Uber. Domino’s. Microsoft. These are some of the biggest brands in the world. But according to a new report, these are also the brands that receive the most hate on Twitter.
The product review blog Rave Reviews used social media sentiment analysis tool SentiStrength, developed by a computer science professor at the University of Wolverhampton, to analyze more than a million tweets about 100 of the biggest global brands. It then studied the percentage of positive and negative tweets each brand received, ranking them by location and category. Some findings were to be expected: Uber—a company that has been the target of controversy, from mistreating drivers to increasing prices during the pandemic—was the most hated brand in the United States, with nearly half of all tweets being negative. But there were also some surprises in the mix: Lego, the popular toy brand, was the second most hated brand; and Domino’s, which thrived during the pandemic, was the most hated fast food brand.
There were also regional differences in terms of which brands received the most negative tweets. Uber was the most hated in eight states, including California and Arizona, while Lego was the most hated in six states including Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Washington, D.C., nearly 60% of tweets about Apple were negative. In Maine, more than 80% of tweets about McDonald’s were negative. And in Oregon, more than half the tweets about Pepsi were negative.
It’s important to note that consumers are much more likely to tweet about negative experiences than positive ones, according to Luke Doyle, a digital PR specialist at NeoMam Studios, which Rave Reviews commissioned to do this research. And mega brands, with enormous audiences, tend to get more attention on Twitter. (This study looked at the 100 top brands, according to Google search volume.) “A huge global brand like Uber, Lego, or Sony is naturally going to have more tweets about it,” says Doyle. “When you have an enormous number of customers, you’re bound to upset some of them. It just goes hand-in-hand with being a brand of this size.”
It’s also worth pointing out that this study looked exclusively at Twitter data, so it tends to reflect brands whose users tended to be active on Twitter. Many of the other most hated brands on Twitter in the United States tended to be tech-forward companies, like Sony, Microsoft, Netflix, ESPN, Tesla, and Amazon. It makes sense, for instance, that Uber users, who access vehicles on a smartphone app, are also more likely to complain about their bad experiences on Twitter.
That said, it’s clear that some brands have far more negative tweets than their competitors. Uber was the most hated brand on Twitter; while its main competitor, Lyft, does not make it into the top 60 most hated brands. Part of this is that Uber, which generated more than $11 billion in revenue in 2020, is significantly larger than Lyft, which brought in just $2.3 billion during that time. With significantly more users, Uber invites more criticism. Meanwhile, even though Lego was the second most hated brand, no other toy companies were on this list.
Doyle says that consumers tend to tweet primarily about an immediate negative experience they had with that brand, rather than about the brand’s broader values or mission. So in many ways, this study is a way of gauging a brand’s level of customer service. When it came to Uber, for instance, he says that people tended to tweet about expensive rates, feeling unsafe, smelly cars, and drivers’ cancelling, or other unprofessional behaviors. Lego received negative tweets from customers complaining about how they were missing pieces in their sets, or how expensive the toys were. (Many parents also tweeted about how painful it was to step on Lego bricks barefoot in their home.) Domino’s received unhappy tweets from customers whose pizza arrived late or cold.
While this study didn’t look at how brands responded to negative comments on Twitter, Doyle says that many brands had customer service experts who responded to complaints. This might actually encourage consumers to use Twitter as a platform for voicing dissatisfaction, he notes. But at the same time, the brands seemed to want to take these complaints offline as quickly as possible. “They were trying to take the conversation off Twitter because all it takes is for one negative tweet to go semi-viral for many more people to hear about the issue, which could potentially damage or embarrass the brand,” he says.
Ultimately, Doyle says, it’s not entirely a bad thing when a brand has an influx of negative tweets. It reveals that they have become household names and that consumers are actively engaging with them. “Negative press is far more dangerous for small brands that people don’t know much about,” he says. “But as a big brand, sometimes it’s better to provoke some kind of reaction than for no one to be talking about you at all.”