Is social media essential for brand building in the modern age?
Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, doesnt think so.
On Monday, the chain announced it was quitting Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, citing concerns around the misuse of data, while Martin himself went further, saying society as a whole would be better off if people cut down on their social media usage.
At a time when the average British adult spends over two hours a day on social media, removing a brand from the world of likes and retweets is a risky move. But Martins confidence that shutting down the companys online profiles would not “affect our business whatsoever” should spark a period of reflection at other companies, many of whom jumped into social media simply because everyone else was doing it.
To be sure, in an age of constantly changing technology and 24/7 media, brands cannot afford to get left behind. And there are always advantages to being early adopters in any new technology, especially if the target market is young people. But jumping on a trend just because you feel you ought to, without looking at its true value for your specific business, is no more sensible with social media than it would be in any other area.
Cynics will question whether Wetherspoons decision was based more on the brands low number of followers (44,000 on Twitter) than any ethical stance on personal data. But even if that is the case, it still makes business sense to focus resources on where they will have the most value, whether thats traditional marketing, investment in personnel, or simply making the product better. Maintaining a lively and engaging social media presence, without making the kind of gaffes that lead to online outrage campaigns, is costly and time-consuming work.
The fact that, according to Martin, 90 to 95 per cent of Wetherspoon pub managers felt that “using social media was not helping the business” speaks for itself.
With the scandal still raging across the world over who owns data and to what extent technology companies have been abusing consumer trust, now is as good a time as any for brands to rethink their presence and interaction with these firms.
But beyond the politics, there is something admirable about a business that is bold enough to buck the trend, think for itself, and get out of the bubble.
Wetherspoons share price has nearly doubled in the last two years. We will continue to watch the companys progress with interest.
We may even Tweet about it.