British Pub Chain Shuts Down Social Media Platforms, and Why It Matters

While the British pub chain JD Wetherspoon might be of more concern to its patrons across the pond, its decision as a major business (the chain owns 900 pubs across the United Kingdom) to shut down its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts means something larger than just likes and followers.

“We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business,” said JD Wetherspoon Chairman Tim Martin in a statement for BBC.

In an age where having a social media platform, along with producing strings of social media campaigns, are vital — if not expected — for a successful business, the move to step in the opposite direction caught many off-guard.

For major American food chains such as Wendy’s and Taco Bell, social media platforms have become a major tool for marketing and communication. A Google search on the “Wendy’s Twitter account” immediately shows results such as a Buzzfeed article solely about the accounts funniest tweets, where the brand directly interacts with customers. In the Twitter account’s “tweets and replies” section, its results are thousands of instantaneous replies to concerned, (or often bored), Twitter users who are tagging the brand in their tweets.

In terms of advertising, a quick scroll through the Taco Bell Twitter account showcases its use as a marketing tool to target its millennial and gen x demographic. With tweets such as “Menu Hacks,” and retweets from college students holding Taco Bell burritos in their senior photos, Taco Bell has created an engaging audience platform — that also reaches 1.91 million followers.  

In his statement with BBC, Martin says that he consulted with his pub managers before the pull. “Ninety to ninety-five percent felt using social media was not helping the business,” Martin said, “I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever.”

Following the pull, many argued that it was just a large publicity stunt, similar to popular stunts such as Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “edible nail polish” announcement, or the McDonalds “french fry fork.”

As to whether the pub chain will come back on social media, only time will tell. For now, they will be posting updates on their website, jdwetherspoon.com.

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