs into the positive, negative, and neutral emotions surrounding those mentions.

Why sentiment analysis matters

Search volume data alone isn’t enough. It’s impossible to understand the sentiment behind a search query in Google Keyword Planner. There is no way of knowing if an increase in search demand is positive or negative. There is also no way of knowing the main reason behind such an increase. By basing your content and SEO priorities on high search volume keywords alone, then you leave yourself vulnerable to misplaced brand visibility.

Social mentions alone aren’t enough either. There may be lots of chatter around a brand, product, or topic, but is this positive chatter? Or are the high volumes of mentions people expressing negative feelings towards the brand, product, or topic?

Only through sentiment analysis will you gain an understanding of how audiences are truly feeling, and in turn, be able to make smarter content decisions.

The fox eye trend

Back in May 2020 there was a sudden spike in search demand for the ‘fox eye’, following the trend on social. In just two months – from March to May – search volume increased by a whopping 680%. Beauty brands, bloggers and consumers majorly jumped on the bandwagon, and rode the wave for a seemingly easy win. However, it soon came to light that this fox eye trend was, for many, racist and cultural appropriation. This is a prime example of when search data in isolation should not be relied on to inform content.

Sentiment analysis via social listening would have showcased how people felt about the fox eye, unearthing the disapproval surrounding this trend. Seeing the negative response would have helped brands decide if it was a wise route to go down. Clearly, many skipped this step and found themselves caught up in the controversy.

The importance of a holistic approach

At iCrossing we pride ourselves on always taking a holistic approach to content recommendations, especially reactive content. If we spot a trending topic through our search or social listening, we always look at the corresponding search or social demand, but more importantly we always evaluate the sentiment behind this spike in demand. We ensure the opportunity is relevant and appropriate, to avoid any brands becoming associated with a trend that could be revelled as negative later down the line.

Making a digital step-change

Your customer’s feelings are too important to ignore. With sentiment analysis, there’s no second-guessing what people think about your brand, a particular product, or a trending topic. It will give you confidence that the trends you create content around will spark desirable engagement.

Interested in hearing more about how the Audience Intelligence team at iCrossing can analyse real-time conversations on social media? Want to produce audience-first data-driven content? Then get in touch today and step closer to making smarter decisions for your business.

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