Social Media Analytics and Sentiment Analysis on Reddit  

Preparing the students for a digital world of communication, this teaching case focused on the benefits of digital tools and methods for collecting and analysing data from social media. Introducing the students to sentiment analysis, and trying their hand at the software such as Vader and Voyant, and learned basic computational and particular critical thinking skills relevant to their future careers in communication.


For strategic communication and social media messaging and management, it is important that our students learn to use digital methods to assess and evaluate user-generated content as it emerges within the communicative “ecology” of an organization, cause or social movement. To operate in a social media mediated world, the students cannot only rely on competencies related to writing and analysing texts. They also need technological skills in relation to social media messaging and management. 

Communication is more than the transmission of messages from a sender to a receiver. For effective and appropriate interaction, the communicative event is a dialectical, symmetrical process of strategic engagement on the part of an organization, cause, or social movement to support its mission. To enhance engagement with stakeholders through social media, it is important for the students to experience how to analyse, not for chasing “likes” or “comments”, sometimes called “vanity metrics”, but evaluate for “equity metrics”, that is user engagement, in particular “sentiment”. 

Use of technology

  • Vader (used to do an analysis on social media)

  • UCloud 

During the two class sessions dedicated to sentiment analysis using the software program VADER, which is design for sentiment analysis, the introduction was dependent on assistance and guidance from the Digital Curriculum team, in particular Kristoffer Nielbo. Before the class sessions, he had used a web-scraping tool to collect the data from, creating a “corpus” for us to work with. During class, we accessed the software program VADER through SDU’s UCloud. Students gained access to the program through their own personal computers. 


Overall, the students were positive about the introduction to sentiment analysis using VADER. They could see that learning to use digital technologies is a significant skill for their future careers in organizational communication. Some students did lack some basic skills and knowledge regarding these new information communication technologies (ICT), and overall it would be beneficial to spend more time on the exercises, providing more opportunities for practice. Noteworthy, one of the students from the course was at that time writing a master's thesis, which involves sentiment analysis. Because of the positive reception and learning outcomes, the subsequent course plan for 2022 was developed to include nine sessions on social media messaging and management, including more exercises involving ICT for messaging and digital tools for management.


Before the first session, the students were given a handout which provided guidance for gaining access to VADER through SDU’s UCloud. 

Session one in class (with guest lecturer Kristoffer Nielbo from CHC):  

  • Introduction to Sentiment analysis  

  • Introduction to Voyant  

  • Sentiment analysis demonstration  

  • Introduction to Vader through UCloud  

Session two in class (with teacher):  

  • The students went through the same steps as in session one – supported by the teacher. 

  • The pace was slow and relied on a hand-out based on Kristoffer’s introduction to Vader analysis from the previous week, which was prepared for the students beforehand. 

See an example of the handout with step-by-step instructions under Links and Materials

Ressources and support

  • UCloud was made available for all the students to access and use Vader through  

  • A hand-out was provided for the second session  

  • The teacher and Kristoffer Nielbo acted as support throughout

Challenges and advice

The biggest challenge was that the students and the teacher both lack experience with digital computational methods and the skills needed to collect data digitally, as well as prepare and use the software.

A piece of advice for teachers is to brush up on or take some courses to develop digital/ computational skills. Also, lower ambitions for the students and make room for opportunities to practice. Decades ago, new university students had to take a course in word processing using computers, maybe it is time to introduce a new type of course for introducing “basics” of digital and computational methods to support their other academic competencies and learning.

Such a course on basic computational methods and programs would have been relevant for current learner needs, including instructors if resources permit. This could be a basic course that touches on the creation of spread sheets in Excel and more advanced software and programs for the creation and management of digital content. 

Steven Breunig on his teaching case:

Basic information:

Teacher: Steven Breunig

Faculty: Humanities, University of Southern Denmark

Discipline: International Business Communication (English)

Course: Strategic Writing and Communication

Level of study: MA

Teaching method: Small class teaching

Number of students: 25

Duration: Short series of sessions (2)

Academic objective

The academic objective is to give the students an introduction to the practical and technological aspects of being a language worker - that is, a communication practitioner - for an organisation, by acquiring knowledge, skills and abilities in digital technologies for social media messaging and management. The means studying content creation and curation, doing analytics, which is dependent on traditional linguistic knowledge and skills. For this project, the main objective was to introduce students to an aspect of social media management, namely “analytics”.