Jo Cross, head of client services at Democracy, looks at why pub chain Wetherspoons has decided to call time on social media and asks if it might encourage other brands to follow suit
All hail the brave business decision by JD Wetherspoon to close all its 900 social media accounts.
In a world where the conventional wisdom is you must be on social to operate a successful brand, Wetherspoons has taken a stand that’s completely right – for them.
While I don’t think chairman Tim Martin’s argument that we could all come off these platforms adds weight to the move, I do admire his frank admission that social media was not helping their business, because it was taking pub managers away from the job of serving customers.
The reality was, Wetherspoons wasn’t doing social well. Despite putting considerable effort into running hundreds of accounts across Instagram, twitter and Facebook, the accounts themselves received little engagement and the staff running them were not adequately trained. Implementing an effective social media strategy requires a data-driven approach to find out precisely where and when their customers are online and emotional intelligence to develop content that drives them to take an action (in their case, come to the pub).
Asking pub managers to master this on top of running a busy pub, results in a work force of busy fools; employees unable to 100 per cent concentrate on delivering the job they are skilled at, and forced to try and deliver engaging content without the time or knowledge required to do it properly.
But, most importantly, Wetherspoons didn’t need the customer touchpoint of a social media presence. If you want news of the latest discounts, events and offers at Wetherspoons, there are a number of ways – beyond social media – to keep up to date. You can go on their website, get their printed magazine, visit your local pub. And if you want to complain, you can speak to bar staff in person. With nearly 1,000 pubs in the UK, you’re never far from a member of staff.
It’s interesting to see how much coverage this decision has generated. PR-wise it’s been a great move for the brand. They’ve perfectly used the anti-social media news agenda to ensure that Wetherspoons is front of mind for all current and potential customers.
However, in the cold light of day, it’s just a very sensible decision from this particular brand. It shouldn’t be seen as ground-breaking or the start of a mass corporate stampede off social.
Wetherspoons has simply audited all its marketing platforms and identified three that don’t offer return. The culling is simply good business sense and is the biggest lesson we can all take from the slew of headlines over the past two days.
Jo Cross (firstname.lastname@example.org)