Quitting Social Media in the Digital Age

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In light of JD Wetherspoon’s recent announcement that it will be closing the social media accounts of its head office and 900 pubs, in our latest blog we look at the reasons behind the chain’s decision, the impact it will have on the business and whether others will follow suit.

Although no specific reason was given as to why the pub chain decided to shut down its social accounts on Monday 16th April 2018, it’s speculated it’s due to some controversial tweets that were published by the account – and since deleted. The tweets in question included abuse aimed at the Government and MPs. The statement posted to its Twitter account was a little vague, to say the least too.

Tim Martin, founder and chairman of Wetherspoon, said: “We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business. I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion. We will still be as vocal as ever through our Wetherspoon News magazine, as well as keeping the press updated at all times.”

Before the accounts were closed, we also observed that the company received a lot of negative reviews on their social networks, which could have been another contributing factor. On Monday morning, before the accounts were closed, the official JD Wetherspoon Facebook page showed 73 reviews, and of those, 56 of them were one star. The concept of social media is that it is in the public eye and easily allows you to communicate with customers, but sometimes this can go against you, and negatively impact your business. Bad reviews and negative comments are prime examples of this.

Although the closure of their social networks came as a shock to the public, Tim Martin doesn’t believe it will have any negative impact on the business and even states that “platforms aren’t a vital component of a successful business.” Is this true?

Wetherspoons had an impressive 44,000 followers on Twitter and more than 100,000 likes on Facebook, however, it didn’t have a strong presence on social media or one that particularly fitted its brand strategy. The company was fairly active and had many fans but didn’t receive as much engagement as it could have considering it’s a large B2C chain and these accounts often receive high levels of interaction in comparison to B2B accounts. The company often posted the same content across channels, which primarily revolved around sharing menu options. Its individual pubs also had social media accounts and the content and engagement levels reflected that of the main account.

It’s surprising that Wetherspoons is sceptical of the value of social media to the business as it’s not normally technology shy – the chain introduced a mobile app last year that lets visitors place food and drink orders from their phone.

The claim from Tim Martin that “platforms aren’t a vital component of a successful business” is a bold one and comes at a time when social media – Facebook in particular – is facing a lot of criticism. So should social media networks be alarmed that other companies may follow suit?

A social media strategy is a high priority for most businesses and lots see it as a key way to increase awareness, drive growth and quickly and easily engage with customers. You can interact in real-time and can easily monitor and analyse activity to make the most of your resources. But has Wetherspoons’ chairman spotted something before everyone else has? Should the likes of Zuckerberg be concerned this might become a growing trend or is this simply a PR stunt that has given JD Wetherspoon a huge amount of coverage in the media?

It’s doubtful that one pub chain leaving social media will have any impact on social networks and the social media strategies of other companies, but what does need to be addressed is the comment that people are spending too much time on social media and are becoming addicted to the networks and their smartphones. This is an issue that is spoken about a lot in the media and the problem isn’t going away. Only recently the BBC reported that social media could be sacrificing our mental health with more cases of stress, anxiety and depression being linked to social networks.

Social media is a fantastic tool to achieve business objectives and we strongly believe it should continue to be a focus alongside other media activities to achieve marketing goals but from a personal point of view, companies like Facebook should continue in their research to make social media a positive place to be.

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