It would have been hard to miss the Chairman of JD Wetherspoons announcement that he was closing all the companies social media accounts. The chairman cited many reasons, as far reaching as the recent MP scandals to the closer to home, managers inefficient use of time running their social media. So is this the start of the end for social media? Or will Wetherspoons stand to leave them out in the cold? Let’s explore what I think is going on here and what it means to other businesses who might be taking the time to consider their future on social media.

Quantity over Quality

 So apparently Wetherspoons had over 300 social media accounts, basically one or two for every pub they run. That’s a lot to keep tabs on! Were all these accounts acting appropriately, talking in the correct tone of voice for Wetherspoons and toeing the company line? Who knows, because no one has time to keep on top of all of that. So for me, I can agree that they had a structure issue that needed to be looked at and assessed.

Answer - Only share content on channels you are excited to use and only have as many accounts as is effective for you and your team to manage.

The right people in the wrong seats

The Chairman also alluded to the fact it was the managers of the individual pubs that were managing the accounts. Now I think that the managers probably have a lot of useful content they could be passing onto the person in charge of social media, but chances are they had no interest in it, having ‘bigger fish’ to deal with during a working day. In order for social media to be effective the people driving it need to have bought into it and be excited by it.

Most of their recent posts seemed to be simple retweets of special lunch offers, not good, not exciting and clearly run by those with little experience in content marketing.

Answer - Find the person in your business who gets excited by social media and empower them to drive it forward. This shouldn’t be the person at the top of the tree...unless of course they get enjoyment out of it...like I do!

Honesty

With the impending cloud of doom that is GDPR (by the way I don’t think GDPR is all that bad at all for businesses who have spent the time getting their data and processes in order), it is very likely that this decision came from a place of fear. How powerful could this statement have been if they had simply said that they wanted to take every precaution with their customer's data, so they were clearing the decks with the possibility of starting afresh in the future? Alongside this, they could have reminded their audiences that they were going to focus on continuing to deliver the best pub atmosphere in the UK!...but no there was no mention of this at all

Answer - Your followers will always be smart enough to read between the lines. Treat them with respect and honesty and they will give you brand loyalty.

Bad Reviews

Doing a little bit of research it would seem that JD Wetherspoon had some pretty bad reviews, with an average 1.7 stars on Facebook, were they talking to their bad reviewers? Were they seeing the opportunity to turn these people around? It’s too late now and even though they have closed the account Google still shows the poor star rating to those browsing online.

Answer - Do as author Jay Baer suggest and Hug your Haters! In his book, he talks about how to successfully handle every complaint online and turn it into a positive!

The Moral Standing

I have to take my hat off to the Chairman for being brave enough to put his own morals at the front of the company's needs. He has stated, “On a personal level many of us are fed up with social media and think it has got damaging effects and a lot of people are on it far, far too much,” going on to say. “It doesn’t do them any good it doesn’t do the country any good.”

Like anything in life moderation is key, dare I say just like alcohol consumption? With balance social media has the power to connect the world, give everyone, even the poorest a voice and allows us to share information at a rate never before seen on our planet. I have to admit that I can’t see many of their customers agreeing with their comments and one Twitter user made me laugh commenting, “I guess they won’t be turning off their WiFi though?!”

Answer - Businesses do have the opportunity to make the world a better place, but it needs to come from a place of truth and trust in order to inspire real chance.

Conclusion

So what can we learn from all this? Social media can be a great tool for driving sales and increasing brand awareness and loyalty, however for this to happen it needs to be creative, engaging, honest and exciting. JD Wetherspoons accounts were none of these things, but could have so easily been amazing. It’s certainly not time to turn off the social media in our businesses and while their Chairman says Wetherspoons will be more profitable than ever due to the time they now have saved, I worry that their competitors will be having fun engaging with their customers and building loyalty with those who have realised Wetherspoons might well be a relic of the past.