Major pub chain JD Wetherspoon has confirmed that it is getting rid of all its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts in an attempt to combat trolling, data misuse and social media addiction.
The chain, which has around 900 pubs around the UK and Ireland, is pulling the plug on the social media accounts of all of them, as well as those of its head office, in a move that chairman Tim Martin admits is “going against conventional wisdom”. It announced the draconian action on its Twitter account @jdwtweets at 6:50am this morning before deactivating the account.
Martin argues that neither he nor the majority of his pub managers believe that shutting down the accounts will make any difference to how much business the pubs receive, and in a shot at social media and its users, he remarks:
“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion.”
The chairman added that Wetherspoon will use its own magazine and press releases to keep people up to date on company news, and the main website will remain open, inviting questions and feedback.
Firms like Wetherspoon that aim to keep prices low are often known for their reticence to get involved with the internet. Budget clothes retailer Primark still has no online shopping facility, and Liverpool-based discount chain Home Bargains did not have a website at all until 2011.
Such companies often argue that by avoiding the expense of maintaining a web presence and advertising online, they can pass on the savings to their customers by keeping prices as low as possible, but steering clear of a medium as omnipresent as the internet is taking a risk. In 2016, the Financial Times noted that there were signs of sales dropping at Primark, and questioned whether this could be to do with the company’s avoidance of online shopping.
The move is a surprising one from Wetherspoon, which usually embraces the internet by offering free Wi-Fi in most of its pubs and hotels and has a popular app with which customers can order food and drinks, but Martin has a reputation for being outspoken. The 62-year-old is known for his Eurosceptic views and anyone who has read the Wetherspoon News will know that it often appears to be something of a pro-Brexit propaganda pamphlet.
It appears that as well as the EU, he holds social media in similar contempt, but he should keep a close eye on how this bold but risky move turns out. With some of Wetherspoon’s social media posts having been viewed more than half a million times, Martin is cutting his company off from a wide and potentially lucrative audience.