Since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, social media is never far from the headlines. This week Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert.com announced he would be suing Facebook for publishing fake adverts using his image. And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the social media giants that they must do more to protect children online or they will face tougher laws.
With concerns around negative publicity and the 'trolling' of MPs Wetherspoons announced it was closing all its social accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) last week. Chairman Tim Martin said he was concerned about the addictive nature of social media and the amount of time people spend on the platforms.
Now I’m a complete pub-snob, and I’ve never been keen on a trip to a Spoons. However, I accept they are a staple of the British High Street, and people love their no-nonsense, unpretentious approach. The simple layouts, iconic carpets and zero music mean that their costs are kept low, and customers reap the benefits with cheaper booze and food. The pubs are popular with families, students and business people alike.
So, why close their social accounts? To me it seemed they lacked a coherent vision and felt lacklustre in approach, simply put - they missed the point. As Matthew Pink explains in Campaign Magazine…
“It’s actually a shame that Wetherspoons doesn’t try to engage their customers on social with the same kind of strong personality and tone that they’ve used in their free magazine. The letters page always used to contain witty and social-appropriate zingers in response to customer questions and comments.”
Without a clear marketing strategy in place, social can just seem like another burden and expense for businesses. It needs clear planning, precise execution and insight. Then customers can become engaged and brand awareness grows.
Wetherspoons had nearly 900 Facebook pages managed by busy pub managers; this just seems like a mistake from the beginning - it all looked very messy! It is vital that people are trained on how to use social media for businesses and are given clear rules on brand guidelines. Chairman Tim Martin expressed:
"…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."
Perhaps it won’t affect their business, Spoon's fans will still be piling in for cheap pints and Fish Friday deals. But in a digital age and with the benefits of technology enabling us to be able to schedule and respond automatically on social, it really shouldn’t feel like such a burden but an opportunity to be grasped with both hands and maybe a hashtag or two.
Managing an effective social media strategy and making sure staff running so many accounts stick to company policy is a very time consuming and expensive business. Perhaps for Wetherspoons all of this effort has become more trouble than it is worth.