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Is the end nigh for social media after pub group JD Wetherspoon deletes its accounts over trolling fears?

PUBLISHED: 12:16 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:41 16 April 2018

JD Wetherspoon is closing down its Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for all its 900 pubs and head office with immediate effect following the trolling of MPs and others. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

JD Wetherspoon is closing down its Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for all its 900 pubs and head office with immediate effect following the trolling of MPs and others. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has announced it is closing down all of its social media accounts for its 900 pubs and head office due to concerns about online trolling and the misuse of personal data.

The move comes after a recent scandal with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica which saw personal data harvested and an increasing awareness of abuse received by public figures on platforms.

Here we answer some of the questions that arise from the decision.

Why has JD Wetherspoon deleted its social media accounts?

Official of the new Wetherspoon pub 'The William Adams' on Gorleston High Street.
Picture: Nick Butcher Official of the new Wetherspoon pub 'The William Adams' on Gorleston High Street. Picture: Nick Butcher

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin has given several reasons including the abuse dished out to public figures such as MPs as well as the addictive nature of the platforms.

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

However, Tom Cox, social media marketer at Strategiq in Ipswich, said there could be other motives behind the move.

He said: “Looking at Wetherspoons it is understandable why they might choose to delete their accounts as they have had a lot of negative feedback. Their account had a rating of 1.7 stars out of five so obviously they have had some negative feedback from disgruntled customers.”

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin. Picture: JD Wetherspoon Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin. Picture: JD Wetherspoon

Is it a good move?

Only time will tell, however, Lynsey Sweales, chief executive of Norwich marketing firm SocialB, said she thought it was dangerous for Wetherspoons to come off social media completely.

She said: “I personally think it is dangerous to not be on social media at all for a company like Wetherspoons.

Olleria Plunkett, 32, of Cherry Close, Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks Olleria Plunkett, 32, of Cherry Close, Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks

“They will still need to be listening to their customers, it is not about how you want to communicate with your customers but how they want to communicate with you.

“Young people will pick up the phone but they prefer to use social media.”

Will other firms follow suit?

Robert Lamacraft, 53, from Hellesdon. Picture: Ollie Banks Robert Lamacraft, 53, from Hellesdon. Picture: Ollie Banks

Possibly. Wetherspoons has been somewhat of a pioneer when it comes to changing digital behaviour having deleted its customer email lists last year over privacy concerns.

Mrs Sweales said: “It is a brave move and they must be very confident in their brand. I think a lot of companies which have been umming and ahhing will be watching on with interest.”

She added: “For businesses like Greater Anglia, Tesco and O2 they need to be on there for customer service reasons. They might not generate any sales that way but they need to be there to answer complaints.”

Colin Cork, 76, from Loddon. Picture: Ollie Banks Colin Cork, 76, from Loddon. Picture: Ollie Banks

Can a smaller business get away with it?

Mrs Sweales said while there are still plenty of businesses not on social media the platforms offered a great opportunity for firms to find a new audience.

She said: “For smaller businesses social media is a great way to generate customer engagement.

“It also helps for recruitment. We know when we are recruiting people look at our Instagram to see what we are like as a company.”

Shayla Delgado, 21, from Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks Shayla Delgado, 21, from Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks

So is Wetherspoons a backward looking company?

Not at all. The company will continue to use its website and magazine to share news and it has firmly grasped the future with a phone app which allows drinkers to order from their seats.

Patricia Kirk, 81, from Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks. Patricia Kirk, 81, from Norwich. Picture: Ollie Banks.

What might a company miss out on if they are not on social media?

Social media is a useful tool for getting your message out there if you are a smaller business seeking to compete with the big boys like Wetherspoons.

Mr Cox, social media marketer at Strategiq in Ipswich, said: “For small businesses social media gives them a way to compete with the big businesses like Wetherspoons.

“It is a way of bringing about brand loyalty.

“I think Wetherspoons may regret not being able to have that cult following. I have seen pictures on Twitter of people saying ‘it’s my birthday and we are on table 20 bring us a drink’ and that builds engagement.

“There is even an Instagram page for all the different carpets of Wetherspoons and that’s the kind of thing they will miss out on which builds a following.

What do you think of social media and online abuse?

Reporter Ollie Banks asked the public if they were concerned about using social media.

Healthcare assistant Olleria Plunkett, 32, of Cherry Close, said abuse had to be stopped.

She said: “I wouldn’t put up with it [online abuse]. It has to stop and is definitely not a good thing.

“Social media platforms should respect data protection and people’s privacy.”

Hellesdon chef Robert Lamacraft, 53, said he was not bothered about the use of data online.

He said: “If you put in your personal data, things you don’t really want the world to know about, then you shouldn’t put it on there at all.”

Colin Cork, a 76-year-old hairdresser from Loddon, said: “I don’t use it [social media] very often, but I’ve never really experienced any online abuse myself. I just go on Facebook to keep in contact with people.

“I don’t agree with what Mark Zuckerberg’s done with people’s data. It’s invading people’s privacy.”

Norwich student Shayla Delgado, 21, said she was put off social media by online abuse. She said: “I’m definitely put off social media by online abuse. I don’t think Zuckerberg using people’s data is very fair. Not everyone can get online to share their opinions.

“I’d definitely care if any of my personal data was shared outside of Facebook.”

Patricia Kirk, 81, a retired teacher from the Norwich area, said: “I don’t have social media or anything. I won’t go on it because I don’t want any online fraud or abuse happening.”

She said she had asked her grandson about his use of social media and added: “I am aware of the online abuse on social media and it’s very worrying for young people particularly. And said that fear of fraud and abuse were the main reason for her caution towards setting up a social media account herself.”

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