Written by Mimi Brown • Published 17th April 2018 • 2 minute read

In an unexpected move yesterday, JD Wetherspoons’ Chairman Tim Martin announced that the chain is shutting down all its individual pub and head office social media accounts – blaming everything from staff being distracted, to the wellbeing of an ‘addicted’ public and the trolling of MPs.

We all know there’s no point in ‘being on’ social media for the sake of it. Corporate accounts must be well managed, thoughtfully planned and appropriately targeted so that creative content reaches and resonates with a business’ key audiences. That said, this doesn’t have to be done on a large scale for social media to be an influential and strategic communications tool – which makes Wetherspoons’ social blackout even more surprising.

If you went to the pub and didn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

 Wetherspoons has a huge high street presence across the UK – and low prices that will continue to pull in the crowds to its 963 branches. However, shying away from social media indicates a resistance to change that could affect its longevity and perception by younger audiences in the UK.

In an age of business transparency, social media has become a key online channel through which consumers of all ages can hold businesses and brands to account, but also be won over. Social platforms create opportunities for customers to build connections with a business that go beyond making a purchase or seeing an advert on the way to work – but managing the output and interaction is a big commitment.

Social media: More trouble than it’s worth?

Social media management is no small feat; businesses need effective customer service processes, creative and competent professionals to man the channels, and robust corporate guidelines to safeguard the account.

Wetherspoons’ social media accounts were largely run by the pub managers, which was labelled a ‘distraction’ and ‘ineffective’ by Tim Martin. If the unanswered customer service complaints on the website are anything to go by, then this accusation carries some weight. Perhaps these badly managed channels were doing more harm than good.

That said, people interact with brands online on multiple channels and at any time – and being active on these channels not only increases a business’ visibility, it provides an opportunity for greater brand control. Providing good digital experiences can be a key differentiator in the battle for consumer loyalty in competitive consumer business landscapes.

Wetherspoons needs to look no further than fellow high street stalwart KFC in the effective and inspiring use of social media to contain its chicken-supply scandal earlier this year.

 Born with a (social) silver spoon in its mouth

 ‘Spoons, as its fans know it, may have just significantly slimmed its ‘owned’ online reach but there’s no doubt that much of the social media marketing for the brand is done by the public anyway. Take the #wetherspoons hashtag with over 100k uses on Instagram, or the @Wetherspoons_carpets Instagram account which has 4,282 followers – just 1,700 less than the official chain’s account at its time of closing.

Shunning social media seems more like a publicity stunt to drive people towards Wetherspoons’ much-championed app and play up its image as a ‘traditional boozer’ than a move to publicly challenge the dominance or security of the major social media platforms.

Either way, the announcement has effectively grabbed headlines and given Tim Martin a chance to take a public stance on the prevailing issues surrounding social media.