Is Wetherspoons right to ditch social media?

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Last week British pub chain giant JD Wetherspoons announced it would be removing itself from social media. With immediate effect they closed their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts saying that future announcements would be made via their official website and in their own magazine. Surely in the age of social media such a move is commercial suicide?

The motive behind the move seems to be that staff were too concerned about what was being said online and that was a distraction from what was going on inside the pubs. The pub, is after all, the original social network.

We were concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers. I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever.
– Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoons

The Spoonies chairman Tim Martin is one of those big characters that are all too rare in business. He is vocally pro-Brexit, he’s campaigned hard for a cut on VAT in the hospitality industry and famously drops into any one of his pubs on a regular basis without notice and checks out not just the food and drinks but the toilets too, to make sure everything is tickety-boo. He also evidently revels in being provocative as, perhaps, his company’s new stance on social media might further prove. But his stance is instructive and one which merchants using social media might want to consider.

Quite simply: what are you getting from social media? Is the game worth the candle? There is no doubt that the likes of Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can be highly effective promotional channels. But it might be the case that the effort and energy going in doesn’t justify the outcomes.

And, of course, Wetherspoons isn’t ditching technology altogether. Their app is rather nifty. As long as you have a table number, you can order your food and drink and have them delivered to directly to you. Or other people can pay and buy your refreshments remotely.

Perhaps Wetherspoons is in a position where it is so successful and huge that it can easily ditch social without ramifications. And perhaps Martin just enjoys being controversial. But he sets a decent example: reassess your social media marketing efforts.


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