On April 16th the pub chain, JD Wetherspoon, announced that it would be quitting social media with immediate effect. The company, which has 900 pubs, will no longer use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to communicate with followers. Instead it will provide information through its website and a free company magazine. A Tweet from the chain stated that:
‘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’
The reasons given by the company included bad publicity surrounding social media, and concerns about the misuse of personal data. The Chairman, Tim Martin, also believes that ‘pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers’. These managers were consulted prior to the decision and ’90-95% felt using social media was not helping the business’.
Mr Martin doesn’t believe that closing the social media accounts will have any effect on the business, and he may be right. Prior to deleting these accounts, J D Wetherspoon had 44,000 Twitter followers, 100,000 Facebook followers and 6,000 Instagram followers. Certainly more than I’ll ever have, but not a huge number for a company of that size. Some observers noted that much of the activity on social media was actually devoted to dealing with customer complaints. There has also been a suggestion that this is just a publicity stunt, something that Mr Martin has vigorously denied.
So, has J D Wetherspoon made the right decision? Is it better for pub managers to come offline and focus on other aspects of their job? I believe that, for most hospitality businesses, social media is an important part of your marketing strategy. Here are six reasons why:
1. You can see what people are saying about your venue
What are you doing well? What needs to be improved? It’s also important to monitor your pages for inappropriate posts. If Johnny has tagged himself at your venue downing sixteen shots for his 16th birthday, this is something you need to be aware of.
2. You can showcase your venue
Let your customers know that you have a brand new menu, that your amazing staff have been doing some cocktail training, or that your function room has been refurbished. Social media is a quick and easy way to get your venue in front of people.
3. You can see what your competition are doing
What sort of promotions are they running? What events do they have coming up? What do they do well, and what can you do better? It’s not all about competing though, you may find opportunities for collaboration, such as putting on a local beer festival.
4. You have an opportunity to quickly rectify complaints
Receiving complaints on social media means that they can be seen by potential customers, and of course they may be put-off as a result. However, you also have the opportunity to publicly respond. If your response is timely, appropriate, and shows that you actually care, it can actually help to increase customer loyalty.
5. You can promote upcoming events and promotions
Social media is one of the easiest and quickest ways to make details of events and promotions available to a wide audience. And your followers can also share this information, greatly expanding your reach.
6. You can chat to your customers
Pubs are social. When you use social media to engage with your customers, it’s an extension of the conversations you have with them when you’re behind the bar. It’s a great way to get to know your customers and build loyalty.
Although I would generally recommend that hospitality businesses don’t follow the lead of J D Wetherspoon and quit social media, there are two instances when I believe it’s better to come off the platforms:
1. Your target audience isn’t there
Although it often feels like it, not everyone uses social media. If your ideal customer just happens to be my parents, who love a good pub lunch and a bottle of wine, you’re never going to reach them via social media. However, they are likely to try somewhere after spotting a good advert in the local paper.
If your target audience does use social media, which platforms do they go on? You’re much better off using one or two really well, than trying and failing to keep up with all the channels.
2. You’re not there
Have you ever checked the social media page for a pub and seen than it hasn’t been updated for weeks, or even months?
When prospective customers or employees hear about you, one of the first things they often do is check out your social media presence. If you’re posting infrequently, or not responding to messages it can give a poor impression of your business. It’s also frustrating when information on things like opening times and menus is outdated. If your accounts are not being used, or you’re being inconsistent about posting, it’s better not to have them.
If you’re struggling to keep on top of the social media for your pub, I’d love to meet you for a coffee and a chat about how I can help you. There is no charge, and no obligation to use any of my services. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.