Cheap Pints And Wet Korma Just Wasn't Cut Out For Social Media

Issue 35

Every time it comes to writing columns on communications, it feels like a fresh social media storm brews just in time.

So huge thanks to Wetherspoons pubs boss Tim Martin for announcing, just in time, that he’s dropped all his company’s social media activity. ‘A waste of time and money,’ according to him.

Of course, by the time this goes to print, we’ll probably know the real story around this and whether it was actually a considered ploy or whether the growing rumours around some of their practices around the use of Facebook and in its email marketing were entirely ethical.

Are we now all going to follow suit? Well, I’d hope it makes you all consider what you’re getting from your social media activity and whether you’re approaching it in the right manner.

Wetherspoons probably doesn’t tick all the boxes for rich Instagram feeds. A bowl of curry and a pint of Fosters probably aren’t quite what we’d want to show off to our friends and followers. Let’s be honest, are we going to check in on Facebook at the local Wetherspoons on a Saturday night with the other half, or are we more likely to only do that when we’re at a far loftier venue for #DateNight?

It’s small wonder Tim Martin thought they may only be getting limited returns from it when you consider Wetherspoons’ approach. They’ve taken what might loosely be termed the Ryanair attitude to things; a low budget, value proposition shorn of frills and the little extras. Wetherspoons is unashamedly about cheap pints and value food that fills the belly. They’re unlikely to be troubling the Michelin judges anytime soon, and for their customers that’s absolutely fine. They don’t expect foam reductions with their korma or Sommelier’s presenting their berry-flavoured Strongbow in fine crystal.

You’d be a fool to dismiss the massive success of Wetherspoons, but think long and hard before following them headlong into ditching your social media. Are you that same style of company that would be happy to cut off open and honest communication lines to your customers? So many forget, or ignore, the fantastic opportunities social media platforms offer you to listen to what people are saying; about you and your brand, about your competitors and about your industry. It staggers me that people don’t do this enough.

It’s small wonder its outspoken owner thinks they get nothing from social media. I’m sure its bar managers are offered some sort of guidelines on appointment, but trying to consistently control some 900 individual accounts in this manner – most pubs had their own separate Twitter and Facebook accounts – must be hellish.

There are countless others who adopt this approach and generate big successes. Check Starbucks. Hundreds and hundreds of specific store accounts, but with some consistency and common goals coming from on high. We all love our personalised cups from them, don’t we? Very sharable. Even more sharable when they get it dramatically wrong. Be under no illusion that they know full well that incorrect spellings get shared far more than the right ones.

For so many other businesses, who don’t have vast customer-facing operations like Wetherspoons, a well-thought out approach to social media content and engagement is a vital lifeline to existing and potential customers. A chance for everyone to feel in tune with the brand, understand what it stands for and generate and accelerate that all-important word of mouth.

Social media is a brilliant way to make customers advocates of your brand. Don’t overlook that because someone’s made what might turn out to be a decision made for all the wrong reasons.

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