Even Unicorns Need to Monitor Mentions

Carol Feigenbaum |
 01/09/20 |
5 min read

Even Unicorns Need to Monitor Mentions

Social analytics clues are everywhere, if brands look for them. Scratch that – they’re everywhere if brands use the right tool to look for them. And even unicorns need to monitor mentions, after all. Or at least they should be! Let’s explore four unicorns that could have used this insight ahead of their IPOs: Uber, Smile Direct Club, Peloton and WeWork.

People Listen, Uber Did Not

Deemed “one of the worst IPO bombs of the decade,” Uber has had a history of PR disasters over the years – mistakes the CEO claimed ‘everyone makes.’ But death by self-driving car felt pretty unique to the public and certainly concerning

And although its IPO was overvalued, one has to wonder if more investors would have taken a risk on them if Uber had taken a more proactive approach with drivers and customers before opening day.

Instead, there were stories – and strikes – by workers around cut wages in the days leading up to the highly touted IPO, which was set to make founders and other higher-ups billionaires, if not mere multi-millionaires.

there were stories -things that monitoring mentions would have surfaced - by workers around cut wages in the days leading up to Uber's highly touted IPO

And the outlook with customers wasn’t any better. Uber’s investigative team has come under fire before the IPO and since (below) for allegedly not reporting assaults to authorities, among other things:

Uber allegedly not reporting assaults to authorities hurt IPO and made negative online mentions skyrocket

With both employees and customers feeling shut out, the vibe around the company was less than positive. Even right now, sentiment around it is pretty dismal:

Uber net sentiment shows importance of unicorns monitoring mentions

And items powering these current sentiment nosedives are things the company should be monitoring – and responding to:

serious concerns captured by monitoring mentions

Note that Uber is not @mentioned in this tweet and likely unaware of it. That’s a huge disconnect that leaves room for a more supportive, consumer-oriented ride share to shuffle in.

But at least they’re not offering mail-order dentistry . . .

SmileDirectClub Consumers Aren’t Smiling

Most dental professionals think SmileDirect Club isn’t a very good idea – and investors might have been thinking along the same lines when the company’s IPO tanked.

In July, the American Association of Orthodontists, which represents 19,000 orthodontists in the U.S., Canada and abroad, said it had “serious concerns” about direct-to-consumer orthodontic products, including those marketed and sold by SmileDirectClub.

“Orthodontic aligners are meant to move teeth, which if not done correctly can lead to potentially irreversible and expensive damage such as tooth and gum loss, changed bites and other issues — some of which may not arise immediately,” the association said in a statement. The AAO filed complaints with 36 state dental boards and attorneys general last year, alleging what it deemed to be statutory and regulatory violations by SmileDirectClub.

And, based on the number of complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau about them, one should feel forewarned about this service with a rudimentary Google search:

BBB reports showing consumer complaints that would be captured if unicorns monitored mentions

So, how could monitoring mentions have helped?

Monitoring Mentions Helps Brands Know When to Pivot

DirectSmileClub could have responded immediately to concerned consumers, ahead of them reaching out to the BBB, for one. And potentially captured intel that allowed them to pivot and rethink where the company was headed. Maybe mail-ordered teeth molds weren’t their best thinking?

Instead, they had a falling out with a partner that did pivot, Align Technology, which began opening Invisalign stores and encroaching upon SmileDirectClub’s market share. It resulted in SmileDirect enforcing a non-compete clause . . . at least for the time being. But they’re going to lose large in the long-term here.

A sentiment snapshot is fairly predictive here. We see “orthodontist,” “braces,” “dental office,” and “dentistry” associated with Invisalign. SmileDirect shows top hashtags as “Walmart,” “useless” and “sticky.” Ouch.

Invisalign vs SmileDirectClub mentions show very different sentiment around each

We can now find Invisalign offered by orthodontists and SmileDirect? Well, let’s just say no one wants something that will stick to their teeth. Just like no one wants to pay thousands of dollars to be mocked . . .

Peloton Backpedals on Opening Day

The interactive fitness equipment giant generated over $900 million its first fiscal year. Impressive numbers, but unimpressive for those who believe the brands products are overpriced. They range from approximately $2200 – $4300. Though the CEO claimed the products are “crazy affordable.” That doesn’t include the $40 subscription monthly for interactive classes. And that should be red flag #1 that this company is out of touch with an audience its attempting to target.

Its IPO was a reality check, of sorts – or could have been. But it wasn’t.

And once the holidays hit, they’d left themselves wide open to feel the full force of the sentiment they’d generated toward their unaffordable “affordable” offerings. When they were mocked in a pretty brutally hilarious takedown by a comedian, there was little left for them to do beyond take it.

Disappointment Breeds More of the Same

Unable to laugh at themselves and ride the way of spiking mentions to the bank, Peloton instead took the same position it had when its IPO didn’t go as planned, labeling this “misinterpretation of the ad” as “disappointing.”

Peloton says it’s disappointed by how its viral ad was misinterpreted.

“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”

And that disappointment apparently extends to its shareholders. Peloton’s stock dropped dramatically, “15% in three days, wiping more than $1.5 billion from its market capitalization.”

Peloton's stock nosedives - something the unicorn should have monitored closely after IPO debacle

But maybe Peloton can house their exercise equipment in WeWork offices . . .

WeWork Didn’t

WeWork brought us everything we always wanted a co-working office space to be. But it had an out-of-touch CEO that used the company cash as his personal piggybank, and it all came to light (and crashing down) once financial documents were released ahead of the public offering.

After WeWork withdrew its IPO filing in September, SoftBank agreed to take a majority stake in the company, resulting in Neumann’s exit, layoffs and the unicorn start-up once valued at $47 billion, is now worth less than $5 billion, reports Markets Insider. [Nov 2019]

Unicorn WeWork aborted its IPO - monitoring mentions could have given important clues around CEOs habits

Had there been tweets showing off this lavish lifestyle ahead of the fall? There was probably evidence of it somewhere – things that social monitoring would have picked up hints of, no doubt, and saved the disgraced company billions.

posts around WeWork scandal

Can we know this for sure? An in-depth analysis of WeWork buzz would certainly be interesting – and could possibly coincide with the upcoming TV adaptation, which nobody really wants:

TV series in the works about WeWork

More than 2,400 employees have been laid off since. You can bet they wish someone had caught on – and saved their jobs – ahead of this mess.

Monitoring Mentions Uncovers Bad Behavior

Foolish moves in sight of potential investors, and in front of the world really, can bite any brand on the bottom. Social insight involves aggregating and analyzing existing data – tweets, posts, comments and all variety of structured and unstructured data – bits of information floating around online.

A next generation AI-powered social analytics tool will shine a spotlight on what everyone else likely sees about your brand. Things they may not tell you directly. And it helps you harness that energy to redirect that of your brand.

Either that, or you can run face-first into an IPO wall, like these unicorns. As we’ve said, they’re a rare breed for a reason – and not just for their billion-dollar valuations! Be sure to reach out and we’ll help you beat those odds regardless of where your brand lands on that profitability spectrum.

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