@danbrookman I applaud and wholeheartedly agree with JD Wetherspoon decision to close down their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. It’s a solid move that will save their teams stress and thousands of hours of time. More should follow suit and get off the social treadmill. 12:33 AM – 16 Apr 2018
Yesterday Wetherspoons kicked up a media storm as they announced that they would be closing ALL of their social media accounts with immediate effect across all 900 locations, as well as for the central brand.
I then proceeded to kick up a Twitter storm (it was the biggest reaction to a tweet since my 2011 announcement that we’d run out of rich tea biscuits) when I wholeheartedly agreed with Mr Tim Martin – and not only that, but applauded his decision. (Here’s the tweet) I believe that a lot of people who read the tweet thought that I was A) for Brexit (which I am not), and B) for the downfall of social media in general (which I am not (but could be easily swayed)).
The rest of my day was then ruined with my to-do list set aside, as I kept up with the trolling, debate, and ranting on Twitter. Some conversations were good; even thought provoking, others just plain unnecessary and a complete waste of energy. A lot of people thought me hypocritical for working for a company that manages customer data and has expertise in social media marketing.
24 hours later, life trundles on. As predicted, there’s no deluge of other companies following suit (although I’ve no doubt a handful of emails will have circulated at high level).
So, Mr Martin decided to ditch social. Last year he ditched his email database. Both of these decisions are heavily connected with Wetherspoons having 656k of customer records hacked back in 2015 and the iminent introduction of GDPR. Importantly, he also uses his company politically and was instrumental in the success of the Brexit campaign; something that was hard to disassociate from the day to day service in the pubs on social media. In this case, as usual, Mr Martin took the opportunity to express some opinions on social and, as a good boss should, listened to his managers.
So, is it the right decision?
I’ve done social media training for years. I’ve stood up in front of 100s of pub and restaurant teams and explained the value of social as a channel, telling them how and why they need to engage. About 15 minutes after the end of each session, at least half of the participants would go back to worrying about wage percentages and kitchen problems. After 90 days with a bit of churn and further pressures, only a remaining 15% would still be doing 70% of the job. The biggest company was 200 pubs; with Wetherspoon’s 900, I wouldn’t even take it on on that basis.
For businesses of this size, or indeed anything over about 10 locations, I believe the in-house teams must focus on the quality of the product and environment and the service to the customer; maintaining and building relationships and managing the business day to day. Many businesses have tried to make social a part of their teams’ job but it simply can’t be done. For one, it’s really skilled: it’s about language, compassion, empathy, imagery etc. Two, it’s not just 15 mins a day. And three, it needs to have structure and constant coverage.
There’s a whole load of platforms out there to help manage social engagement, and like all things it has to have a strategy with sufficient reporting to show value creation. If JDW had centralised their efforts years ago and actually used social media to engage rather than campaign then I think that yesterday’s decision would have been much harder.
I stand by my tweet, it is a treadmill, some of it walking, some of it a sprint but it doesn’t stop. Social media is not for Wetherspoons and not for brands who don’t embrace it. They were not engaged with it, and from the very top not prepared to make the investment and utilise the channels. The managers won’t miss it, but they should have never been part of it in the first place.