Why the Wetherspoons social media argument misses the point

Screen representing Wetherspoons social mediaThe Wetherspoons social media situation has sparked much debate among digital marketers.

Eccentric company boss Tim Martin gave a number of statements citing all sorts of highfalutin reasons for ditching its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

However, the data tells a different story. And, we have no doubts that the company would’ve done much better by adapting and improving its approach instead.

So, let’s take a closer look:

Why did Wetherspoons SAY it quit social media?

Tim Martin gave two key answers when asked why he was closing the Wetherspoons social media accounts.

Firstly, on a national level, he said: “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”.

While it’s true there’s most definitely a debate to be had regarding the darker side of digital (and its addictive nature), campaigners for the #MeToo movement and other similar initiatives might respectfully disagree.

If the company’s intentions were to genuinely improve people’s lives, why continue with a website or mobile app at all? And, let’s not even get started on the debate surrounding how selling cheap beer improves society…

Secondly, he said that on a company-wide level he was “Concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers” – a point worthier of scrutiny. But, if that’s the case, the organisation’s clearly getting something wrong in terms of job roles and social media strategy.

So, what’s the real reason it ditched its social media strategy?

Dig a little deeper and (in our opinion) it all comes down to popularity.

Wetherspoons is among the biggest brands nationwide. A mighty 17.4 million of us (almost one-third of the total population) have eaten at one of the pub chain’s 900 outlets within the last six months.

Despite this, its following on social media was relatively scant:

  • Facebook = 100,000
  • Twitter = 44,000
  • Instagram = 6,000

These figures make Wetherspoons look mid-weight at best, so something clearly wasn’t working. By way of comparison, McDonald’s UK Twitter account alone has more than four times as many total followers.

But, social media isn’t just about size, it’s about how it’s is used. And, again, Wetherspoons struggles here.

Whereas most venues would look to promote their wares and piggyback on current conversations, Wetherspoons had developed a reputation for using social media to settle customer disputes.

On most days, you wouldn’t have to look too far to find feeds full of criticisms and complaints.

How bosses could have enhanced the Wetherspoons social media approach

Imagine an alternate universe where Wetherspoons took a different tack. These are the things we reckon it could’ve done more of to make social media work for it:

  • Profiling staff members or independent suppliers (both food and drinks)
  • Promoting the quality of the brand’s food and drinks
  • Advertising events (e.g. quiz nights, curry nights or ‘beer festivals’)
  • Improving brand image through online discussions with customers and critics
  • Encouraging and sharing customer-generated content (reviews, images etc.)
  • Discussing and piggybacking on current topics (local or national current affairs)
  • Exchanging branch-specific accounts for a single, shared Wetherspoons account
  • Providing personalised offers, deals and loyalty-scheme options
  • Hosting competitions that generate additional attention for the brand

At the very least, Wetherspoons could have initiated a company-wide staff development program relating to social media.

Better trained management and staff could provide enhanced customer service and engagement, rather than simply ignore (or, even worse, fight back against) the mounting complaints and customer issues.

Perhaps this shouldn’t just have been a social media learning experience, but one to help improve the business to its very core.

I’m sure many of us have been tempted to delete all our pictures and posts before logging out of social media for good, on occasion. However, the reality is that Wetherspoons has now lost a very relevant, valid and important customer engagement channel. And, as a major national telecoms provider used to tell us: “It’s good to talk”.

Today, the only way to talk to Wetherspoons in a similar way is to download its app and do it on its terms. And, while you’re there, don’t forget to order another cheap bucket of beers!

There’s rarely a silver-bullet when it comes to social media marketing, and the company is still likely to stay solvent even with this decision. However, with a little more creative thinking and dedication, the Wetherspoons social media situation could have marked a fresh, more profitable start for the company.

Enhance your social media strategy to make the most of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other useful channels; get in touch with NS Design today!