There are major problems with the way that sentiment and intent is presently being measured and reported: you need only scratch the surface a little bit to uncover the grim truth.
The business problem that sentiment analysis solves is informing a manager, at a glance, not of only of the tone and vibe that his own employees are sending out there, but also how the public is responding to the policies and practices of the company in question.
Can’t you do this qualitatively? Well sure – if you didn’t have the anchor-and-adjust function in your head, it would be just fine. And ‘normally’ functioning humans all suffer from the curse of anchor-and-adjust.
The second business problem that effective sentiment analysis solves is the measurement-optimization problem in social analytics. The Coles Notes goes like this: “how can you possibly optimize if your measuring stick isn’t consistently accurate (or consistently inaccurate?)”. Because of anchor-and-adjust and normal human bias, how can human coding ‘correct’ anything consistently? Of course, it isn’t a business problem that anybody is really aware of – even to this day, most web analysts are unaware that a shifting cookie retention curve is messing with their KPI’s.
Anyway, there are real business problems to be solved there.