CAN any business afford not to be on social media?

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon shut its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts earlier this week, with chairman Tim Martin citing concerns about the “addictive” nature of social media.

Clare Groombridge, director of Bournemouth social media agency South Coast Social called the move a “great PR stunt that, ironically, we’ve all heard about via social media”.

She added: “The average Wetherspoons tweet in 2018 managed to garner a total of six retweets and four likes. Wetherspoons serves three million pints a week. There’s something wrong in that equation.

“Tim Martin took the decision to cull the lot – providing an opportunity for a week of global PR coverage and a reminder of their no nonsense, everyday, working man’s vibe.”

Mark Masters, of Parkstone-based ID Group, organiser of next month’s Daily Echo-backed You Are the Media conference, said: “Hats off to Wetherspoons. Last year they binned 700,000 email addresses and said they would move special offers to their social platforms. The thing is, no one is bothered about curry nights and cider festivals, the target audience just want cheap booze.

“People want to deal with people, not logos as profile pics. Just because you can jump on every social media channel, doesn’t mean you should.”

Ross Taylor, managing director of Bournemouth marketing agency Top Cat Media, said: “I think it’s a great bit of in-house marketing that is typical of JD Weatherspoon. Everyone’s taking about it ,right? It clearly won’t affect the brand in anyway and my gut feeling is that they will probably be back in the not too distant future.”

James Chetwode, director of Compass Video in Child Okeford, said it would be impossible to maintain “brand guardianship” over 1,000 individual pubs.

“I would have just kept it to a central brand page to deliver messaging. It’s not as if they will ever disappear from social anyway. Customers will always be posting about where they are drinking,” he said.

“The Wetherspoons app is a social network in itself, with over one million downloads and a rating of 4.3 stars – meaning it fares better than the pubs in terms of service.”

Jo O’Connell, of JellyRock PR & Marketing, said: “Wetherspoons positions itself as a no-nonsense, no thrills, no music food and drink chain. It understands its customers don’t want annoying noise, such as background music in their pubs, and this move does just that; it limits the amount of noise they put out.

“Social media, and indeed all customer communication can’t just be for the sake of it.”

Kerri Watt, of Beaulieu-based Rising Tide Media, said: “It won’t harm their business at all. From a PR point of view it’s genius because now we’re all talking about them.”

Ali Sheik, founder of Bournemouth-based Lineup Media, said: “They are in the direct engagement, customer facing business and know what their audience wants. I also think the traditional media route of newspaper editorial serves their business model and customers much better.”

Marcus Wincott, marketing manager at Bournemouth e-commerce specialist Media Lounge, said: “I think it was a sound decision from Tim Martin and probably long overdue. He rightly described social media platforms as a distraction for his business and it’s not surprising. They have a very clearly defined target audience and that audience ‘following’ them on a social channel will bring no value whatsoever.”

He added: “A business can get along fine without a social media presence, plenty do. I think it’s about taking the right approach for that particular brand and its target audience.”

Gordon Fong, owner of IT firm Kimcell, said; “I think it is a good idea from a business perspective. People know what Whetherspoons is about. There’s not a great deal for followers to engage with and less work for a social media team to manage and firefight.”

Lindsay Wallace, trainee marketing executive at Energy Advice Line Limited in Bournemouth, said: “Social media will only work for a business if you use it properly; start conversations and build a community rather than pumping out offers and updates that not many people are actually interested in, which seems to be what many of their pages did.

“I think it’s a great thing for them to do and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to the change and keep a strong presence within the pubs’ local communities. One thing I wonder, is if this would work for a smaller independent pub that is just starting out?”

One conservative-leaning businessman said JD Wetherspoon received a lot of criticism online because of its chairman’s pro-Brexit views, and that it was a mistake for a businessman to associate a brand with his personal politics.