Social media users are largely "disgusted" by Wayfair’s decision to do business with a government contractor operating facilities for migrant children held at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to social media monitoring company Brandwatch.
Analyzing social media users’ sentiment, disgust was the most prevalent emotion, followed by anger and joy, explained Kellan Terry, senior communications manager and analyst at Brandwatch. The posts expressing joy, however, were praising the more than 500 employees who walked out in protest against the houseware company on Wednesday, not the brand, said Terry.
Of all the sentiment-categorized mentions for the #WayfairWalkout discussion, 54.04% are negative.
"This makes sense as the hashtag itself is inherently negative," said Terry. "Positive mentions, however, are posts of thanks and solidarity with the Wayfair employees who protested."
Historically, online conversations around Wayfair have been positive, according to data from Brandwatch and Cision. That all changed on June 25.
For context, on June 17, Cision data indicates that 47.2% of consumer sentiment towards Wayfair on Twitter was positive, compared to only 11.1% of negative sentiment. Ten days later, positive sentiment dropped to 35.4%, while negative sentiment soared to 41.2%.
Brandwatch’s technology found that the day before the protest, Tuesday, registered the most Wayfair mentions at 71,000. The day of the walkout, Wednesday, the brand received 40,000 mentions.
"People are quick to join conversations that align with their ideals, and the walkout was taking place online well before Wayfair’s employees physically took to the streets," Terry said via email. "This is the nature of online outrage and protest."
The #WayfairWalkout hashtag has been used nearly 113,000 times, Brandwatch said.
Twitter was the greatest driver by volume of the social media conversation by a "considerable margin," Intrado, a company that provides cloud services, including PR tech, found.
High-profile public figures, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), further fueled the conversation with their takes, but "online news outlets sent discussion rocketing," said Jeremy Gibbs, monitoring product lead at Intrado media solutions, via email.
Intrado found the tonality of the conversation was overwhelmingly negative. It didn’t measure sentiment toward Wayfair. Only 9.1% of mentions were positive, compared to 17.9% negative. That ratio grew slightly worse on Wednesday (7.3% positive against 16.6% negative) and on Thursday (7.1% positive against 17.5% negative).
Wayfair’s $100,000 donation to The Red Cross may have mitigated some of the reputational fallout, according to Gibbs.
"Talk of Wayfair’s donation to the Red Cross went some way to re-establish the company’s ethical credentials and prove it was listening," Gibbs said via email.
However, outrage continued against the company, with some on social media criticizing the size of the donation and whether the Red Cross was its appropriate recipient.
"In short, the donation mitigated some of the fall out – and actually gave people a reason to like the company and see it behave ethically," Gibbs said via email. "It’s a theme among the top 30 posts by engagement."
Wayfair declined to comment.