Do you remember a time when you had an audience? Maybe you were sharing a proposal to colleagues, giving a speech at an event, or presenting a new product to customers. Think about that experience for a moment. What did you care about when you were in front of them?
If you’re anything like us, then you care about how your audience feels. But when you’re up there, your audience’s thoughts and feelings were probably a mystery, weren’t they? Did they understand what you said? Did it resonate with them? Did they agree?
Today, we’re excited to share how you can solve these mysteries: measuring audience sentiment. We’ll cover why measuring audience sentiment is useful and different ways you can get started with it.
Why measure audience sentiment?
Audience sentiment refers to the overall attitudes, emotions, and opinions that a group of people have toward a particular subject. It could be about a brand, an organization, a product, a local issue—anything you want to get their pulse on. It could be a general vibe (like positive, negative, or neutral) or specific emotions (excitement, pride, frustration, or curiosity, to name a few).
Why do we measure it? Because it’s the closest we can get to experiencing our work from their perspective. Once we partner with an organization or put a communication out into the world, we’re insiders… Then it gets tough to get that outside perspective we want.
But when we measure audience sentiment, we get that outside perspective back. We learn how our target audience feels. This insight lets us figure out if our messaging resonates or if there’s other areas of interest to explore. More than that though, it helps us build better relationships with our audience—because we can meet them where they are.
Keeping track of audience sentiment serves another purpose, too. It lets us detect when something changes. If there’s a change in sentiment, we can catch it and come up with a game plan to fix it.
How to Measure It
There are several ways to measure audience sentiment. Social media monitoring, surveys and customer feedback forms, and interviews are just a few of them.
Before we get started, we need to let you know one thing. It’s not always straightforward. Measuring sentiment requires collecting information, interpreting what people say, figuring out what responses mean in context. (Take, for example, social media “likes” and “shares”—people use those in different ways, so a “like” could indicate understanding, agreement, or excitement.)
Let’s take a closer look at these methods.
Social media monitoring
Social media monitoring is a great way for us to get a quick response to our posts and see immediately how our audience is responding. What are people saying on Facebook, Instagram, Google Reviews, Yelp, and other online forums? We can look for patterns in comments, likes, dislikes, and reviews to get a better understanding of our audience’s sentiments. In fact, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have tools, like Meta Business Suite Insights, that help with analytics and reporting.
Again, though, the amount of engagement doesn’t tell the whole story. We need to see the kinds of engagement. Comments, reviews, shares, likes, or dislikes. Measuring sentiment requires looking at the engagement to determine if comments are positive or negative, confused or comprehending, uninterested or enthusiastic.
Surveys and customer feedback forms
Surveys and customer feedback forms are another great way to measure audience sentiment. You can ask specific questions to get a better understanding of your audience’s emotions and intent.
Customer feedback forms help with ongoing sentiment measurement. These go out after purchases, events, and similar touchpoints to get timely feedback.
Keep in mind, however, that this requires manual analysis, even though there are more technologies available today that help make this job easier and automate some of it. When we do surveys, we carefully review answers to search for things like patterns, how strong or weak opinions are, what messaging is getting through.
Interviews and other forms of market research
When we want to get an even deeper understanding of our audience’s motivations, one-on-one conversations with audience members are invaluable. This really let us understand their thoughts and feelings in their own words. And it’s not just what they say—what they choose to bring up is telling, too. While this method requires more effort, we get a more personal and detailed exploration of audience sentiment.
But, there’s no denying that one-on-one interviews are a big lift. So, we can also use research made available by trusted sources like Gallup or Pew Research Center to get more information about our target audience’s sentiments on different topics.
Measuring audience sentiment is crucial for any organization or company that wants to understand what its audience thinks. By measuring audience sentiment, organizations and companies can build better relationships with their audience and adjust their messaging and strategies accordingly.
When we work with our partners, it’s so important for us to understand their audiences. Bringing light to their audiences’ sentiments helps us figure out which communications strategies will work best to get their messages across.