On Monday, July 30, NutriAsia Inc., the manufacturer of popular condiments such as Datu Puti vinegar and UFC Banana Ketchup, made headlines after violence erupted between security forces faced and protesting workers and their sympathizers at the company’s factory in Marilao, Bulacan. The police arrested 19 protesters, including former employees and student-journalists.
By the day’s end, photos showing some protesters badly hurt during the altercation went viral on social media, turning many of those who have seen them against the company. Many called for a consumer boycott of popular NutriAsia products, whether they were aware or not of the issues surrounding the protests.
It remains to be seen if the boycott calls will significantly impact sales of NutriAsia products. Still, the internet furor generated by the incident underscores the challenge posed by social media platforms to consumer companies’ online reputations, which impacts overall public perception of their corporate brand.
The infographic on this page shows visually how both mentions of, and sentiment on, NutriAsia behaved immediately before and after reports and images of the violent dispersal of protesters at the company’s factory spread on the Internet.
Both the numbers and graphs in the infographics came from online social media analytics tool Talkwater.com. We typed in the search term “NutriAsia,” and the site automatically generated the data as well as graphs that tracked mentions and sentiment on the search term on news sites as well as Twitter over a specified period.
The online tool categorizes posts as negative or positive based on the other words used in the story or post around the search term. It does this through an artificial intelligence-powered system, which it trains to read thousands of entries on a regular basis to become “smarter” in its analysis.
The cloud service was launched in 2009 and counts around a thousand customers, including multinational companies like Microsoft and Deloitte.
The company admits the system has its limitations as some posts can be identified as positive even when the post as a whole does not entirely read as such. For example, sarcastic-ridden posts can easily be overlooked by the system as positive. Still, the data the platform has generated is worth looking into.
In both news and Twitter posts, mentions about NutriAsia spiked on July 31, the day after the incident. Much of the posts written about it were negative. The graph also shows that while mentions about the company declined in the next days, most of it remained negative.
To be sure, the predominance of negative comments about a company may nor may not hurt its sales, especially if the adverse sentiment is short-lived. Nonetheless, it may be something that companies should bear watching during times when they come under intense public scrutiny.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz