Why and how to measure corporate sentiment

Don’t wait until it’s too late to monitor and manage your reputation online. Follow these tips to improve the perception of your business.

How to measure corporate sentiment

Corporate sentiment can spell the success or the demise of your organization, but how can you manage or measure it?

This is a crucial consideration for organizations of all sizes, but few take the time to monitor corporate sentiment—until it’s too late. Like many features of reputation management, mood and attitude are hard to quantify, but there are plenty of ways to get a sense of where you stand. Let’s begin where most opinions are formed: Google.

What shapes corporate sentiment?

Corporate sentiment today is shaped by online sentiment—and online sentiment is overwhelmingly shaped by Google.

Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day. Want to find out how Neiman Marcus is doing? Google it. If you want more detailed information, click the “News” tab on your Google search results. What you find there would play a major role in shaping how you feel about the company, right?

Now, pretend you’ve never heard of The Weinstein Company. You Google “the weinstein company” and see this:

Weinstein Google search

If this was your very first impression of The Weinstein Company, would you want to do business with it?

Corporate sentiment is a collection of opinions from all kinds of people, each with differing interests, but it all begins with an online search.

How to measure corporate sentiment

Measuring corporate sentiment is often referred to as “sentiment analysis,” which attempts to understand why people feel the way they do about organizations.

Let’s review the four components of sentiment analysis:

1. Search engine research

Search engine research should be done on Google, because that is the search engine used by most people. At this level of research, your goal is to understand what kind of results are appearing and the general tenor of those results.

Perform private searches

When you search Google, make sure you are doing so in private mode (called “incognito” in Chrome). That way your search will not be affected by your web cache or other personal information that Google uses to customize search results. Here’s how to put your browser in private mode:

  • Chrome: More → New Incognito Window (Command+Shift+N or CTRL+Shift+N)
  • Safari: Pages → Private (Command+Shift+N)
  • Firefox: Menu → New Private Window (Command+Shift+N or CTRL+Shift+N)
  • Internet Explorer: Settings → Safety → In Private Browsing (CTRL+Shift+P)
  • Edge: More → New InPrivate Window

Perform location-specific searches for local variation

If your business has an international presence, you may wish to perform searches in another language or as if you were physically in a different country.

For example, let’s say your business is headquartered in Berlin, but you work out of New York City. The search results you get while searching in New York will differ from those you would get if searching from Berlin.

You can use www.isearchfrom.com to perform proxy searches from other countries, devices and languages.

Google your company name and variations of the name

Your search should start at the most basic level: your business name. Beyond that, look for variations of the name, including probable misspellings or typos.

Google your major products or services

Often, corporate sentiment circulates around a business’s products and services, not just the organization as a whole. For example, Comcast’s primary product is Xfinity, and many people likely have stronger associations with that name than with Comcast. Be sure to query all your major products and services.

Google the names of your organization’s executives

A business’s reputation is tied to the actions of its senior leadership, so it’s crucial to regularly Google the names of the most influential people at your company. See what surfaces at the top of the search results. Is it your organization’s website, a Wikipedia article or a collection of smoldering news stories and gossip sites?

Google your company name, plus qualifying words

As you begin performing these searches, you should also be picking up on relevant words that can help to sharpen your search. Look for keywords that appear regularly in search results about your company. These keywords might be tied to recent events. For example, after Southwest experienced a tragedy on Flight 1380, accompanying keywords were “tragedy” and “crash.”

If any words recur during your research, add them to your search queries. If not, here are some generic keywords you can try Googling in conjunction with your business name:

  • Review
  • Scandal
  • News
  • Controversy
  • Scam

2. In-depth research

As you scour search engines, you’ll probably encounter some interesting material you’d like to analyze further.

Here are the three main targets of in-depth research:

  • News articles. Use Google and filter by the News tab. This type of search aggregates top-ranked news sources and trending topics to deliver the most relevant results.
  • Blogs. To find all mentions of your organization on a particular blog, you can perform a site-specific search. Here is what you type to perform a site search: site:www.example.com “your business name”

This is what it looks like in practice:

Screenshot example

Reviews. Thousands of organizations rise or fall based on online reviews. Nearly every business—or its products or services—is reviewed somewhere. Here are review sites to check based on your business category:

  • Local businesses: Google, Yelp, Facebook
  • Restaurants: Urbanspoon
  • Products: Amazon
  • Hotels or tourist attractions: TripAdvisor
  • Movies: Rotten Tomatoes
  • Startups: Crunchbase
  • Publicly-traded companies: Bloomberg

3. Social media research

Every post on any given social platform contains its own ecosystem of likes, comments, trolls and shares. Your social media research does not need to be exhaustive; the goal is to gain a general understanding of the sentiment surrounding your brand.

Review all your company’s social media accounts

To conduct social media research, simply read through what people are talking about on your posts.

Do you see any common threads or themes? Do you see any accusations or claims that merit a response?

Search for hashtags related to your organization

Many companies will purge social media profiles of unsavory or less-than-flattering comments. If your business keeps the comment section clean, you may have to delve into the wild backcountry of hashtags to find not-so-civil material.

If your company has had a promotional hashtag backfire, search for it to uncover why it failed.

Conduct competitor research

You can walk through the same analysis process with a competitor as you did your own organization. When you do so, you may find that some of the public feeling toward your business is actually an industry-wide sentiment. You may also discover that your competitor’s Wikipedia page ranks highly, whereas your Wikipedia page doesn’t show up until page two, revealing a glaring SEO opportunity.

To gain the most insights from competitor research, you should research a minimum of two competitors. These should be direct competitors that are roughly the same size and operate in the same geographical area as your organization.

The best tool for understanding corporate sentiment is the human mind, but the following resources can help you conduct sentiment analysis:

Kent Campbell is chief strategist at Reputation X. A version of this post first appeared on the Reputation X blog.


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