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Published August 8th 2017

Sentiment vs. Visibility: Which Matters to Your Social Strategy?

We were fascinated to see how brand visibility related to sentiment online in our newest Social Index. But what does this mean for your social strategy?

Telling a marketer or brand manager how important it is to have a successful social strategy feels like telling a 17-year-old basketball player how important dribbling is.

Like that teenager, any marketer is going to roll their eyes at me, hard.

Yes, having a social media strategy is important, nay, vital to brand strategy. But what does that matter if you don’t know why?

Does that social strategy analogy make sense? I'm not a basketball fan

Like dribbling in basketball, any social media endeavor should always be a means to get from where you are, to where you want to be.

And this is where my basketball analogy, and my basketball knowledge, ends.

A great social program has clear goals and ways of measuring success, so your social strategy must reflect those goals.

Some companies aim to expand the reach of their social media presence and dominate the share of voice in their market. Other companies focus on messaging and sentiment, to make sure people are talking about their brand the way they want them to.

But how do these two goals relate? And, more interestingly, do these two goals ever compete?

To make sense of the social strategy of companies, we looked at the 105 million mentions from our quarterly Social Index to analyze how visibility and sentiment related for the world’s biggest brands.

What the Brandwatch Social Index means to social strategy

For some background, we created our Social Index to align multiple dimensions of brand health into one comprehensive look at 25+ industries.

We use five of the most important metrics for measuring brand health to grade the biggest brands online.

Each score aims to capture a unique aspect of a brand’s online presence, taking both quality and scale into account.

The value of this multi-faceted take on brand health means that there will be times when these dimensions don’t neatly align.

Our ultimate question then, can big brands be both highly visible, and positively discussed? Let’s dig in.

Is all press good press? One last look at United and Pepsi

To start, I work with the smartest marketers I know, at a marketing technology company partnering with the most cutting-edge marketing, social media, and PR teams in the world.

So here at Brandwatch, we can seriously nerd out when big Marketing and PR events and crises hit the news.

For instance, we were so fascinated by the events surrounding United and Pepsi last quarter that we wrote not onetwo, or even three, but four blog posts discussing what marketers should learn from these companies.

However, when we updated our Social Index with data from last quarter, it was too perfect an opportunity not to unpack those issues once more, and look at how these instances played out in their scores.

pepsi and united social index ranking

As expected, United Airlines and Pepsi were among the most visible brands in their industries. Both brands were leaders in share-of-voice visibility in social media conversations, as well as generally across the web.

It also comes as no surprise that both brands saw those sentiment scores dip compared to their competitors.

However, one big difference between these two brands was the lasting effect of brand outrage. Pepsi saw conversations around its brand steadily creeping back to pre: Kendall commercial levels throughout Q2.

Pepsi’s net sentiment through Q2. Data collected using Brandwatch Analytics

There didn’t seem to be a lasting effect of #pepsigate on consumer feelings. This lack of lasting impact, with the boost in brand visibility, landed Pepsi the #1 slot in our Beverages Social Index.

On the other hand, United’s unexpected visibility boost didn’t benefit the company as much. Sentiment remained negative, and the company dropped to #9 in our Airlines Social Index.

That’s to say, United still made it to top 10 in their sector, even outranking budget US airlines Frontier and Spirit in net sentiment.

So, is there enough data to say the PR incident affected their brand tremendously? As a social strategy, is all press good press? We’ll be keeping our eye on these two brands in the future.

How we speak about industries differently

Stepping outside of one-off PR crises, customers talk about brands for different reasons. How your consumers talk about brands in your industry should also inform your social strategy.

For most industries, we actually saw the volume of brand visibility and the brand’s sentiment align neatly. The most visible organizations in these sectors are well-liked, well-known, and are typically all around leaders in their sphere.

This looks like NASA in the public sector, the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, the Tesla and Mercedes of the auto industry. These brands led our Social index and scored well for social visibility and net sentiment.

However, service industries with huge companies told a different story.


For fast food and mega-department stores, brands were more susceptible to the magnifying effects of bad press, as a company was more popular, it tended to have worse sentiment.

Interestingly, we also saw this trend with consumer banks and health careThese companies don’t necessarily get the volume of conversations that McDonald’s or Target do, yet as service industries, social media still plays an important role in the brand-consumer relationship.

People don’t usually talk about their banking experiences or health care on social media when they’re happy- they’re usually complaining. So these conversations already skew more negative than other sectors.

Going beyond learning where your competitors ranking, the Social Index outlines bigger using social media to measure and improve your own brand should be imperative for these industries.

Using social media to monitor and improve your own brand image imperative for these industries.

What matters to your social strategy?

I know what you’re thinking; but how do I dribble? Which matters more, sentiment or visibility?

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway to glean from these hundreds of millions of conversations is this: there isn’t one benchmark to use, or one metric you should devote all your focus.

The metrics we use for our Social Index interact with one another, and no single number will tell the full story of your brand.

As you improve and iterate on your social strategy, consider how your brand currently compares to your competitors and how your industry is discussed online. And as important as dribbling is, make sure it’s always leading you towards your basket.

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