Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SAM I am: What did you think of those green eggs + ham?

Sentiment Analysis--or opinion mining--typically involves linguistic analysis to discern what people think about something. One's sentiments are usually discerned from the language one uses when referring to some said thing.

Offline, sentiment analysis is something that humans are actually pretty good at. Of course, humans also use visual cues like facial expressions and body language to supplement familiarity and trust when we interpret another's sentiments...and even then we can get it wrong. So it's no wonder that machines are notoriously poor at understanding one's sentiments.

The challenge is daunting: The web and its social media spawn have created a seller's market in opinions (the irony of making this statement on a blog is, well, ironic). And while the difference between fact and opinion may seem clear much of the time, the practical aspects of teasing apart the two in software are not so easily algorithmized (?!).

Teragram Linguistic Technologies (now a division of the statistical analysis giant SAS) developed the SAM tool to sort through the social media morass and help brand managers understand what its customers really think. It's the latest in a series of tools, such as Jodange's Top of Mind (which we're using in trial mode now), and others by Attensity, Clarabridge, and Lexalytics that attempts to understand who has an opinion, how intensely they hold it, and what trends develop overtime.

So What?

Asking for an opinion is nothing new to marketers...the challenge, as it always has been, is determining what--if anything--you are prepared to do about it. Sentiment analysis software and services are different than traditional forms of opinion seeking in the following several of many ways:

  1. Minimize selection bias because they do not require respondents
  2. Connect opinions from multiple sources to provide a picture of The Crowd's Wisdom
  3. Support diverse visualizations of opinion including heat maps, realtionship graphs and trending charts.

Most importantly, successful development..and deployment...of sentiment analysis tools will enable companies to do what they must to learn from a market that can't be told what to think: listen to it.

Sample heat map of opinion for a client (generated using Top of Mind):

No comments:

Post a Comment