Research Before You Buy
If you’re anything like me, you like to do research on what you’re buying before whipping out your credit card. Maybe I’m alone in this, or maybe this is the result of perfectionist tendencies combining with a shopaholic nature, but with the amount of information on the internet nowadays it seems almost silly not to.
Product reviews are generally quite easy to find (the average star rating and number of ratings on Amazon is usually a good place to start), but the same thing is sometimes difficult to say for reviews about services. Yelp has recently been under a lot of fire regarding review filtering and supposedly using review manipulation to convince companies to purchase account upgrades. Google Places, on the other hand, is conveniently integrated with Google’s search and map services, but the recent 2010 launch means that its database of reviews is still relatively sparse.
Social Media as a Source of Information
As the social media industry has flourished, people everywhere now have numerous ways to post their every action, thought or feeling. It would make sense then that these posts provide an unending source of the public’s experience with almost every product and service imaginable. However, unlike articles and forums, posts on social media platforms can sometimes be difficult to search through—for example, on Twitter, only the first 30 characters as well as your username that count the most for SEO (search engine optimization)—and the number of different platforms makes the manual compilation and comparison of these reviews very time consuming.
Enter the easy-to-use tracking website Social Mention.
Social Mention: Good in Theory, Poor Execution
To demonstrate my experience with Social Mention, I’m going to use the example of finding a company for cheap, online invitation printing. A quick Google Search brings up a company called Vistaprint which when typed into Social Mention instantly reveals all mentions of the company across multiple social media platforms, along with a simple analysis of these mentions:
I thought that I had hit the review jackpot with Social Mention since what makes it stand out from other tracking tools is its ability to automatically calculate a sentiment ratio (the number of generally positive mentions compared to generally negative ones) for each search. The website also allows you to filter the mentions according to whether it is deemed to be “positive”, “neutral” or “negative”.
The results above indicate a sentiment ratio of 9:1 for Vistaprint across multiple social media platforms, which should indicate that most customer experience with the company are generally positive. To my surprise, filtering the results to only the negative mentions showed that some of these mentions were not negative at all—the “negative” result below is actually a YouTube video posted by Vistaprint itself to advertise one of its services!
Looking into this a little further, I found that a large number of the mentions of Vistaprint were incorrectly categorized, so much so that the sentiment analysis is practically useless! It seems so surprising that a company would keep something up and running that is so blatantly flawed. Wouldn’t it be easier to remove the sentiment option until the problem is resolved or put a disclaimer that filtering may not be completely accurate? Oh well, apparently they aren’t too worried about how this may affect the perception of their company and product.
Actual Opinions About Vistaprint
Disappointed by my findings on Social Mention, I visited Vistaprint’s Facebook page to see what people were REALLY saying about the company. Below are the 10 most recent posts to their timeline.
As can be expected, some mentions expressed neutral sentimentality:
Other expressed negative sentimentality—multiple posts criticize the quality of the product being sold, with the majority of the negative posts, discussing the company’s poor customer service and lack of problem resolution.
However, despite these complaints, many Facebook users also had positive things to say about Vistaprint. In the posts below, customers voiced how pleased they were with final product and fast shipping times.
So Can Social Media Be Used To Find Customer Reviews?
In short, yes. The information is there and the ease with which people can post their opinions means that this database will undoubtedly grow. However, it looks like the technology used in social media tracking is still unable to analyze this information automatically and with some degree of accuracy.
Social media is still a relatively new industry and as the demand for this type of analysis grows, the necessary technology will be developed. In the mean time, searching through social media posts for customer opinions or reviews can still prove to be a very valuable tool—one that could save you a lot of time, money and headache as a consumer!
Have you come across any tracking tools that have been able to achieve what Social Mention was aiming to do?
[Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this post. These are my opinions and are in no way indicative of the positions or opinions of the companies mentioned. Thanks for your support! ♥]