There will be many licensees this morning considering their social media use following JD Wetherspoon’s (JDW) decision to quit all platforms yesterday. The answer is: don’t do it. 

 

 

Whenever I have asked licensees what they do on social media, it has been met with one thing first: a long sigh. Let’s face it, no-one wants to do it, and it is a constant struggle. Indeed, social media can often be met with silence or, even worse, abusive former customers. Many will question its worth in light of this fact, and I can see how when a high street player like JDW decides to quit, you would consider leaving social media platforms altogether.
 
But this would be a huge mistake. Social media is crucial for publicans to gain access to local customers and it is probably the greatest marketing tool ever created. The news stories about JDW having low follower numbers, and therefore not getting onto users’ news feeds, misses the point. It’s not about the brand’s public accounts, it is about the advertising model behind these social platforms, and how businesses can use them.
 
Yes, Facebook may be getting some bad press, but its advertising platform will hit exactly the local customer base you want. There is a reason why it is a business worth nearly $500bn on the stock market. The same is true of Instagram and Twitter. At no other time in history have local businesses been able to so quickly access their customer base with offers and tell the story of their venue, directly to the most engaged user base on the internet. The average person spends 40 to 50 minutes a day on Facebook and Instagram. 
 
It is the exact opposite of a flyer through the door or an advert in a local newspaper. You can measure the engagement, you can see exactly who has come to your website, or booked a table, or joined your database. In other words, advertising on these social platforms – which is often in the tens rather than hundreds of pounds – can have a direct impact on the bottom line of your business. The return on investment is incredible. 
 
Large pubcos like JDW don’t need to worry about this. The managed estate model doesn’t require individual social accounts or marketing through social, and it has plenty of routes to market a customer journey. The majority of JDW pubs are either on the high street or at transport hubs with high footfall (and the high rents to match). In effect, the pubs market themselves. It is also worth remembering JDW also deleted its entire email database. Would you do this? Of course not. 
 
Instead, if used correctly, the businesses accounts offered by social media platforms will drive users directly to your offer, onto your email marketing lists, and ultimately to becoming punters in your pub. Only yesterday I was talking to a licensee in a low footfall outlet, who had used social media to promote its sports offer. And guess what? It drove customers to the venue. 
 
So don’t go offline. Your business needs you!