Seeing the wood for the trees: How machine learning can help firms in identifying relevant electronic word-of-mouth in social media

Vermeer, Susan A.M.; Araujo, Theo; Bernritter, Stefan F. and van Noort, Guda. 2019. Seeing the wood for the trees: How machine learning can help firms in identifying relevant electronic word-of-mouth in social media. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 36(3), pp. 492-508. ISSN 0167-8116 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The increasing volume of firm-related conversations on social media has made it considerably more difficult for marketers to track and analyse electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) about brands, products or services. Firms often use sentiment analysis to identify relevant eWOM that requires a response to consequently engage in webcare. In this paper, we show that sentiment analysis of any kind might not be ideal for this purpose, because it relies on the questionable assumption that only negative eWOM is response-worthy and it is not able to infer meaning from text. We propose and test an approach based on supervised machine learning that first decides whether eWOM is relevant for the brand to respond, and then—based on a categorization of seven different types of eWOM (e.g., question, complaint)—classifies three customer satisfaction dimensions. Using a dataset of approximately 60,000 Facebook comments and 11,000 tweets about 16 different brands in eight different industries, we test and compare the efficacy of various sentiment analysis, dictionary-based and machine learning techniques to detect relevant eWOM. In doing so, this study identifies response-worthy eWOM based on the content instead of its expressed sentiment. The results indicate that these machine learning techniques achieve considerably higher accuracy in detecting relevant eWOM on social media compared to any kind of sentiment analysis. Moreover, it is shown that industry-specific classifiers can further improve this process and that algorithms are applicable across different social networks.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


eWOM, webcare, social media, digital marketing strategies, automated content analysis, sentiment analysis, machine learning

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute of Management Studies


28 January 2019Accepted
11 February 2019Published Online
1 September 2019Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2019 11:25

Last Modified:

30 Oct 2020 09:53

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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