As we close the week, we are still talking about the effects of the #DeleteUber movement—you know, the one that unfolded last weekend when Uber was perceived to break a New York City Taxi Worker’s Association strike at JFK International Airport following President Trump’s travel ban on immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries.

It’s kept our attention all week for several reasons: its aggressive speed, its relative volume, and its ultimate perceived impact. But even more importantly, because we keep thinking about the way customers are reacting to brands in this faster, louder and more volatile political climate. The majority of this is being driven, of course, by social media sharing and activism, but it’s also tapping into deep emotional currents and coming to life in many touchpoints where customers feel they have a way to make their voices heard with brands. And, it’s making it clear that customers hold brands to standards that go far beyond their transactional experiences.

Speed: Prior to last weekend’s travel ban, the hashtag #deleteuber already had some conversation brewing, especially related to the news that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had agreed to serve on the president’s economic advisory council. That sparked a low-level conversation about boycotting the ride-sharing service, but the volume hit 246,459 mentions on January 29 after the brand tweeted about turning off surge pricing around JFK the hour after the strike ended.

The entire movement, from the first Tweet to the end result of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepping down from the president’s economic advisory council, unfolded in just ten calendar days.

Data Source: Crimson Hexagon

Volume: There were fewer than 250,000 mentions on the hashtag, but the effort picked up media coverage on the same day, with top Twitter contributors including major media outlets, celebrity news outlets, and celebrities themselves. The estimated volume quickly topped 1 billion impressions. With a relatively small number of contributing authors, the conversation got quickly echoed throughout social media. It also indicates that with 200,000 people deleting their Uber accounts, there were potentially a lot of people listening or following along and taking action without directly posting about their actions.

Data Source: Crimson Hexagon

Impact: The rush of account deletions led Uber to automate email responses in order to meet demand—and for a brief time, Uber’s rival Lyft took the lead on app downloads. 

Ultimately this is not a huge hit to Uber’s user base, which is estimated at 40 million monthly active users but the ripple effects are still being felt.

Yesterday, Uber’s CEO announced he will step down from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, and advisory council he was serving on along with the CEO’s of GM, Tesla, and Disney. For something so monumental to happen several days after a small number (relatively speaking) of account deletions indicates that the company fears greater damage ahead and chose the safer path.

Customer Experience Takeaways

Customers are looking for brands and companies to take a stand on key issues … that much has become clear. Brands or companies that hesitate may risk getting caught up in the conversation against their will

Proactive social listening is crucial when looking out for these types of developing conversations or mentions – and as we saw from the Uber movement, a relatively small spike in mentions can have a profound effect. Customers are taking their relationships with brands very seriously, far beyond the moments of opening, using and closing an app. And it seems as though these customers are paying very close attention to the relationships that brands have, make, or ignore during these types of contemporary events.

It’s almost as if the customer journey is expanding to include ideological moments that are not related to the core transaction at all anymore.




Marti Post

Marti Post VP, Strategy