The ways people express their opinions and sentiments today about a product or service have radically changed in the past decade thanks to the advent of social networks, web communities-blogs, forums, wikis, podcasts, videos, Instant Messenger, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, reviews, ratings, recommendations and other online collaborative media. Social media and online opinion have contributed substantially to change and influence the marketing strategies, customer experience and business acumen today; it has provided people with new tools for creating and sharing in real time and in a cost efficient way, said Dr. Umesh Rao Hodeghatta, Professor of Information Systems, Xavier Institute of Management in his address to the business management students at MYRA.
The ‘Wisdom of Crowds‘ as Dr. Rao called it, is increasingly being used by business enterprises to connect with customers, build strong relationships and convert a regular customer into a brand advocate. The ‘electronic word of mouth’ shared via the internet about an event, product, service, brand or company is highly influential in spreading the underlying message from user to user and presumably resonates because it comes from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself -this form of marketing has rapidly changed the e-commerce domain to a new face in the 21st century called Social Media Marketing-it is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites and is here to stay, said Dr. Umesh Rao. Marketing managers, PR Firms, campaign managers, politicians, equity investors and online shoppers are the direct beneficiaries of this technology, said Dr. Rao. These snippets of text and ‘sentiments’ are a gold mine and a kind of virtual currency for all stakeholders, he said.
Dr. Rao explained that the voluminous data that travels through the social media has fueled enough interest to open up a new branch of research and study called ‘Sentiment Analysis‘ since the early 2000’s, and is currently one of the hottest areas of research in computer science. Sentiment analysis or web mining as it is also called uses natural language processing, text analysis and computational linguistics to identify and extract subjective information in source materials. Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it across their social networks.
Dr. Rao also touched upon some of the technical aspects of sentiment analysis how it entails understanding the language of the holder; inferring about the real world and doing a predictive analysis by predicting certain interesting variables. Dr. Umesh used some examples to show that opinions have direct, indirect and comparative attributes and these are studied and analyzed to deliver important and interesting variables that can be effectively used by a manufacturer to alter market strategies to get the best advantage. The challenges of such analyses -the cultural factors, linguistic nuances and differing contexts were also discussed. An interesting interaction followed the talk.
Dr. Sudhendar Rao, Professor of Information Systems, MYRA School of Business, earlier introduced the speaker and the event was chaired by Prof. Shalini R Urs, Chairperson, MYRA.