Does Your Social Media Monitoring Lack Passion?
Sourabh Sharma

In the realm of social media brand monitoring, it would be easy to conclude that volume equals brand popularity, especially when comparing one brand to another. Yet, when is volume a true measure of loyalty and positivity? Almost never.To deepen one’s understanding of consumers’ subconscious perceptions toward a brand, it is critical to evaluate how consumers view the brand’s functional characteristics, how they connect emotionally, and what personality the brand stands for. Within social networks, deeply emotional insights can be interpreted with a high degree of certitude because they are coming from spontaneous and truthful conversations.

A recent case study took social media research beyond simple monitoring to uncover actionable insights from online conversations featuring ubiquitous chocolate brands like Hershey’s and competitive niche chocolate brands like Toblerone. Researchers set out to learn more about the competitive landscape and perceived identity of each chocolate brand—not only how many times each brand was mentioned, but the actual sentiment and passion behind the comments.

Social media listening (as opposed to monitoring) enables brands to measure the positivity and strength of conversations, as well as the relative volume of conversations regarding certain brands. In this case, strength could also be described as passion. How passionately does a consumer speak about their love or contempt for a particular brand or experience? By failing to consider the strength of a statement, many social media monitoring programs are missing important nuances and valuable insights.

In order to understand category conversations, a framework was developed to plot sentiment and passion for the aforementioned brands. Sentiment is the range of conversations from less to more positive, and passion is the intensity of the conversations, differentiating the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ from the stronger emotions of ‘love’ and ‘hate.’If a brand is talked about with high positivity and high passion, it’s in a brand’s best interests to try to sustain equity among consumers. Low passion and high sentiment indicates the need for brand revitalization, perhaps a booster shot of brand excitement. Similarly, if the sentiment is low and the passion is low, a more significant brand overhaul may be in order. The most challenging brand position is that of high passion and low sentiment, as this indicates that consumers actively dislike the brand or some experience they’ve recently had in relation to the brand, such as a poorly received television commercial or failed spin-off product.

The findings of this study showed that brands occupying a smaller share of conversational volume were talked about with more positivity and passion, while more “talked about” brands were often regarded with less passion. 
These talked about brands are more negatively perceived regarding key elements of taste or fun—both critical factors in the enjoyment of chocolate bars. This disparity between the perceived and intended identity of a brand is crucial. For some brands, the difference is negligible; for others it virtually undermines the brand foundation. Empowered by this reality check, a brand can create and deploy strategies to close the gap and mitigate the volume of conflicting conversations.

Spontaneous conversations over the Internet provide a candid, honest, and real-time view of consumer perceptions—but only if you’re truly listening.

Sourabh Sharma is the social media research expert for SKIM in Hoboken, NJ. He can be reached at 201-963-8430 or