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The news broke today that the UK pub chain, JD Wetherspoon, will be closing all their social media accounts and shutting the doors on over 150,000 followers who are no doubt customers, suppliers, employees, and members of the community!

Company Chairman, Tim Martin, defended the organisation’s decision amid concerns about misuse of personal data, trolling of MPs and the addictive nature of social media. This is in stark contrast to the direction of the rest of the sector, where investment in social media engagement is on the up.

Is this drastic response really the way forward? This ‘quick fix’ may seem attractive now but in today’s blog we’ll be looking at the longer-term repercussions of this decision. ⏱️

Missed revenue opportunities

Although there are challenges associated with social media and of course not all feedback will be positive, social media is increasingly a revenue generating engine in its own right, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sector.

Questions about table bookings, menu options, special offers and the like all pose potential business opportunities for organisations that are willing and able to follow up. It is crazy to think that Wetherspoon's would want to turn away this kind of communication and push their clients back towards email, website and phone lines that may also be under staffed. Are there any guarantees colleagues will respond to private emails if they are currently so stretched they cannot respond to public Facebook posts? ⌛

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The example above highlights this, a customer has been turned away from their local pub and having turned to the website for answers, they still cannot understand why they are not able to enter the pub. Not only was this lost revenue at the time, but they have since most likely lost any future business from this customer!

Unmonitored reputational damage 👀

It is clear that one of the factors leading to this decision has been negative publicity on Wetherspoon’s social media accounts. Encountering negativity is natural in any business and certainly not the most enjoyable part of social media management. However, it is often within negative feedback that many opportunities lie. Opportunities to change opinions and turn negatives into positives through genuine empathy, fast responses, and appropriate resolutions.

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What is definitely true is that ignoring negativity will not make it go away. Instead, ignoring feedback like the concerning post opposite will only make customers and stakeholders question if the company care at all. 🤷

This is particularly true of Facebook as if there are no existing Facebook pages for a particular location, Facebook will create an account for that location and establish the user as the owner of that brand asset. Therefore, these brand pages will still exist and be used by their customers, but with absolutely no management, visibility, or control from Wetherspoon. Is this an even worse outcome for the Wetherspoon brand?

Lessons from competitors

If anything, this decision may serve to highlight a lack of understanding of social media within the management team of Wetherspoon. Social media is not the enemy and looking at some of Wetherspoon’s competitors that has never been plainer to see. Rivals such as Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers demonstrate how their open, committed, and co-ordinated approach to social media can yield results.

In many cases it is as simple as creating local content that is relevant for each pub and their community. The example below from Greene King is a fantastic way of building awareness of a new carvery, one of their core products, as well as engaging the community.

When it comes to customer service, again whether feedback is positive or negative, taking the time to address reviews is so valuable for brand perceptions. Here a potentially negative review has been handled with personality and care to ensure the customer has every chance of returning.

This is in clear contrast to the content that Wetherspoon's have been creating. With little value add for the customer, posts like this will not perform well. Hopefully the decision to end all further social media activity has not been made off the back of these kind of false results!

Weatherspoons social media image 3 Weatherspoons social media image 4

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 The right help

Many of the challenges mentioned by Company Chairman, Tim Martin, revolve around a lack of data and content control that has made the whole project unmanageable and dangerous.

The reality is that with a social media management platform like CrowdControlHQ, these obstacles could be overcome. With an organisation of that scale, it is crucial to have full visibility and control over all social media accounts, but with alerts and notifications to help social media teams manage their time and prioritise essential activities such as resolving serious complaints! If you face similar challenges, find out how a social media platform can save you a ton of time.

So, whether this is the right or wrong decision will be clear over time but one thing I’m sure we can agree on is that this is a serious shock for the market! Will we see the return of Wetherspoon’s social media accounts in the next few months after a calculated PR stunt, or is this decision for real and set to stay? We’re keen to hear your thoughts on this – get in contact @CrowdControlHQ 📣

Bonus content: @Waterstones take on the situation 🤣

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