UK’S BIGGEST PUB GROUP SHUNS SOCIAL MEDIA

In Social Media by Clyde Mooney

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By Kylie Kennedy

Love it or hate it, Facebook seems to be hanging around (unlike My Space). What started out as a social networking tool amongst students at Harvard University has expanded into one of the biggest websites worldwide, with its revenue last year topping the US40 billion mark. In 2012 Instagram was bought by Facebook for a lazy US1 billion, in cash and stock.

Facebook is no stranger to being in the headlines, having been clouded in controversy since the beginning, with accusations Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea off three Harvard seniors. The latest furore involves user data being harvested by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. It has been estimated that 300,000 Aussie Facebook users could have been affected by the data leak.

UK pub group JD Wetherspoon has recently shunned Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The BBC reveals the company’s decision was influenced in part by the “misuse of personal data”.

With close to 900 outlets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the publicly listed Wetherspoon is the largest pub group in the UK. The pub chain had over 100,000 Facebook followers, more than 6,000 on Instagram and 44,000 Twitter followers.

The rejection of social media was posted on the Group’s official Twitter account, which has since been closed.

“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.”

Wetherspoon is not concerned that closing these accounts will affect business.

“Rather than using social media we will continue to release news stories and information about forthcoming events on our website (jdwetherspoon.com) and in our printed magazine – Wetherspoon News.”

Wetherspoon’s chairman and founder, Tim Martin, said to the BBC: “Many of us are fed up with social media and think it has got damaging effects and a lot of people are on it far, far too much. It doesn’t do them any good, it doesn’t do the country any good.”

For many users, checking social media is the first thing they do in the morning, even before getting out of bed. Martin denies this a publicity stunt and says social media has become a waste of time for himself and the pubs.

“The people who aren’t on social media wish that their friends weren’t either, because they seem to be obsessed by it. And people who are on it feel they can’t get off it because they are addicted.”

He said people within the company feel it is good commercially, and told the BBC that social media is vastly overestimated.

“I think Tweets and Facebook underestimate the intelligence of the public and it’s all a bit of marketing hype.”

Martin voiced his opinion on BBC Radio, believing if people limited their social media to half an hour a day, they’d be mentally and physically better off.

In the early days, Facebook grew as a popular marketing platform, allowing for free advertising for businesses. These days, with ever-changing algorithms, it is getting harder for business pages to be seen on newsfeeds, especially if they aren’t paying for boosts and ads.

In January, Facebook’s Zuckerberg announced, “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Zuckerberg admitted that businesses now have to work harder to gain their customers’ attention on newsfeeds, adding there is, “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being”.

For Australian venues the battle of relevance in a noisy space means social media is typically still relevant, particularly on the level of relevant local-based communications, and a policy of quality over quantity.

This was seen in the repositioning of Scott Leach’s Rose of Australia, recognised for Best Social Media Activity at last year’s AHA NSW Awards for Excellence.