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Sentiment analysis has become unreliable, but you can get around that

(MARKETING) Gathering sentiment analysis on your brand is a standard marketing practice, but new studies reveal the data is increasingly unreliable – here’s how to combat this trend.

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Man drinking coffee looking at phone for reviews.

Turns out it isn’t just the average Joe who should be worried about misleading information online. Brands should be equally concerned about the accuracy of consumer perception. The basics of sentiment analysis are as old as the pandora’s box of asking for someone’s opinion. However, a study by the Harvard Business Review has shown that online vs. offline consumer reactions should be treated differently.

Sentiment analysis is the computational process of categorizing a person’s attitude towards a product, brand, topic, or campaign as “positive”, “negative”, or “neutral” by digesting their linguistic patterns in their posts and comments.

It’s essentially the uphill battle of turning subjective feelings into actionable or useful data. The problem is finding accurate trends when 60 percent of sentiment analysis studies yield overall “neutral” attitudes. Not all that helpful…

Essentially, online reactions are rooted in extremes. We all have been or have that friend who posts about finding “this amazing product/brand” and must let all passing scrollers know about this new obsession.

Alternatively, some try to perform a civic duty by warning others about a poor experience to save their social media friends from the same grief. Whatever said in that comment or post is likely filled with intense emotion, equivalent to someone running out into the road to yell their feelings to anyone who’ll listen.

Secondly, the spectrum of consumer reactions can be too wide. With the rise of fake accounts and bots, accepting feedback wholesale can lead to too much noise or misleading sentiments. Specificity is key, especially when A.I. and algorithms still have trouble recognizing irony, hyperbole, and humor. (Memes, anyone?) Feedback can be more accurate by targeting phrases such as “will buy” or “won’t buy”. For bigger brands, random, sentiment sampling can also help narrow the focus.

Finally, the sentiment analysis tools should vary. There are a growing number of resources with Hootsuite Insight, Rapidminer, and Social Mention just to name a few. Different tools can help create a better picture of consumer reactions — just follow the trail of hashtags!

The minefield of online interaction hasn’t gotten any safer despite a public awareness for fake news. Context is still a tricky thing. But subjectivity still makes the world go ’round (in my opinion), and we can see the value in feedback even though it may require playing with fire.

Staff Writer, Allison Yano is an artist and writer based in LA. She holds a BFA in Applied Visual Arts and Minor in Writing from Oregon State University, and an MFA in Fine Art from Pratt Institute. Her waking hours are filled with an insatiable love of storytelling, science, and soy lattes.

Social Media

This habit tracker shows you insights you may not want to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The Haptic Life Tracker app documents your (good and bad) habits. But how much do you want to know?

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Haptic, a habit tracker app for Apple, shows you almost too many data points.

Ah, Facebook. We hate you for being a massive time suck. We love you for documenting our lives (seriously, that memories feature toys with my emotions daily).

If that time suck becomes too sucky and you need to break up with your feed – but you want to keep a list of what you’ve been doing – check out the brand-spanking-new app Haptic Life Tracker for iOS.

The benefits, according to the makers: “Track your habits and activities in one timeline and get insights based on your actions. See what your life looks like at a glance.”

This habit tracker lets you track useful things like how many glasses of water or cigarettes you’ve had, music you’ve listened to, or what books you’ve read. If you need another reason to feel bad about yourself, you could also track how many times you got wasted last week vs. how many times you worked out – information you may or may not want to see in the cold, hard light of your phone screen (Hey, single people. It’s COVID-19 Time, so can we all just agree not to track the number of days since we’ve had a date? Thanks).

The free version of the habit tracker starts you off with seven preset categories, including music albums, games, and flights, and lets you add five customized categories. You can also auto import data from the iOS Health app.

Paid membership ($1.49 monthly or $12.99 for a year, with a seven-day free trial) gets you a virtually unlimited number of areas to obsess over. The membership also includes more ways to get insights and parse your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly data.

With any tracking app, the big question is privacy and who gets to see your data. The app makers address privacy right off the bat. According to them, all content lives only on your phone and is not synced with external servers. So, hopefully, Google won’t learn how abysmally low your water intake is compared with your wine log (Am I projecting a lot onto this app? I think I’m projecting a lot onto this app).

Having all that data in one place could let you delete some of the more specialized tracking apps. By way of comparison, take a look at The Muse’s “The Top 50 Apps for Tracking Everything in Your Life.” There should be at least one habit tracker you could cut to whittle down your list. Although maybe not PooLog, which tracks your bowel movements by “type, time and volume” to help identify health issues. The Muse adds: “Or it’s just great for poo aficionados.” I did not know, nor did I need to know there are “poo aficionados.”

Haptic Life Tracker was recently featured on tech-product watch site ProductHunt.com, where comments from maker Alexey Sekachov reveal they’re working on versions for Apple Watch and Android, as well as potentially adding a social component.

Also on the informational treasure trove that is the Product Hunt comments feature, one commenter nailed the app’s minimalist look and feel: “Both beautiful and creepy. Black Mirror meets black turtleneck (Steve Jobs would be proud).”

The ability to use tech to gain insights into our habits and chronicle our lives is the same: Both beautiful and, if we’re honest, just a titch creepy. Haptic Life Tracker certainly has the potential to help us become more self-aware. Its potential pitfall is becoming another time suck: Obsessing over every detail of our lives. I’m looking forward to user reviews to see which idea wins.

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Real Estate Marketing

Top reasons people unsubscribe from emails

(MARKETING NEWS) Sometimes promotional emails can cause us to purge our inboxes due to over-inundation. New data examines specific reasons customers unsubscribe from mailing listings.

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mailblast email marketing unsubscribe

I recently registered my work email with a company that shall not be named in an effort to receive a 20% off coupon. While I received the coupon, I also found myself receiving somewhere around 10 emails per week from this company. But after a few weeks, I had no choice but to unsubscribe from this email listing. Though it did give me the option to minimize email settings, the overwhelming amount I already received was such a turn off that I unsubscribed completely.

This has happened time and again with countless other mail listings, and I know that I’m not the only one burdened with email after email. Apparently this is such a common occurrence that eMarketer was able to conduct a survey that complied the top reasons why people tend to unsubscribe from email lists.

The major reasons were broken down into 13 categories.

The additional reasons were as follows: 21% report that the emails were not relevant to them; 19% received too many emails from a specific company; 19% complained that the emails were always trying to sell something; 17%t stated the content of the emails were boring, repetitive, and not interesting to them.

Additionally, 16% unsubscribed because they do not have the time to read the emails; 13% stated they receive the same ads and promotions in the email that they receive in print mail (through direct mail, print magazines, newspapers, etc.)

Furthermore, 11% stated that some emails can be too focused on the company’s needs and not enough on the customer’s needs; 10% felt that certain emails seemed geared towards other people’s needs and not their own. Another 10% did not like the appearance of certain emails, stating that they were too cluttered and sloppy.

An additional 10% didn’t trust the email to provide all of the information necessary to make purchasing decisions. Finally, 1% claimed “other” reasoning as the main cause.

Fully 7.0% unsubscribed from certain email listings because they said emails did not look good on their smartphones. This is important for marketers to keep in the back of their minds.

Assess your email marketing strategy to ensure you’re fitting the needs of consumers, not just your own personal preferences. Data doesn’t lie.

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Real Estate Marketing

The rise of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) systems

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) The emerging success of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) systems in the pandemic world has breathed fresh life into consumer confidence.

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Credit card being held out to our point of view, part of a buy now pay later system.

Within the last few years, a new payment option has slowly been rolling out across websites for consumers in the form of “buy now, pay later.” This system gives consumers the ability to split a payment up across a longer period of time and in small increments, and also tends to skip on interest or other standard monetary fees. In essence, this makes them a new style of layaway plan for modern day, and proponents of ‘buy now, pay later’ systems are stating this is one of the best chances to revitalize a worldwide marketplace rocked by the COVID pandemic.

On the European side of things, Klarna has an evaluation of $10 billion, which firmly cements it as the most valuable privately owned fintech firm in the country (and fourth overall globally). Australia’s Afterpay is another big player with its own substantial platform, while the United States based Affirm is looking to start its own IPO in the $5-$10 billion range. Of course, Paypal has long been in this market, and other companies – including Visa – are working with their own offerings.

Put another way: It’s big business. Big, big business. Forbes estimates as much as $24 billion annually. That’s definitely something. There are millions of users globally for these apps, with millions of purchases annually, and more are growing by the day.

Traditionally, consumers were relegated to using credit cards to facilitate purchases that they needed additional time, giving them the ability to obtain funds while retaining their ability to bring home goods and services. This comes with interest so that merchants and vendors have an incentive – they still make a sale, gather money over time, and get a little extra on top.

By contrast, ‘buy now, pay later’ systems are geared differently, aiming instead to address a growing digital market where sales are primarily online (or steadily getting there). Consumers may window shop even on websites, and ultimately abandon their carts when the purchase screen finally appears. This is where BNPL shines – it suddenly gives these shoppers a way to still move forward while lessening the initial monetary blow and giving them a way out of dreaded interest. Especially in these uncertain times, this has become a lifesaver for customers and vendors alike. The former gains the ability to purchase more with few penalties (if any), and the latter sees greater conversion and increased sales.

Meanwhile, the BNPL merchant is able to charge a higher percentage commission to the vendors – more so than credit cards even – to net themselves their own piece of the pie. Even with BNPL’s higher merchant fees of 4-6% in revenue compared to credit card companies, the pure numbers emphatically prove that this system is beneficial to everyone. As pointed out by Fintechtris, “Even though higher fees are being paid, retailers are able to take advantage of: an increase in shopping cart size (up to 30%), decrease in abandonment at checkout (down up to 25%), and repeat customers (up to 20% more). In particular, Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna (some of the largest BNPL fintech companies) saw average order value (AVO) rise 85%, 30%, and 45% respectively.”

Further, BNPL users have a variety of reasons for choosing this method over credit cards, including avoiding interest, the ability to borrow without a credit check, and being able to go outside of an existing budget without straying into troubled territory.

BNPL graph: growth is being driven by people who can't or don't want to use credit cards

Image source: PaymentsSource

Perhaps even more interesting is that BNPL companies are suffering lower delinquency rates compared to credit cards, with problematic payments at around 1.1% compared to 5.7% elsewhere. BNPL – with its lack of punitive measures – seems to attract all kinds of customers; it’s not just for those that might represent risk.

There is still something to be said about the dangers of overborrowing, with the possibility of charges sneaking up on someone. It should also be noted that avoiding using a credit card means that someone might build their credit history more slowly and sluggishly, and this could have negative ramifications long term.

Everyone is looking for ways to improve their cash flow right now, and as such, evaluating each and every option out there is vitally important. We might even see an accelerated push toward a cashless society following the pandemic. BNPL is still in some early stages, but it’s likely to see increased acceptance and usage as we continually push toward online sales.

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