The national pub chain JD Wetherspoon has announced it will quit social media, withdrawing completely from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The company's chairman Tim Martin has stated he wanted to go "against conventional wisdom that [social media is] a vital component of a successful business" and that it was a "waste if time".
With such a successful businessman taking this position it is understandable that many companies are now too asking themselves whether they too should quit social media.
The answer is no - businesses should not ignore social media any more than they should ignore any other form of advertising. Excluding social media from your marketing strategy would be like ignoring newspaper, radio, TV and other forms of promotion.
Social media is part of marketing and should be included in all businesses marketing strategy.
The truth is that JD Weatherpoon's social media management was an absolute failure meaning that even when it was active, its success depended on its original two keys for success: the location of their pubs which provides a high foot fall and the cheap price of their food and drinks that provides a USP over their competitors.
So the real question is why was JD Weatherspoon's social media marketing such a failure?
1. Lack of strategic planning.
Social media needs to be engaged with like any other part of marketing, as part of a businesses wider strategy. Unfortunately JD Weatherspoon fell into the trap of what a lot of companies which is thinking that you an just post some random pictures on social media and this will be enough to engage with the public and turn them into customers. An example of this was a tweet with a picture of a fish and chips meal which just got three retweets.It simply is lazy and not good enough for a multi-million business.
2. Too many accounts.
JD Weatherspoon should have centralised its social media with a single account on each platform. This would have meant it could communicate a consistent message of its brand and core values to its millions of customers. Instead the company chose to have a separate account on each platform for each one of its venues. This meant there were literally hundreds of accounts for its business, some of which only had a few hundred followers, with minimal interaction and engagement. The accounts that did have larger followings were met with garbled and confusing messages and branding.
3. Amateur management.
Multi-million companies have two choices when it comes to social media: to hire an agency or to hire an employee especially for the job. JD Weatherspoon decided to do what a lot of smaller companies do which is to hand their social media management over the their already over-worked pub managers, worse still they provided no extra training or pay. Giving the role of social media management to an untrained employee because they use social media in their personal life is akin to letting an untrained employee writing their companies press releases because they know how to type. Apart from the lack of time a good social media manger needs to have an understanding of the companies marketing strategy, branding as also the things that make effective campaigning. Without these social media is doomed to fail.
4. Uncontrolled customer complaints.
JD Weathspoon's social media accounts became the brunt of trolling, prank tweets, bad reviews and public complaints. One reason for this was Tim Martin's political views that became indistinguishable from the company. But another reason was lack of response from the pub chain to genuine complaints from customers, which themselves lead to further negatives complaints and tweets and so on.
JD Weatherspoon is without doubt a very successful company and it should have had a very successful social media campaign to match. But it didn't, whilst they didn't learn from their mistakes hopefully this article means that you can.
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