“In a world of social media J D Wetherspoon has decided to close down all Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts for individual pubs and head office” was the statement made on Twitter this week by the pub giant.

The company’s 900 pubs and its head office quit social media with immediate effect, linking its move to bad publicity surrounding social media and the “trolling” of MPs. And also takes into account recent concerns over the misuse of personal data and the addictive nature of social media.

‘Wetherspoons’ has more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, 44,000 on Twitter and 6,000 on Instagram.

Chairman Tim Martin told BBC News that society would be better off if people cut their social media use and it is going “against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business”.

He went on to say that he always thought the idea that social media was essential for advertising was untrue and that they were concerned that pub managers were being side tracked from the real job of serving customers.

“I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever. 90-95% [of pub managers] felt using social media was not helping the business.”

Is this a publicity stunt by J D Wetherspoon?

While Martin cites commercial and moral reasons for pulling the plug on the chain’s social media accounts, if he was that worried about the effect of social media on society surely he’d be encouraging others to do the same? But when he was asked if his stance could spark a business trend he said he hoped not as it’s a massive commercial advantage to the chain.

Martin says that customers can use the J D Wetherspoon website, app and print magazine to stay up-to-date. Customers who have been active in contacting J D Wetherspoon through social media can feed back via their local pub or via customer services through its website.

The problem with this is that J D Wetherspoon can choose not to use its social channels, but the public will still be talking about the brand online via those channels and J D Wetherspoon won’t be able to respond in real time to anything that’s said – positive or negative.

Social media isn’t just a tool for advertising your brand and products and services, it’s also a big opportunity for you to engage with your customers and tell your side of the story.

The chain now has to figure out how best to manage any negative feedback and minimise the damage that may cause to its brand – and look at how it can share the good stuff people say about it.

This move could have a negative impact on the brand’s reputation, albeit indirect. While it came as a surprise, we doubt it will negatively impact them in the short term and it’s been great for immediate publicity. But longer term it’s lost the ability to respond and protect itself from the opinions of the masses who are on social media.

The fact is that customers engage with brands via social, share social moments via social, and social media spreads word of mouth faster than any other form of traditional marketing.

It could be a publicity stunt, but we doubt it, given that Martin has been so vocal about how he feels about social media. Give it a few months and let’s see how it pans out. Only time will tell if it is a good idea or not.

J D Wetherspoon switches off all social media – is it a good idea?
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J D Wetherspoon switches off all social media – is it a good idea?
With J D Wetherspoon quitting social media with immediate effect, Igniyte examines whether it's really a permanent move, publicity stunt and if it's a good idea.
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