Why UK pub chain Wetherspoon is shutting down all of its 900 social media accounts

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UK pub operator Wetherspoon has made the decision to forgo the use of social media for its company going forward, claiming the platforms don’t add enough value to its business. 

The pub chain, which had over 44,000 Twitter followers and over 100,000 Facebook followers, has deleted the accounts for each of its 900 pubs and its head office. Chairman of JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, says that the company “is going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business”.

“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and struggle to control the compulsion,” Martin told The Independent.

“I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever,” he said.

Martin told The Guardian the move wasn’t a publicity stunt, and you would have to be “off your rocker” to try this strategy in the name of publicity.

The BBC reports the company said in a statement its decision was influenced in part by the “misuse of personal data” on the platforms.

There’s been no shortage of cases of social media outrage in the business world, and it this move raises an interesting question: is social media as much of an imperative for the brand as it once was?

Chief executive of The Social Executive, Dionne Lew, believes social media has never been a “one stop shop” in the advertising space.

“A lot of businesses have success using social media and Facebook advertising and most of them get a lot of data as to its effectiveness,” Lew tells SmartCompany.

“A business will look at its goals, audiences, where those audiences are, what they want to achieve and then assess,” she says. 

Lew doesn’t believe that the recent scandals around Cambridge Analytica and data misuse are turning businesses away from social media all together.

“Businesses are approaching it with rigour, which is the right way to do so, social media is still an important business tool,” she says. 

J.D Wetherspoon believes it can still engage its clientele by ‘maintaining their website’ and are asking customers to get in touch via the website if there are any concerns.

Lew also agrees that there are many ways for businesses to keep continue advertising and engaging with their customers without necessarily needing social media.

“Using eDM (electronic direct mail) campaigns is still effective way to reach people. In-store experience is important, [and] online commerce is important … customised customer loyalty programs, like Mecca Cosmetics for example, which reward loyalty [are also important],” she says. 

Ultimately however, Lew can’t see too many businesses following Wetherspoons’ lead to cut the medium out entirely, as social media platforms continue to be an “important business tool”.

“I think it’s effective for a lot of businesses and as it’s adoption is still growing – I think it’s going to stay important – the platforms do need to tidy up to prevent fake news and advertising though.”

SmartCompany has contacted JD Wetherspoon for further comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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