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In the News

Why did #DeleteUber start trending?

Penny Brooks

31st January 2017

If you needed any proof of the difficulty for businesses that try to keep up with the external environment, here it is.

On Saturday, taxi drivers at JFK airport in New York went on strike in protest against President Trump's order to ban nationals from seven countries from entering the US. The demand for taxi rides caused Uber's automatic surge pricing to kick in, until Uber tweeted that they were removing the price premium - and that was interpreted by thousands of users as Uber attempting to break the strike. As a result of a social media storm, by Monday morning over 300,000 people had tweeted pictures of themselves deleting the Uber app from their phones, and Uber was trending - but not in a way that they wanted.

As the BBC reports, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick is a member of Trump's business advisory council and will be meeting with the president on Friday, details that were also seized upon by protesters. However, he has also taken to social media in an attempt to deflect the anger against his company, using Facebook to post "Today we need your help supporting drivers who may be impacted by the President's unjust immigration ban."

The speed of reaction on social media poses a huge threat for businesses if their actions are misinterpreted, and as political opinions are so divided at the moment, it seems hard for business leaders to avoid upsetting some customers. The BBC report adds that Uber wasn't the only company to be caught up in protest politics. After Starbucks promised to to hire 10,000 refugees in response to Trump's plan, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks hit Twitter's list of top trends, propelled by thousands of messages but this time mostly from Trump supporters. Lots of the elements of PESTLE analysis, all at odds with each other, make managing social media relations a headache.

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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