September round-up

I like months that start on Monday. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s one of those quirky things that don’t require an explanation.

With September starting on a Monday, and no-doubt fuelled by the amazing weather, I was filled with optimism and wrote this in my journal: “September is going to be good”.


So, was it?

There were some highs. And there were some lows. But, overall, yes, September was a good month! These are some of the highlights.


This month, Sarah Quinton, Thom Oliver and I started the first stage of data collection for our project on Digital Citizenship. In this first stage we are interviewing managers at two local councils, looking at priorities, value added, monitoring and challenges. It’s all very exciting, and very interesting. Stay tuned.


I am particularly proud that I manage to submit a journal as well as a conference paper, amid all the preparations for the new semester and dealing with some significant personal issues. *pats self on back*


IMG_5990September brought the start of a new semester, plus a new co-hort of MSc Marketing students. This semester I will be teaching a module on market and customer insight, together with my colleague Steve Chen. And I will also be doing a number of ad-hoc sessions on other modules.



With the kids being back to school and a new group of students coming in, I am really inspired to learn new skills, too. So, I am learning how to code in Python, and this time I actually have a (very simple) project in mind.


What were September’s highlights for you?

Sentiment analysis in less than 500 words

I am working on a paper and a presentation on sentiment analysis, and decided to put together this very short overview for you (procrastination, anyone?)

Sentiment analysis is one of those topics permeating every area of a marketers’ life. The other day, a colleague even mentioned that he was doing some sentiment analysis of social media conversations for a court case on competition!

I hope this short overview will help you understand what on earth sentiment analysis is, and decide whether you need to learn more about how it’s done so that you can use it in your own work.

Why study sentiment?

How and what we feel impacts every aspect of consumption: from information retrieval, processing and retention, to decision-making, behaviour and even the assessment of consumption experiences. I think we can all relate to being less patient and tolerant of delays or mistakes on, say, a Monday morning than, say, on a lazy Saturday afternoon ;-)

Image: The Guardian

What are we talking about when we talk about sentiment analysis?

Sentiment analysis consists of a number of techniques – and, increasingly, technology – to identify and categorise feelings.

Typically, we want to find out:

  • Whether consumers expressed positive or negative emotions
  • How strong that sentiment is

Here is an example relating to the airline industry in India:

Image: MXM

In some cases, we also want to find out the exact type of sentiment, as that will influence how people behave and/or what they will value the most. For instance, does the text reveal a broad, passive sentiment like “sadness”, or a targeted, active one like “anger”?

Image: Wikipedia

How can we identify and analyse emotions?

Traditionally, this has been done via experiments – think about psychology’s many mood induction and manipulation studies, mostly featuring undergraduate university students. It can also be done with interviews or surveys about previous emotionally charged events. Recently, social media emerged as a promising source of input for sentiment analysis, as we share so much information in these platforms about ourselves, what we do and what we think.

If using social media data, the first step is to collect the data (e.g., tweets or blog posts) from the relevant platforms using content scrapping software, into which you enter your search parameters, such as selected keywords.

Next, we typically look for sentiment polarity – i.e., whether the overall feeling is positive or negative (or, indeed, neutral). This is done by looking for particular expressions that reflect the state of mind of the person that wrote or said something.

In some cases, we also want to identify the specific emotion experienced. Again, this is done by scanning the text and picking up expressions or phrases that denote a particular sentiment.

The techniques for picking up those expressions are based on semantic analysis and language processing. It is a fascinating field, and a rapidly evolving one (e.g. relating to imagery) of which, unfortunately, I (still) know very little.

What tips and resources for beginners would you add to this overview?

Poor Apple. Again.

This time last year, Apple launched a new operating system that had numerous technical problems, as well as a mapping app that was so inaccurate that it became the target of many jokes.

Fast forward to this year and, once again, Apple’s recent product launches (including 2 models of iPhone 6, the Apple Watch and Apple Pay) have been followed by criticism and jokes. Many jokes. Not even the gifting of U2’s album to iTunes users escaped:


And, as if to add insult to injury, @BBCTech quickly posted instructions on how to delete the free U2 album, here:


Ah, Apple, Apple. What happened to you?* #PoorApple.

Can anything be done about this negative opinion?

Research conducted by Muthukrishnan and Chattopadhyay** (here, but paid access only) shows that comparing the brand with other options (for instance, saying product A is faster than product B) is not a very effective way of reversing consumers’ negative opinions, even if the comparison is favourable and it’s made by a trusted third party. This is because making explicit comparisons about some attributes makes buyers question performance across the other attributes not included in the comparison (for instance: yes, A may be faster than B, but B has more accessories / lasts longer / etc than A). Instead, to revert negative impressions, marketers should avoid comparisons with their competitors.

The problem with Apple, at the moment, is that they can not avoid comparisons: the iPhone has been compared with Samsung phones, the Apple Watch with Sony’s SmartWatch3, and so on.

To break this cycle, Apple really needs to change direction – just like when it changed the focus from laptops to mobile devices (first the iPod, then the iPhone). Like McDonalds is doing with food sourcing, or Google with self-driving cars. Better still would be for Apple to connect at an emotional level, as Coca-cola has done with the Share a Coke campaign.

What do you think? Can Apple turn the negative opinion tide, and go from #PoorApple to #AppleWin?

* For me the tipping point was how Apple reacted to the iPhone 4’s signal problem (i.e., blaming the users for holding the phone on their left hands). Oh, and iWeb, whose users were completely abandoned by Apple (Can you feel the bitterness?). And the appalling working conditions in the components’ factories in China. The sky-high prices. The copyright fight with Samsung…

** Muthukrishnan, A.V. and Chattopadhyay, A. (2007). Just Give Me Another Chance: The Strategies for Brand Recovery from a Bad First Impression. Journal of Marketing Research: May 2007, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 334-345

Book review: Social Media Explained

Social Media Explained – Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend” is the latest book authored by American business consultant, speaker and educator, Mark W. Schaefer, who also runs the extremely helpful blog {grow}.

Having read other books and work authored by Mark, I was expecting this book to do just what “it says on the tin”. And, indeed, the book, which is aimed at business executives, considers how social media helps organisations understand the market, connect with customers and stand apart from competition. Moreover, the book does so in a very clear and engaging style, which is why I am adding it to my course syllabus.

But that is not all.

This book is also very relevant for those of us using social media as individuals, rather than representing an institution, and who are unsure how to derive value from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging and so on. And this is why.


SM Explained book

Social Media Explained – for businesses executives
The book is organised in 3 sections. In the first section, the author outlines the key changes in the business context and why these require organisations to engage with social media. For instance, as more of us turn to the social web for product discovery and education, and as we increasingly resist blunt sales approaches, so organisations need to populate the web with helpful content that answers potential customers’ questions and drives them to the company’s website. In addition to identifying the challenges, Schaefer discusses how organisations can address them – for the example discussed (i.e., product discovery), the book discusses how organisations can identify and answer customers’ questions, and disseminate the content in ways that will get it noticed by customers at key stages of their journey.

In section two, Schaefer addresses common questions raised by those grappling with social media. The questions considered range from “Do I need Social Media?” to “How do I handle negative comments?”, and the if-I-got-a-coin-everytime-somebody-asks-me-this-question-I-would-be-a-millionaire issue of “What’s the ROI of Social Media?”. The questions are discussed very pragmatically and, I think, the answers provided will help you face the most sceptic of CEOs or CFOs.

In the third and final section, the author provides a brief overview of the main social media platforms, with emphasis on ‘brief’. This section tells us what platforms are out there, their relative advantages and disadvantages, and the uses for business. This is not a detailed ‘how to guide’, however and any one expecting that will be disappointed (though, Schaefer has also authored guides on Twitter and Blogging which you may find very helpful).

The book is written in a really accessible style, with minimum jargon. It has plenty of examples and case studies from various countries and a variety of business scenarios. And it is very reasonably priced. Overall, this is a great resource.


Social Media Explained – for the rest of us
All this advice is very nice and good, but what do you do with it if, like me, you are active on social media as an individual, as opposed to representing an institution? Is this book still relevant for you?

Well, we may not have a clearly defined competitor. But, with the average millennial spending 5.4 hours a day with content created by their peers, we certainly need to do a good job with our posts, pictures and videos to get attention from our followers and connections.

Likewise, we may not have a profit and loss statement to complete but, when we are ‘doing’ social media alongside our jobs and/or family commitments we surely need to make very difficult decisions about how we use our time, technical resources and, indeed, money.

And while we may not have a CEO or group of shareholders to report to, many of us will have faced scepticism and impatience from relatives, colleagues or employers – Tell me again why you are (wasting that time) doing that social media thing?!

We may not have a product to trade, but we are putting our ideas and experiences out there for others to scrutinise.

We may not have a market with well-defined segments, but we are under no illusion that there are different groups of people connected with us online – e.g. relatives, former class mates, current colleagues, people that we never met but that share an hobby or other interest with us, and so on. We connect with each group on different platforms, at varying frequencies. And each group will value different content.

And, instead of money, the value that we get from pouring our hearts and souls into this, could take the form of attention from a targeted audience (e.g., a potential employer or literary agent), or social contact with and advice from other individuals in similar circumstances (e.g., living with a chronic disease, moving to a foreign country or raising a large family). It could also take the form of feedback or input that helps us to develop an idea (e.g., for a book), or simply be a repository for content (e.g., a collection of personal memories or of examples for teaching).

Once we make these adjustments to the basic business terminology, the lessons from this book are just as relevant for individuals struggling to use social media effectively, as they are for business executives considering a social media strategy for their organisations.

Instead of… Think…
Industry competitors Competition for attention
Profit and loss statement Your limited time, technical resources and money
CEO or group of shareholders Sceptic and impatient relatives, colleagues or employers
Product Ideas and experiences
Market segments Different groups of people with whom you connect online
Sales and profit Attention, social contact, feedback, input, or content repository

This book is a great addition to my library. I read it twice already, I have been recommending it far and wide to business connections and students, and I foresee that I will be referring to this little book over and over, again, in my work and as a user of social media.


Have you read this book? What do you think?

August round-up

August = school and family holidays. Therefore, it is no surprise that this was a somehow unproductive month.

Joana summer


For me, August included the following highlights.


As I am working on a paper on using social media for customer insight, I spent some time catching up with literature on this topic. I have also been reading about the technical aspects of analysing social media data, including analysing visual data, and working on a bid for a small research grant.



I submitted a “chapter” to the Book of Blogs, a book about using social media for social sciences’ research, edited by the NSMNSS. The book covers topics as diverse as the technical aspects of using various social media platforms, application to specific social sciences’ fields, or ethical concerns; and is original in that its content consists of crowd sourced blog posts. The book will hit the ‘virtual’ shelves this Autumn.


Oh, and I got the physical copies of the Research Methods book. It’s all very exciting…

Book is here


Not much teaching this month, only a session on Digital Marketing. But lots of marking, and supervision of dissertations.



As I was planning to submit a paper to a special issue of a journal that I am not very familiar with, I spent some time learning about the writing style and key themes in that journal. Eventually, I did not manage to finish the paper on time (a deadline of August 31st… Seriously!?), but I did learn a lot about this journal and the community that writes for it. It’s a great resource and I have now added this title to the list of journals I check regularly.


SM Explained bookStill on learning, I finished reading the excellent book ‘Social Media Explained’ by Mark Schaefer. I learned a lot and shall be reviewing the book here on the blog, very shortly.


What were August’s highlights for you?