The Amazon Race

What social media data tells us about cities’ reactions to Amazon HQ2

Somewhere, Jeff Bezos is roaring with laughter. On Sept. 7, fresh off its Whole Foods acquisition, Seattle-based Amazon announced plans to open a second North American headquarters that will cost $5 billion to build and operate. The headquarters will employ up to 50,000 high-wage workers, and promises to dramatically change the business landscape of whatever city it calls home.

Unsurprisingly, the announcement triggered a mad dash from cities competing to host Amazon HQ2, with mayors and developers voicing their support. Weeks after the announcement, cities have begun submitting proposals and offering gifts like a saguaro cactus or incentives like tax breaks.

The good news is that Amazon is clear about what it’s looking for in a HQ2 city: walkable, easy access to public transportation, proximity to an international airport, a strong pipeline of educated workers, and a business-friendly tax structure.

While many city governments are pushing forward with the support of some residents, not everybody is so keen on laying out the welcome mat for Amazon’s HQ2. We analyzed the social media conversation around Amazon’s new headquarters to gauge support for and opposition to Amazon’s  HQ2 in several key cities, and as a whole.

Talk of the town

Social media conversation reached 14.6k posts on Sept. 7, the day of Amazon’s announcement to search for a second headquarters. Conversation levels decreased in the following days, but rose again on Sept. 11, when the thinkpieces came flooding in. @UpshotNYT, @nytimes, @WSJ, @geekwire, @usatoday, and @dallasnews are among the top-mentioned Twitter handles.

Among the most-shared stories is The New York Times’ piece on why Denver is the ideal city to host Amazon HQ2.

https://twitter.com/chrisalbon/status/906706750446829568

Support (5.5k total posts) for a second headquarters outweighs opposition (1k total posts). However, conversation volume for posts opposing Amazon HQ2 rose on Sept. 14, when people participated in a Reddit thread debating if Montreal should be considered.

The primary reasons people support welcoming Amazon HQ2 to their home city are job creation, supporting the tech community, and transforming rust-belt stalwarts, Cleveland and Detroit.

People were enticed by the prospect of adding 50,000 high-paying jobs to their city.

People also think that Amazon will be a magic fix for the problems Detroit is facing. They say that Amazon can help uplift Baltimore and Detroit with an influx of new workers and jobs.

The primary reasons people oppose an Amazon takeover are the costs needed to accommodate Amazon’s arrival, rising housing costs, and tax concerns.

Trying to attract Amazon’s attention is expensive.

Creating a building boom in already dense urban areas worries residents who are concerned about the construction of luxury housing. The arrival of Amazon in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood drove the rise in housing costs, a result residents do not desire for their city. Residents also worry about traffic congestion.

Some have also said that the U.S. does not need more tech jobs.

Where is the discussion taking place?

Some residents are more vocal about supporting Amazon HQ2 in their city than others. Boston; Seattle; and Burlington, Vermont have the highest conversation volume for supporting Amazon HQ2.

The cities with residents who are most vocal about opposing Amazon HQ2 in their city are Prescott, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Conclusion

Amazon’s search for a second home has been elevated to a national spectacle due to people’s eagerness for the company to nest in their city. Social media data reveals more nuanced version of the conversation, examining the reasons for and against Amazon HQ2 in certain cities. Looking at the social media conversation can help brands understand the differences in conversation by geography.

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