The Ultimate Sentiment Analysis Guide

In this guide, you’ll discover one of the most powerful and exciting things in social media marketing today: sentiment analysis.

We’ll cover why sentiment analysis is an important technique to use in your marketing mix, and we’ll show you some real-life examples of how companies are using it to monitor real-time trends and predict future behavior.

We’ll also dive into the different types of sentiment analysis, how to effectively measure sentiment, common challenges associated with sentiment analysis, and highlight the top sentiment analysis tools for social media.

Above all else, we’ll show you how important sentiment analysis is for making a huge impact on your business. 

So, let’s get started.

What is Sentiment Analysis?

Simply put, sentiment analysis is an automated process that identifies and pulls opinions from text. 

From online reviews to tweets, sentiment analysis lets you listen to the internet, returning incredible data that you can then analyze to positively impact your business. 

The opportunities of what you can do with this data are endless.

Sentiment analysis uses machine learning algorithms to dig deep into digital text to reveal insights related to product feedback, services, business, and campaigns performances.

And how deep it digs is entirely up to you.

This gives you freedom to explore the ethos of your audience and study your content from the customer’s point of view.

This is just scratching the surface of the many use cases of sentiment analysis:

  • Market research
  • Product feedback
  • Customer service
  • Reputation management
  • Precision targeting
  • Influencer targeting
  • Social media scoring

With so many practical applications, the adoption of sentiment analysis for social media has exploded.

Why Sentiment Analysis is Important

How people feel about your brand is an extremely valuable commodity in business.

And it’s more measurable than you think.

Over 500 million tweets are sent a day. Facebook generates 4 petabytes of new data a day (that’s 4 quadrillion bytes)!

Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users who generate 95 million posts per day, and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Average time spent on social media
The average time spent on social media.

In that massive pile of data, whether you know it or not, people are talking about your brand, and they are sharing their experiences with the world. 

Data scientists estimate that about 80% of the world’s data is unstructured or semi-structured data. This type of data consists of audio, video, image data, natural language, documents, web pages, and email.

Unstructured and semi-structured data have two things in common: they all have elements of readable text, and they are all user created.

This is where the amazing powers of sentiment analysis and machine learning have really become valuable.

What people are saying about your brand, your products, and your company lies in that 80%. Insights into your customers, past, current, and future, can really help you bring your marketing to the next level.

It’s absolutely vital that you listen carefully to the feedback about your brand.

What’s even more important is to identify whether word of mouth is an asset or a liability to your brand’s reputation.

Here are 6 real-world, tangible reasons that sentiment analysis can help your business:

1. Prevent and Manage PR Crises

Sentiment analysis allows you to track keyword @mentions and hashtags in real-time.

This helps you identify PR crises as they happen. You can also watch overall trends in sentiment. If you see a spike in negative sentiment, you can get ahead of the issue, taking action if necessary to diffuse it before it turns into a PR nightmare.

For example, Sitrick and Company has built a reputation as one of the best strategic and crisis communications firms. Working with CEOs to the estate of Michael Jackson, they are a true authority in the crisis communications space.

They use sentiment analysis to discover the origin of the most prominent sentiment around their clients in real time.

The ability to see both positive and negative messages tied to their clients helps them form their communications strategies, giving them the ability to react quickly and effectively manage their client’s reputations.

2. Make Better Business Decisions

Sentiment analysis is invaluable to making better business decisions. 

It can drive strategies and objectives, help you understand and predict behaviours like purchase intent, calculate net promoter score, and find influencers that will drive your key messaging home.

SportQuake is one of the go-to international sports marketing agencies when it comes to using sentiment analysis for business decisions.

They use sentiment data to drive their influencer partnerships. For example, when they are considering a top athlete for a brand partnership, they look at sentiment to understand how likeable this potential influencer is in the eyes of their followers. 

Not only does this help SportQuake find the right influencers for their business, it also keeps their brand reputation safe in the process.

3. Measure the True ROI of Your Marketing Campaigns

Measuring your marketing campaigns only by quantifying likes, comments, and followers is a shallow and lopsided way to determine KPIs and overall marketing campaign ROI.

Yes, those metrics have value on their own, but sentiment analysis lets you dig deeper into the actual discussions, providing qualitative measurements of how your campaigns are being received.

You can measure reactions and qualify discussions as positive, negative, or neutral—giving you valuable awareness of the true ROI of your branding efforts.

sentiment analysis - keyhole

The Infinite Agency is a cutting-edge, data-driven creative agency that knows how to create a healthy brand using sentiment analysis

The Infinite Agency uses real-time marketing to track conversations as they happen on social media, reacting to both positive and negative comments, allowing them to optimize their strategy over the duration of their campaign.

By getting a holistic understanding of how their marketing campaigns are performing, they’re better able to manage and mediate their campaigns as they happen, but their overall brand sentiment as well. 

4. Understand Your Audience

Understanding your audience is key when setting goals for initiatives within your business.

It can help your team develop effective messaging for your audience and drive your campaigns forward.

For example:

The social media team behind “Every Woman, Every Child,” a campaign launched by the United Nations, used sentiment analysis to reach a global audience.

They integrated sentiment into their demographics research to create the best possible audience segmentation that aligned with their objectives. The result was an unprecedented movement that truly changed the world.

5. Improve Your Customer Service

No matter your business, quality, timely, and positive customer support is paramount to your survival.

Sentiment analysis can be an effective tactic for increasing your customer’s overall satisfaction.

The Grand Hyatt NY knows a thing or two about the customer experience. They put their customers first.

They use sentiment analysis at numerous stages of their customer experience by tracking everything from what their guests’ interests are to where they spend their time while on-property. 

They also use it to ensure a quality impression is left with every one of their guests; tracking the origin of negative messages on social media and making amends, with every single guest, impressing a worldwide audience in the process. 

6. Beat Your Competition

Standing out in a crowded market or trying to break into a market can be tough, but sentiment analysis can give you the leading edge over your competition.

The in-depth information you can get through social listening can be invaluable to making sound strategic decisions. Sentiment analysis comes in especially handy when it comes to benchmarking competitors and markets.

Securing investors in a competitive landscape is a difficult task. #WorldElephantDay knows this all too well, but with sentiment analysis, they have a healthy and loyal following of investors.

They use sentiment analysis to follow influencers that engage with their tags, allowing them to target them specifically. This ensures that they are getting effective messaging to the right ears, helping them reach exponential growth. 

They also use it as data FOR their investors, helping potential collaborators and sponsors see real-time qualitative data, turning engagement into action.

If you want to see what sentiment analysis can do for your business, Keyhole offers a free trial.

Types of Sentiment Analysis

There is a variety of different types of sentiment analysis. They range from focusing on polarity (neutral, negative, or positive sentiment) to identifying intention (“interested” or “not interested”).

The newest sentiment algorithms are centered around identifying feelings, happy or angry. 

Here are the most talked about types:

Fine-Grained Sentiment Analysis

Fine-grained sentiment analysis is what almost all real-life systems are based on, and is one of the most common types of sentiment analysis. 

This type focuses on the level of polarity of an opinion.

So instead of neutral, positive, or negative, you could segment those categories further:

  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative

This data often comes from product reviews, 5-star rating reviews, or surveys, and the polarity can even be associated with feelings:

  • Very positive → love
  • Somewhat positive → acceptance
  • Neutral → apathy
  • Somewhat negative → worry
  • Very negative → anger

Aspect-Based Sentiment Analysis

Aspect-based sentiment analysis allows you to go beyond categorizing sentiment with polarity, allowing you to focus on specific elements of your product or service.

“The picture quality of this TV is crystal clear.”

This sentence expresses a positive opinion, but more specifically, it speaks about picture quality, which is a main attribute of that product. 

Aspect-based sentiment analysis lets you correlate specific sentiments with different aspects of your product or service, much like how a scientist analyses cells under a microscope to get a clearer understanding of the structure itself.

Intent Sentiment Analysis

Intent Sentiment Analysis steps it up and digs deeper and detects people’s motivation behind their message, examining whether it’s an opinion, a complaint, a suggestion, or a question, or showing appreciation towards your product or service.

Let’s look at a few examples:

“You have a beautiful website.”

“Your customer service person was so rude!”

“I think you should offer more sizes in those shoes.”

“How do I donate?”

“Thank you guys so much—I LOVE IT!!!!!”

Looking at these individually, you have no issue identifying the intent behind these few examples. However, machines can often have issues inferring context without contextual knowledge, so while it’s an exciting concept in theory, intent sentiment analysis is still a concept rather than practice.

Emotion Detection and Recognition

Closely related to sentiment analysis, emotion detection and recognition aims to identify human emotions conveyed in facial expressions or in text.

These systems identify emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, disgust and surprise and are often built into sentiment analysis tools.

For text, some emotion detection systems use dictionary-like lists where a keyword is mapped to an emotion (e.g. “hate” indicates “anger”), whereas others use sophisticated machine learning algorithms.

The challenge with these types of tools is defining the keywords in context. 

For example, a customer review might say:

“Your food made me sick.” This indicates a negative emotion.

Compare that with:

“That new restaurant is totally sick.” 

This indicates a positive emotion, making it hard to associate the appropriate emotion for that keyword, which is why machine learning plays a big role in emotion detection.

Top Sentiment Analysis Tools

There are a wide range of social listening tools that offer sentiment analysis for your business. We’re going to cover the best sentiment analysis tools for marketing professionals:


If you want to know how people are relating to your brand, Keyhole offers an incredibly powerful insight through sentiment analysis.

Keyhole’s social listening tools and sentiment analysis are used by brands like Google, Alibaba, L’Oreal, and Mashable.

Keyhole integrates with all of the major social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, providing real-time, 24/7 monitoring of the performance of keywords, @mentions, hashtags, and more around your brand, audience, and industry.

It is also a powerful tool for competitor analysis, as you are able to track sentiment across multiple accounts through an easy-to-use dashboard. 

Price: $179-599 USD and up. 


Brandwatch helps you dive deep into applicable data from blogs, forums, and news and reviews sites.

This tool offers an overview of volume and will compare it with that of your top competitors, as well as observe the sentiment about your brand. 

It offers a data visualization tool that helps to simply your data and bring it to life, making it understandable for every member of your team.

Price: Request a demo. 

Quick Search by Talkwalker

This sentiment analysis tool is part of Talkwalker’s larger platform. 

Quick Search looks at your overall @mentions and engagements, giving you a breakdown of how your audience is responding to your social media activity. 

It will also help you find the best influencers for your brand or product, giving you a 360 view of your owned and earned social media content.

Price: $800 per month; $8,400 per year for enterprises

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a comprehensive tool for social media monitoring that also allows you to monitor sentiment.

This tool helps you get into the mindset of your prospects and lets you set up alerts for when critical conversations start trending on social media.

Price: $99-$249 USD per month

Measuring Sentiment

One of the easiest ways to measure sentiment is with a Sentiment Score.

A Sentiment Score gives you the overall value of what you are tracking, no matter whether it is your brand, an aspect of your product, a hashtag or an @mention.

It is calculated by looking at both negative and positive posts:

sentiment score formula

This scoring is effective as a growth indicator, and strongly indicates a consumer’s willingness to recommend your product or service, allowing you to predict new consumer adoption.

By plotting your sentiment score over a period of time, you gain actionable and valuable insights that can make a big difference in the overall outcome of your marketing campaigns.

Looking at historical data alongside real-time data allows you to plot trends by keyword, allowing you to make important decisions on the direction, duration, and reach of future campaigns.

The higher your company’s sentiment score (especially compared to competitors), the more you can outperform others in the same space, driving more customers down the road to brand loyalty. 

Want to see your sentiment scores? Try Keyhole for free.

Limitations of Sentiment Analysis

Let’s examine the current challenges and the limitations of sentiment analysis.

Irony and Sarcasm

Irony and sarcasm are hard to detect. We as humans have the benefit of tone and body language to decipher the speaker’s intent, but sometimes, we still get it wrong.

This type of language occurs most often in user-generated content found on social media platforms like Facebook comments, and on product review sites. 

Let’s look at some Amazon product reviews:

“That laptop battery lasted an awesome 15 minutes on battery.”

“Love the dress, it fit my kid’s doll perfectly.”

At first glance, these comments seem positive. But with your experience, you know that a laptop battery lasting only 15 minutes is not good, and we can assume that that reviewer didn’t buy a doll-sized dress for herself.

Machines have a problem with this type of text. As humans, we have the benefit of experience in applying context to comments like this, but machines do not have the ability to precisely detect the actual meaning behind sarcastic or ironic text. 

amazon customer review - sentiment analysis
amazon customer review - sentiment analysis


Here’s a classic example of what can go wrong with social media sentiment analysis:

According to The Atlantic, positive news about Anne Hathaway (an actress), was driving up the stock prices of Berkshire Hathaway (a real estate firm).

This calls the accuracy of sentiment analysis in question. The accuracy of your results is still heavily tied to the quantity of data, the level of text that you are measuring, and how precisely you differentiate social media mentions.

If you have a human eye reviewing your sentiment analysis data, you will be able to identify any inaccuracies immediately.


Context can present some definite challenges in sentiment analysis. Let’s look at some examples to a survey response:



Without context, you would assume the first response to be positive, and the second to be negative. 

But what if they were in response to the question, “What did you like about the conference?” 

What if they were in response to the question, “What could we improve on at our next conference?”

The context of the question completely changes the result of the sentiment analysis.


Emoji (or emoticons) play a big role in sentiment, especially on social media platforms. Especially when it comes to text-based emojis.

Did you know there are actually two groupings of emojis? Western emojis and Eastern emojis.

You are probably familiar with Western emojis. They usually consist of two characters, and you have to tilt your head to read them as intended, like this happy face 🙂

Eastern emojis are read horizontally and usually consist of 4 or more characters, like this winking face (^_~)

Both groupings of emojis require preprocessing on your end, and the list can be extensive.

Sentiment analysis tools for social media are increasingly getting better at recognizing different types of emojis.

However, they still present challenges in getting accurate measurements, especially if social media performance is a key indicator to your campaign’s success.


Sometimes authors will talk about multiple aspects of a product (or people or companies) within the same text. Within the same sentence, the author can offer both criticism and praise.

This poses a challenge in sentiment analysis in being able to calculate the total polarity. Let’s look at an example of a review of a pair of headphones:

“The sound quality is amazing but they are uncomfortable to wear.”

Some sentiment analysis tools will assign a positive polarity (“the sound quality is amazing” comes first”) where others could assign a neutral rating (“amazing” and ”uncomfortable” cancel each other out).

To be accurate, especially when you are focused on each of the product features, your sentiment analysis tool has to assign a polarity to each aspect in the text.

How We Do Sentiment Analysis at Keyhole

Keyhole offers sentiment analysis right from the dashboard of your hashtag & keyword tracker.

Our tools offer a first-hand look at the sentiment of what you are tracking, providing a beautiful and easy-to-understand graph that can be effortlessly shared across your teams for real-time feedback.

sentiment analysis tracking - keyhole

Seamlessly integrating social media platforms, our social listening tools allow you to simultaneously track across multiple platforms for multiple trackers, never missing a @mention or comment.

Keyhole’s sentiment analysis provides a comprehensive look at historical and real-time sentiment around your tracker.

Whether you are tracking your brand name, a product, a hashtag, or a competitor, you will have access to a fuller understanding of how you can better interact on your social media channels.

Take a peek behind the scenes and learn more about how Keyhole does sentiment analysis.

Start Using Sentiment Analysis Now

Sentiment analysis is an incredibly powerful technique that can help you uncover opportunities, measure satisfaction, benchmark reactions, and put more power behind your brand.

Sentiment analysis has so many advantages for any type of company or organization. It’s scalable, provides real-time analysis, and it’s based on consistent criteria, leaving you with the most powerful data set imaginable.

Ready to start sentiment analysis? Start your FREE trial with Keyhole today.

Put an end to manual legwork once and for all.