The people of Britain have a special place in their hearts for a good old-fashioned Wetherspoons pub. So, it came as no surprise that the brand boasted a hefty 44,000 followers on Twitter, 100,000 followers on Facebook and 6,000 followers on Instagram, according to the BBC. However, what did surprise everyone involved was the sudden announcement via Twitter that all 900 Wetherspoons pubs as well as their Head Office was shutting down all their social accounts and deleting their 700,000 person-strong email database. ON PURPOSE.
Not only did the news nearly break the Internet, it inspired lots of healthy debate amongst content marketers at the sheer ballsiness of the move. Was shutting down social media accounts a smart move from Wetherspoons? Will they live to rue the day? Or will they remain unaffected as they simply weren’t doing it right? Here are some thoughts on the issue.
Why did they do it?
Chairman of the company, Tim Martin, was very clear that the move was not a publicity stunt, telling the BBC news: “You would have to be completely off your rocker to do a publicity stunt… which banned the medium which is supposed to give you the most publicity.” Quite.
Instead, Martin claimed the decision had been made because social media had become a “distraction” and a “waste of time” for the company. The comments were made in light of recent publicity over the use of social media to criticise MPs. In fact, the Wetherspoons boss decried social media in general, adding: “In politics and business people vastly overestimate social media… it’s all a bit of marketing hype really.”
But is social media a waste of time?
It may seem like an admirable intention to have taken a stand against social media because (in Martin’s words): “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… it doesn’t do them any good, it doesn’t do the country any good.” However, the real reason Wetherspoons shut down their social media might simply be because they weren’t making it work.
To be fair to Wetherspoons, they have had a bit of bad luck on their social in recent times. Just last November, the brand was pushed to refute a claim that staff had been banned from wearing poppies on Remembrance Day amid much criticism – it was a hoax account. Plus, though the overall figures look strong enough, many of the brand’s individual pubs had less than 1,000 likes on their Facebook pages, meaning their hopes of consistently cropping up in user feeds was slim.
If I’m going to be honest, their Facebook reviews weren’t up to scratch either. The Guardian reported several one-star complaints featured on both the company’s corporate HQ location page and at least one pub which had an overall rating of 3.7 stars – seemingly due to the “terrible service”.
Then there are the figures according to Marketing Week, which revealed the average Wetherspoons tweet in 2018 managed to garner a total of six retweets and four likes. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that their customer base simply wasn’t connecting. Not for the right reasons anyway.
Wetherspoons shutting down their social media might well be better for the brand in the long run because the way they were handling their social media was the wrong fit for the audience – an audience that was showing distrust and unease via the platforms. In fact, Martin’s move might be especially savvy as by shutting everything down in this no-nonsense fashion, he has – as Marketing Week succinctly pointed out – helped “bolster Wetherspoons’ position as a no-nonsense, working person’s boozer”.
Martin understood his audience all too well – the cornerstone of any successful marketing move.
So, what does this mean for brands in general?
Wetherspoons shutting down its social media does not mean this is the end of social media marketing for brands. It simply means that a switched-on business leader has analysed his audience, his product, his objectives and his brand and come to the decision that social media – the way they were doing it – simply did not fit.
However, the beauty of content marketing is that there is no one-size-fits-all model for brands. Some may look at all the aforementioned factors and decide that social media is the perfect fit – or at least that there is one platform in particular that works for them.
Ultimately, all that matters is your own strategy. If social is a tactic that could work for you, choosing the correct platforms and managing them in the right way is vital. Or you’ll soon discover, as Wetherspoons did, that there’s no point signing up to social just for the sake of it.
At M2 Bespoke we can help plan your content strategy, create bespoke content for your brand and manage your social accounts all under one roof. Contact us today for further information.