News that pub chain JD Wetherspoon is quitting social media has met with conflicting emotions from within the FMCG industry.
The chain promotes long-term relationships with its food and drink suppliers, and prides itself on supporting local farming, as well as promoting and serving a wide range of craft beers and ales.
It made its announcement today (Monday, April 16th) via its own Twitter site, informing its 44,000 followers that its head office and 900 pubs will quit the micro-blogging site, and also Instagram and Facebook, with immediate effect. In the announcement, it claimed it had made the move because of bad publicity surrounding social media, including the “trolling” of MPs. Chairman Tim Martin has said society would be better if people cut the amount of social media they use. It has also said its decision has also been influenced by concerns regarding the “misuse of personal data” and “the addictive nature of social media”.
ecommerce and digital agency Visualsoft, which works with more than 1,000 retailers to improve their online marketing, and recently published a study into 245 of the UK’s top brands and found that large numbers are putting profits at risk by not following basic online principles.
Erin Simons, head of social media, said: “Social media provides an invaluable way for retailers to engage, and build stronger relationships with, customers, so JD Wetherspoon’s decision to shut its accounts in order to better serve its customers seems strange.
“Clearly, the pub chain’s social strategy has been scattered, with hundreds of different brand accounts vying for the attentions of a similar audience. However, to completely disregard the potential of social media to drive traffic, conversation and engagement around your offering is extremely unwise, and something we would not recommend to any brand.”
Warwick Business School works alongside major FMCG brands, and has provided candidates to the likes of muller and amazon.com. Its Professor of Marketing, Nick Lee, said the Wetherspoons decision could be viewed in a number of different ways.
“On the one hand, in the grandest sense, one might wonder if this signals the beginning of a general backlash against social media by big brands,” he said. “If this is a decision made by Wetherspoons in light of a detailed study of the return on investment in social media, which found that the time they spent on it was not justified by positive results, then I can only applaud them for being courageous enough to admit that, and hope that their move might inspire more companies to really address the return they get from social media investments.
“Of course, on the other hand, this could be a cost-cutting exercise dressed up as a social statement, hoping to capture what seems to be the mood of the times. Or, it could be in itself a brand-building exercise, hoping to position Wetherspoons as a brand that ‘cares’ about the impact of social media in today’s society. That would be an interesting and courageous place to be for Wetherspoons.
“Whatever the motivation, this decision certainly should encourage all brands who use social media to interrogate the benefits they really get from social channels. Are they really providing a strategic benefit to the firm, or are they only doing it because ‘everyone else is’? Perhaps now, when the public is beginning to question whether social media is an unambiguous benefit, is the time for firms to really think about the real value of their social media investments?”