Understanding what your customers want is hugely important for Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and HR teams.

Social media is a rich seam of data which will help all your departments understand customers’ journeys. Departments can then work together to take advantage of the opportunities the data analysis reveals across your business.

But customer sentiment is a complex subject full of rocket science, right? Well, with so many metrics to choose from, it can be – but there are some shortcuts that don’t involve hardcore modelling and analysis.

Let’s explore five simple metrics used to get a grip on how your audience really feels.

1. Followers per retweet

You’ve worked hard and amassed 5,000 followers for your Twitter handle, but that doesn’t mean they’ve all read your tweet.

A far more meaningful metric (and a simple one) is the number of retweets you receive, along with the people who saw it secondhand.

So try this simple metric: how many followers do you have per retweet? If a post on your Twitter account had 1,000 retweets, and each account that retweeted has 100 followers, your real potential reach is 100,000.

If you’re being retweeted regularly, it’s a sign you’re in tune with your customers’ hopes and dreams – a great start for further smart metrics.

2. Looking for favourites in all the wrong places

On their own, favourites mean little – and research is starting to prove it. It doesn’t cost the user much to make one click; they do it many times a day, based on whatever cause-of-the-day amused or angered them.

So instead of counting this, compare them. How many do you have, as a proportion of your nearest competitor’s?

If they’re twice your size and have four times yours, that’s okay. (Likes follow a power law; the market leader always gets more than its fair share.)

But if a competitor the same size as you is getting twice as many, you need to study their strategy and see where you can catch up. It’s not a case of whether people like you.

It’s a case of whether they like someone else more. 

3. Look for the few smart correlations that matter

If you take half a day to think about your business, you’ll find there’s a definite list of words and phrases that matter more when used together.

For instance, if you’re a pizza delivery firm, the words “late” and “cold” are probably on your list.

Individually, they signify unhappy customer incidents, but if they keep appearing together in the same tweet or status, that’s not an isolated service issue – it’s an operational problem.

Listening out for those linked terms lets you see where the problems are. When your resources are stretched, it makes sense to listen for those red-flag issues rather than trying to cover everything. That’s targeted social listening. 

4. Nurture your most outspoken fans… and critics

Just as likes follow a power law, customer sentiment follows a scaling law.

All that means is that a few (typically under 5%) of your commentators are responsible for 95% of all customer sentiment out there to listen to.

You don’t always need complex software, great as some of it is. Target your efforts on those super-commenters, including those critical of you.

Get to know them by name, set up those names on your watch list. One intervention at the right time, to the right person, could head off a brewing viral storm.

If you get 1,000 positive vibes a month, make sure you know the person who is giving off 200 of them.

5. Make sure your metrics help you make decisions!

Last, a tip on what NOT to do: watch out for “vanity metrics”! A vanity metric is one that sounds big or important, but doesn’t actually help your business – i.e. it doesn’t help you make decisions.

Likes may be one, tweets (not retweets) may be another. Look at your metrics carefully, and if you suspect one’s a vanity metric, it probably is. Kill it off.

Does all of this sound simple? Much of it is. Understanding customer sentiment is a large subject but ultimately it comes down to one thing: listening to the customer. Doing that well doesn’t need to be hard.

Ready to get simple? Try: 

  • Finding your true Twitter audience, by counting Followers of your retweets.

  • Look at likes the right way, by comparing your volumes with your competitors’.

  • Boil down your keywords into those that mean more when used together.

  • Hunt down the few people with the biggest spheres of influence.

  • Simplify your reporting, by cutting out vanity metrics.