Why has Wetherspoons disappeared from social media?

It was announced this morning that one of the UK’s largest chain of pubs – JD Wetherspoon – has closed down all of its Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. At a time where the food and drink industry is clamouring for the illusive Millennials and Generation X-ers, account manager Jo Aitchison considers what sparked this ‘bizarre decision’ by Wetherspoons and what the possible implications are

It’s common practice for chains – especially those as large as Wetherspoons, which boasts 900 pubs nationwide – to have one, centralised account for all of its social media.

This is done to ensure that one consistent message is published and controlled, with trained teams of social media experts replying to comments and navigating the social landscape.

But what is particularly surprising about today’s announcement is that Wetherspoons has completely disappeared off social media – not one account remains.

What is Wetherspoons saying?

Chairman Tim Martin made a statement – ironically, released on Twitter – saying that: ‘We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business.

"I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers.

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

"We will still be as vocal as ever through our Wetherspoon News magazine, as well as keeping the press updated at all times."

Some are calling it a PR stunt, but the company claims that it's concerned about its accounts being used to troll MPs and spread incorrect information.

The chain is also reported to be worried about misuse of personal data in the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Martin is not a stranger to controversy – who could forget his brash stance on all things Brexit? – but has he gone too far this time?

The archaic ‘…people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion' statement sounds like a reprimanding grandparent, not a savvy businessman running a successful company in the 21st century.

Having recently launched an app, actively beginning to promote itself to students and young people looking for a ‘big night out’ and those wanting to save time when paying, it is obviously trying to bring in the next generation of pub goers.

Its app launch also helps to eradicate the idea of Wetherspoons being an ‘old man’s pub’ – but its announcement today does nothing to support this.

The decision to completely delete all of its social media accounts – where the majority, if not all, of its desired new customers find their news and seek recommendations for food and drink locations – seems incredibly jarring with its recent marketing activity.

With a dedicated following already built in the offline world, I doubt Wetherspoons will immediately suffer but, with an aging clientele at its core, it’s only a matter of time before it is going to need to seriously focus its efforts on younger, new customer acquisition.

The generations who ‘spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook’ and, on the whole, do not widely agree with the chairman’s stance on Brexit is the generation Wetherspoons is going to need to target next; I wonder how it will fare.

Has the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal scared companies away from social media for good? What are your thoughts? Join the conversation on Twitter @cartwrightcomms.

Jo Aitchison has supported food and drink clients at Cartwright Communications for almost three years, securing regional and national coverage as well as delivering blogger outreach and video-led marketing campaigns. Send Jo an email or call her on 0115 853 2110.