social media

Woeful Wetherspoon

So I know every social marketer and their proverbial dug has had a say on this…and so too shall I!

J.D. Wetherspoon – the nation’s local – have shut up shop on social media. They issued a statement via the chairman on Twitter, which roughly read; there’s no point, revenue’s good and it’s a waste of time. It was a wee bit better worded than that, to be fair. Here’s a bit on it from the Beeb.


Anyway, a few things struck me.

The statement had all the hallmarks of an out of touch, head in the sand business which values profit above all else

Let’s look at some of the assertions made:

    • Trolling and bad PR of social media – I’m not sure what this has got to do with Wetherspoon’s. If you’re doing it right, there’s no issue. It’s like Celtic saying, “Here, this footballer’s diving situation is really terrible. Let’s shut down.”
    • Misuse of personal data and addictive nature of social media – they are aware they serve alcohol, right? Wetherspoon also took my personal data from me last week when I downloaded their app. Again, a company need only have their own house in order, rather than use a broad topic to make knee-jerk decisions.
    • Going against conventional wisdom – I’m not sure who’s wisdom was deemed conventional but no self-respecting marketing professional would claim social as being vital without first understanding the context of the business
    • Consulted pub managers before making the movebecause your pub manager is also your marketing manager…*alarm bells*

Finally: Mr. Martin told BBC Radio 5 Live that he thinks coming off social media would be good for society in general. Sigh.


How do they expect to continue reaching, nurturing and ultimately getting new customers through the door

Don’t get me wrong, I know Wetherspoon has a very healthy customer base. It has locations everywhere and it’s very affordable. Go to any of their pubs and you’ll find people like my 50-something parents enjoying a couple of drinks with a hot meal. So far, so great.

But what happens when, y’know, they head to the great tavern in the sky? Dramatic statement? Yes but true. How are they future-proofing the business? It’s not enough to simply create an app and claim you’ve joined the 21st century. Word of mouth is useless when you’re relying on parents recommending a pub to their kids! 👀

Being on social media would give the business a platform to engage with customers, reach out to people with a skewed vision of the company and really play up key events, which get new punters through the door.

Companies, which either stick their head in the sand or lose sight of their customers ultimately lose out. It’s happened at Sony, Nokia, Toys ‘R Us and many more. And yes, I have been re-reading my CIM case studies recently.

Big brands such as Wetherspoon no longer have the right to dictate to customers how and where they get to give feedback

In their final post, they invited customers to continue feeding back via the pub itself, customer services or on the website.

Now, in my experience, the majority of people don’t really tend to give feedback via the above channels to offer praise. Certainly, in today’s smartphone-enabled world, it’s a big gamble to ask them to navigate web pages or an automated phone system just to tell you how crap their meal was. Instead, the customer will simply not visit anymore.

Conversely, a complainant’s tweet can be found in real time. A well-trained customer service agent can offer the necessary apologies etc. along with a cheeky wee discount code on the next order and hey presto, you retain a customer.

pablo (18)
This stock image girl just got 20% off her next pint of Carling – Wahey!

At the end of the day, this is social media marketing 101 – “the conversation is going to happen, with or without you”. Again, it’s a hallmark of a company losing sight of its customers, if that company is happy to be willfully ignorant of negative customer comments being made about their brand online.

Given the type of money the business must pull in, it surely wouldn’t be too much of a burden to invest in good quality social media training, which could be embedded within an induction process, and a social management system which could go beyond gathering the feedback of the local pub manager when it comes to making big decisions.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see either how long this social sabbatical lasts.

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