Listening Rulesets & Sentiment

Sentiment analysis is a valuable tool for understanding how your audience is feeling about a given topic. However, measuring audience sentiment is a nuanced endeavor and often requires that brands apply their unique context and perspective to ensure an accurate assessment. Especially because sentiment ratings apply across both the Smart Inbox and Social Listening. 

Note: This article only applies to you if you are actively using more than one Listening Ruleset prior to February 28, 2024. 

This article contains the following sections:

How is a ruleset applied?

A ruleset gets applied to your Listening Topics in the Query Builder. The most used Sentiment Ruleset across your Listening Topics is automatically applied to all Listening Topics. 

However, if you have two rulesets that are tied for most used, Sprout defaults to the most recently updated ruleset.

If you currently have one or more rulesets, but they aren’t attached to any Topics, the most recently updated ruleset is the default.

How do I update my rulesets?

You can only have one working ruleset for your Sprout account. You can update the ruleset if you need to change it or you can delete a ruleset completely if you need to start over and change criteria. However, it’s important to note that if you delete a ruleset, it is permanently deleted from your Sprout account and you can’t recover it.

If you currently have more than one ruleset your Sprout account defaults to the most commonly used ruleset to apply to new and existing Listening Topics. If you have multiple rulesets and want additional rules to be applied that aren’t in the default ruleset, you can add those same keywords to the default ruleset by editing it.   

If all rulesets get removed, then you can create one new ruleset. 

The only way to update or change an existing ruleset is to update the default ruleset. To update a sentiment ruleset:

  1. Navigate to Account and settings > Settings.
  2. Click Sentiment Rules under Listening. Your Sentiment Keyword Rulesets appear.
  3. Click the ruleset you want to update.

  1. Update keywords and phrases (up to three words) in the Positive, Neutral and Negative Sentiment fields, separating each keyword and phrase with a comma.
    • Note: The system doesn’t take into account variations of words, so you need to enter each variation if you want it classified in a particular way. (Think: win, winning and wins)
    • Additionally, you can’t use the same keyword or phrase in multiple sentiments. (Think: You can’t classify “win” as negative and positive)


  1. Click Save. Your ruleset is updated.


Ruleset FAQs

If I have three rulesets and delete one of the rulesets, can I create and add a new one?

No. Sprout accounts can only have one active ruleset. While both rulesets can exist, only the ruleset that is used most commonly across all your Listening Topics gets applied.

If I edit a ruleset to change the rules, how does it affect Topic data?

Any rule changes apply to new data from that point forward. 

Can I put the same rule in multiple sentiment categories?

No. A keyword or phrase can only be in one category.


Sentiment and Sentiment Reclassification

For example, if a gaming publisher was listening for messages around a game their company produces called “War Zone,” they might find their sentiment results to be overwhelmingly negative because the term “war zone,” is inherently negative. This can lead to skewed results and an inaccurate analysis on what the sentiment of the conversation on social actually is. Sometimes, sentiment analysis can be unintentionally inaccurate. 

The good news? You can use Sentiment Reclassification and a Sentiment Ruleset when creating your Listening Topics to help you increase the accuracy of sentiment.

With Sentiment Reclassification, you can reclassify the sentiment rating that was applied to a message. The second, Sentiment Rulesets, helps with the “war zone” example above, by changing how Sprout’s sentiment classifier interprets words or phrases. 

In the example above, you could make “war zone” a neutral term since it is tied to a name of a game.  By changing the rating on individual messages or words and phrases, you can improve the sentiment accuracy and improve the ratings the algorithm applies to messages.

Sentiment Reclassification

Sentiment reclassification is great for your Brand Health or custom Listening Topics that are smaller and don’t contain thousands of messages. You can quickly update the sentiment on a message-by-message basis.

Reclassifying message sentiment

To change the sentiment on a message:

  1. Navigate to your Topic Insights.
  2. Open the Messages tab.
  3. Click the Sentiment dropdown.
  4. Select Positive, Neutral or Negative.

While Sentiment Reclassification is a great way to change sentiment on individual messages, a Sentiment Ruleset lets you decide how the sentiment classifier interprets and classifies specific keywords. A ruleset helps guide the sentiment classifier to make a more informed decision on how to treat words in a message. 

If a message is fairly straightforward, the message will likely get classified per your ruleset. For example, “I have back pain.”

The word “pain” in that message is interpreted as negative, so the overall message is negative. If you added a rule to make “pain” interpreted as neutral, the message rating likely becomes neutral. 

It’s important to know that sometimes the rest of a message can influence the overall sentiment classification. For example if the message said, “I have bad back pain. These new pills are awful and don’t help.” The message is interpreted as negative. Whereas, “I have bad back pain. These new pills I got are great.” This message is interpreted as positive.

In both of the situations, other keywords and phrases influenced the classification of the message beyond the rule. But, in either case, you’re ensuring the word “pain” remains neutral and leaving the rest of the message context to determine the true sentiment.

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