Wetherspoon pub chain shuts its social media accounts

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Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has used Twitter to tell its 44,000 followers that it is quitting social media.

The firm’s head office and 900 pubs will quit the micro-blogging site, and also Instagram and Facebook, with immediate effect, it said.

The pub chain linked the move to bad publicity surrounding social media including the “trolling” of MPs.

Chairman Tim Martin told the BBC that society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use.

The firm said its decision had also been influenced by concerns regarding the “misuse of personal data” and “the addictive nature of social media”.

“We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business,” said Mr Martin.

He told the BBC he had always thought the idea that social media was essential for advertising was untrue.

“We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers,” he said. “I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever.”

The chairman said that it had consulted its pub mangers before making the move, and “90-to-95% felt using social media was not helping the business”.

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Mr Martin told BBC Radio 5 Live that he thinks coming off social media would be good for society in general.

He said that if people “limited their social media to half an hour a day, they’d be mentally and physically better off”.

He added: “I find most people I know waste their time on it. A lot of them say they know they waste their time on it, but they struggle to get off it.”


Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent:

It has become received wisdom that a social media presence, used for everything from customer support to promoting the brand, is now a vital tool in the marketing strategy of any business big or small. So why does JD Wetherspoon feel it can do without one?

The pub chain has certainly put plenty of effort into it until now, with hundreds of different Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. But the truth is that none had won much of a mass following – and those who ran the accounts were not doing a very good job. A tweet pushing fish and chips on Good Friday got just three re-tweets.

Managing an effective social media strategy and making sure staff running so many accounts stick to company policy is a very time consuming and expensive business. Perhaps for Wetherspoons all of this effort has become more trouble than it is worth.


The chairman reassured its followers that it would “still be as vocal as ever”, but would instead use its magazine and website as well as the press for news updates.

He said customers could also get in touch with them by speaking with their local pub manager.

“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion,” Mr Martin added.

Backlash

The pub chain currently has more than 100,000 Facebook followers and more than 6,000 on Instagram.

Asked whether Wetherspoon’s move could start a business trend, Mr Martin said he hoped not.

“Currently we’ve got a massive commercial advantage because everyone else is wasting hours of their time,” he said.

The move is part of a wider corporate backlash against social media.

In February, consumer goods giant Unilever threatened to pull all ads from online platforms like Facebook and Google if they did not do enough to police extremist and illegal content.

And following the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Tesla boss Elon Musk had the official Facebook pages for his Tesla and SpaceX companies deleted.



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