April 16, 2018
Social media has elevated itself from the marketing department to the boardroom in recent weeks and months in light of the events surrounding the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook story. As a result, businesses will be questioning how they use social media (this holds true for B2B and B2C businesses), how important it is and also whether users/potential customers will walk away from social media.
The decision by Wetherspoons to delete all social media profiles is an interesting one and is clearly not a knee jerk reaction, although it does coincide nicely with a large push towards their own app.
One thing not to be overlooked is the fact that Wetherspoons, or at least its Chairman, admitted in an interview in late 2017 with the drinks industry magazine, Imbibe, that social media has become problematic stating “I think pubs have been quite heavily challenged by social media”.
Which begs the question as to whether they are against social media because it challenged their business model and they haven’t figured out how to master this new beast, or against the addictive nature of it as they have given as their reasoning for departing.
Are they just cutting off their nose to spite their own face? One thing that is certain is walking away from social media removes their ability to manage conversations in real-time, effectively sticking their head in the sand, ignoring the possibility of negative comments, and in doing so, shooting themselves in the foot by handing real-time conversations to third party aggregators.
At the beginning of 2017, the total number of social media users in the UK was 39,000,000, close to two thirds of the entire population. On that basis alone, it seems a crazy move to walk away from an opportunity to engage with and learn from a huge percentage of the UK.
While some companies may fare well without social media being at the core of business and marketing, the ability to communicate directly with customers and also bring to life a brand purpose or personality is limited. There aren’t many other channels (website and sales materials apart) where a business can tell its own story without any interference and where a company can make its users feel part of the journey of the business itself.
As Donald Trump has shown to great effect, social media is one of the only ways in which a brand, business or personality can be heard in their own words, with zero filter. Remove social media from your communications strategy and your chance to speak directly to customers in your own words becomes considerably limited.
With such a large and growing digital landscape the potential reach of social media can far outweigh the costs of conventional methods. You can reach a highly targeted audience that is likely to either buy or inform a buying decision for a fraction of the cost of more traditional advertising methods.
Only time will tell if this is the right move for Wetherspoons but it is unlikely to open the floodgates of businesses shying away from social media any time soon. On the face of it, the decision looks at best short sighted and at worst a fast-tracked strategy to walk away from arguably their largest customer demographic.
Social Media for business isn’t going anywhere fast, recent events mean it may take a slightly different course, but for consumer facing businesses in particular, the argument for social media being non-essential is waning by the day if not by the hour.