Ride-hailing app Uber has had a rough weekend. The company found itself the target of a negative hashtag Sunday, stemming largely from Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
Saturday saw a huge protest against the de facto Muslim ban at JFK International Airport in New York. Taxi drivers refused to pick people up from the airport in solidarity with those who were detained after Trump’s order.
Uber, meanwhile, one of the world’s wealthiest startups last valued at $68 billion, continued operating and promoted the decision to eliminate its controversial surge pricing, which lowered prices but was seen by many as “strike breaking.”
The hashtag #DeleteUber quickly gained traction and created something of a PR nightmare for the company.
That wasn’t the only thing riding against Uber over the weekend: the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick has a spot on Trump’s economic advisory council. The action by Uber along with Kalanick’s role in the new Trump administration left many people furious at the company.
In the hope of countering the trending negativity over the weekend, Uber shelled out for targeted ads to saturate social media. Despite the flood of faux positivity, it may be too little too late. #DeleteUber continued to trend on Monday afternoon.
From Travis Kalanick, with ad dollars
On Saturday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick attempted to slow down the backlash with a Facebook post he said was an email sent to Uber employees.
In the email with the subject line, “Standing up for what’s right,” he wrote, “We partner around the world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference.”
The email also shared how the company was reaching out to employees who might be affected by the bans. On Sunday, Kalanick followed up with a post sharing a Google Doc asking employees affected by the travel ban how Uber could help them legally and financially.
In the same post, Kalanick also laid out in a bullet point-list how Uber was taking action, including: offering legal support for affected drivers; compensating drivers for lost earnings; creating a $3 million legal defense fund and urging the government to “reinstate the right of U.S. residents to travel – whatever their country of origin – immediately.”
Despite the media coverage Kalanick gained for free due to his Facebook effort, Uber decided to cough up for ads over the weekend on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The sponsored and promoted posts included information about Uber’s efforts to support those affected by the immigration ban.
The ads appear to be targeted to a certain demographic, including Facebook users who may be interested in the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU.
An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment to Mashable on the ad targeting, but said the company was interested in getting the word out there on what it was doing, in an attempt to set the narrative straight.
A good weekend for Lyft
During all the Uber drama, other ride-hailing services have come to the rescue by picking up customers who have quit the platform in protest. The company that stole the show was Uber’s No. 1 competitor, ride-sharing app Lyft.
On Monday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shared a tweet showing Lyft bumped up to the fourth most downloaded slot in the App Store’s top charts for free apps. Uber was down to the 13th most popular free app as of midday Monday.
Analytics from App Annie show how Lyft’s rank history moved from 40th to seventh between Jan. 20 and Sunday, in overall rankings. Meanwhile, Uber’s ranking dropped slightly.
Lyft declined to comment Monday about their sudden bump in popularity as the #DeleteUber movement continued.
However, the app had more downloads than Uber on iOS in the U.S. for the first time ever Sunday. Daily iOS downloads for Lyft Sunday more than doubled its average daily downloads from two weeks prior, according to App Annie.
If that wasn’t enough, Lyft shamed Uber even further by announcing it was donating $1 million to the ACLU, over the course of four years.
The power of the #DeleteUber hashtag has shown its reach.