The Emotional Science of Social Media Conversation

A Crimson Hexagon & Spredfast Webinar Recap

As Crimson Hexagon noted, it was Dale Carnegie who once said, "When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion." Last week, Crimson Hexagon, a company specializing in social media analytics and listening, partnered with Spredfast to present a webinar called The Emotional Science of Conversation, which explored how these “creatures of emotion” can be understood even better via social media.

As social sentiment grows more sophisticated—moving beyond simply positive, negative or neutral—the opportunities it presents expand accordingly. From the webinar, we’ve hand-selected three ways you can use social emotion to your company’s benefit, but be certain to download the recording in full in order to glean serious insight on this evolving opportunity.

Use Social Emotion to Learn about Your Audience

As Spredfast’s VP of Research and Insights Chris Kerns explained, Spredfast research has determined that non-like Facebook Reaction has grown steadily over the last twelve months, allowing marketers to understand a broader range of reactions from their audiences. But in order to truly measure success on this new, non-like scale, Kerns also explained that marketers must first level-set, determining which specific emotional reactions they’re after—in order to better track to goals, rather than simply posting and then measuring response. Take the following example which Kerns detailed:

In the top post, Disney is promoting their upcoming sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy 2. For this post, in addition to likes, Disney would want to elicit love and laughter from their audience—but they wouldn’t be looking for any anger or sadness. By contrast, Tesla’s post heralds the passing of an unfortunate marker: The 400 ppm carbon dioxide threshold has been passed, and scientists warn the reversal may be permanent. In this case, Tesla would hope to elicit strong reactions from their audience about this negative news—including anger and sadness. Laughter, by contrast, would seem like an inappropriate response to this post. The takeaway? To measure emotion, digital marketers should embrace the concept of intent.

To measure emotion, digital marketers should embrace the concept of intent.


Use Social Emotion When launching a New Product or Service

Emotion on social can also prove incredibly beneficial when launching a new product or service. Crimson Hexagon SVP of Product Errol Apostolopoulos explained how social sentiment can reveal emotions around new products that can later drive marketing efforts: If you know how your customers feel about an upcoming product, you can shift your strategy, your creative, and even your copy to tailor to those feelings.

For example, take a look at the above sentiment graph charting emotions around self-driving cars from 2010 to 2016. As Apostolopoulos explained, while self-driving cars are exciting to some, they signify the apocalypse, doomsday and the destruction of humanity to others. While this is a part of the larger trend that fears technological change of any kind, Tesla—and any other self-driving car manufacturer—would be wise to factor in this fear to their marketing campaigns and overall strategy.

“This is informative in the way that you might not only respond to the conversation as a brand or a person building a product within this category, but also in terms of trying to shape the message and saying okay, how do we embrace this concern in a way that allows us to help influence and hopefully reduce people’s fear about a new product—for example, by really starting to promote how safe it is,” Apostolopoulos explained.

Apostolopoulos also added that it’s not just launches and new products: “but also trying to understand how consumers are feeling and thinking about your products overall.” Understanding social emotion offers a clear way for brands to glean insight about consumers’ views on their entire suite of products or services.

Use Social Emotion to Understand Your Competitors—and Your Dissenters

The truth is, it’s rare to be at the helm of a brand that never upsets its customers. Everyone falls victim to the occasional product flop, PR crisis, or customer care issue—and today more than ever, customers take to social to voice those concerns. Again, social listening and analytics can prove invaluable in these situations. Take for example the following Spredfast research: While both men and women who mention brands tend to give more brand love on social than they do voice complaints, an important gender distinction lies in the data: Men complain more, while women champion brands more on social.

It's rare to be at the helm of a brand that never upsets its customers.


Understanding social emotion can also help you better track your competitors. Over time, you can stay informed to potential moments of opportunity for your own brand by watching your competitors closely. Take a look, for example, at the difference in sentiment over time between iPhone and Galaxy7 phones—tracking what’s going on at your top competitors can help you with both marketing and care strategies: You’ll know how to respond to one-to-one care concerns, as well as how to market more broadly through your messaging.

For much more detail, including a deep dive on how machine learning can help you see the whole picture by comparing text and images to deepen your understanding of consumer emotions and how to build a true omni-channel strategy in order to deliver a world-class customer experience, download the webinar recording in full.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.