Sentiment analysis crap in social media

by Laurent François


I’m now preparing a speech for an important French political “university” and I read a lot about sentiment analysis that some companies are proud to automatically track.

The thing is that I don’t believe at all that it’s yet relevant, or that it’ll be one day.

How come? First, I recommend you to read this brilliant analysis by Guilhem (it’s in French but I guess you can get the points). Few answers:

  • there are millions of manners to express an opinion. Only human brains can process the way people express their views. Because most of the time, digital influencers use images, cultural references, that are not directly explaining a pro or against position, but that more slightly drive the readers to getting the points
  • we don’t live in a binarian world, in which people would be only pro-something or against-something: in opinion surveys, there are more grads, more details, more levels of understanding. Summarizing social media opinions into this pattern is not only wrong, but is a professional mistake: you give fake overviews, fake trends, fake insights, that can lead to marketing disasters. Moreover if you use “neutral” just to sort all the conversations that don’t match your sentiment automatic filtering, you’re just wrong! Neutral MEANS something, it does not mean “NOT UNDERSTOOD”
  • sentment analysis disminishes the richness of social web. If you declare that 20% of online conversations say that this specific product is great, well, you don’t tell where the conversations take place, if some of them are more important to consider than others (or more influent), what’s the point of contact between all these guys, what makes people very different talk in the same field of interest. The recommendations that you pre-install through this sentiment analysis are not optimal, as it does not cross unexpected data, whereas social media monitoring is all about that: challenging what you already know
  • sentiment analysis breaks the market credibility: the more you sell wrong studies, the more you destroy a daily work with diverse clients to capture all the issues, all the things necessary to do “good” social media

I’m a bit angry but hey! I know that great tools can be better with great frames of thinking.

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