Uber, Lyft, and the Social Media Frenzies

What did New Yorkers do during the BU (before Uber) era? It’s difficult now to imagine having no choice but to stand on a city corner, lifting the entire weight of your arm above your head, just to hail a simple taxi; most probably in the pouring rain or oppressive heat.

But it’s 2015, and apps like Uber and Lyft have made taxis a thing of the past. It’s no surprise then that New Yorkers cried out in anger and despair when New York City threatened to limit Uber’s growth due to concerns of Uber drivers increasing traffic, noise, and pollution in the city. Uber even offered free rides to a protest against the bill on June 29th. The de Blasio administration quickly backed down, but only for now. They are currently conducting a study of Uber’s effects for noise & pollution.

Yet Uber remains wildly popular and profitable, thanks in large part to its successful marketing and advertising efforts. Uber has sold young people on the convenience and repurposes their controversial attributes as innovation for the entire transportation industry. Uber sells the “sharing economy” model it’s based on as a convenient, efficient, and market-based solution to society’s problems.

However, in other parts of the country and the world, Uber has caused backlash, even riots, for not only its threats to traditional taxis, but also its attempts to skirt laws and regulations. Uber has also received negative press for suggesting they would dig up dirt on reporters who are critical of the company--one executive was even “disciplined” for tracking a BuzzFeed reporter - whatever that means.

Uber’s practice of labelling all drivers as independent contractors threatens the workers by making it very difficult for them to unionize. Not only that, they advertise higher wages than most drivers will actually see and make bold claims of job creation, as well as reducing pollution and congestion, but don’t necessarily have the data to support.

Social media data reveals how Lyft may seriously threaten Uber if Uber keeps acting selfishly and enacting suspiciously unethical practices for financial gain and industry dominance. Sound familiar…[cough]...Microsoft?

As the study goes, Crimson Hexagon analyzed social media conversations of two similar social campaigns (to benefit women) launched by Uber and Lyft at about the same time. After removing news-sharing and/or neutral posts, 94% of Lyft’s total conversation was positive, compared to only 64% of Uber’s total conversation.

Here’s some reasons why Lyft’s campaign was probably better received than Uber’s:

  • Lyft does a much better job at treating women properly.

  • 14 out of Lyft’s top 30 executives are female.

  • The company also partnered with It’s On Us in September 2014 to help raise awareness and fight against sexual assault. 

Here’s what we know about Uber:

  • Comparatively, Uber’s executive board has 0 women presiding on it.

  • There are many reports of women feeling unsafe in Uber vehicles, and even cases of sexual assault (Uber even suggested the woman’s outfit was to blame. Damn.)

While Lyft has faced its own lawsuits like Uber, it has no history of mistreating women. With the Internet and easy sharing, Uber may want to respect the power of social media to sway public opinion. People can post experiences quickly and persuade a vast audience with a press of a button. Surprisingly, as we get more in bed with technology, it is ever more imperative that companies look past the bottom line and treat their workforce and customers more like people instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

With almost perfectly equal services, prices, and availability of drivers in the same markets, there is very little difference between the two companies. And almost nothing stopping a user from clicking the Lyft icon on their phone over the Uber icon - especially if supporting a more socially responsible company is important to them (that would be Lyft btw).

Be careful, Uber-–Lyft is in your rearview mirror with its passing signal blinking.