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Meeting Martin: time to drop social media? #NotYet

Shocking news from the pub: Wetherspoon’s has stepped down from social media. May the seas boil and the sky turn as black as pitch. This is huge.

Or is it?

The revelation that Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin has taken his affordable pub chain off social media has caused social media experts to ask why he would be so brazen. After all, Twitter has been around for, oooh, nine years? Most social media managers were children in 2009, so it stands to reason that they might be miffed as to why this staid, traditional mainstay of contemporary communication and instant gratification has been shunned like an unfavourable chambermaid.

So there we are, then: all 900 Wetherspoon’s are no longer contactable on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Turned to cyber dust.

Martin explained his stance: “We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business.

“I don't believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers.”

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

“We will still be as vocal as ever through our Wetherspoon News magazine, as well as keeping the press updated at all times.

“We will also be maintaining our website and the Wetherspoon app and encourage customers to get in touch with us via our website or by speaking with the manager at their local pub.”

Understandably, and ironically, a great many under 30-year-olds took to Twitter to proclaim that this would be the end of Wetherspoon’s, that they “guarantee” the pub chain would lose money, and that this was the end of days.

I ask you, though, as someone who uses social media a lot: is it so bad? I mean, what do you need their social media account for anyway?

My personal Twitter account is made up from two distinct channels: AFC Wimbledon-related material, and me complaining directly to whichever vendor has concurred my wrath.

And that, I think, is what has really peeved off pub-going youths. Wetherspoon’s Twitter page offers little value to anyone, it is merely a means by which a patron can complain: an easy get-out for someone too afraid to raise a grievance in person.

Social media can be a dangerous battlefield. This month, the Mercure Cardiff Holland House found themselves in a right old pickle when they cancelled an event which would see the Gender Recognition Act debated by a group called A Woman’s Place – who’s reputation isn’t held in high regard in some quarters. The Tweet – its contents elude me – was deemed ‘defamatory’ and was subsequently deleted. The hotel management consequently referred to it as an “unauthorised Tweet” and we are sure the shamed Tweeter was twot accordingly.

Facebook has taken a battering in recent weeks too with this whole Cambridge Analytica caper. Before this came to the public’s attention I had no idea what Cambridge Analytica was and, to be honest, I am still none the wiser. In fact, I haven’t fully read what’s going on. All I know is that “maybe” some 82m people have had something happen to their data.

Social media works in may instances, but not in all, and what these instances are depends very much on what you do. A pub’s presence on social media is negligible. You may learn about a new guest ale or Wednesday’s soup special, but really what else matters?

So how do we make social media work in the events industry? We are still at risk of being used as nothing but a direct method for people to moan at. TripAdvisor is littered with negative reviews because a bad experience is what springs people into action. A positive experience is expected, so you’re less likely to get comment on it.

Venues are the ones that cop the brunt of it, being endlessly grilled for negatives while ignored for the positives. Perhaps they too would welcome a life without social media?

Don’t, though, give up on it yet. Use your social media channels to inform, and to engage, and paid-for boosting does yield good results. The events industry is no Wetherspoon’s, we want to hear what people have to say, and to respond and change accordingly.

Wetherspoon’s is like Ryanair. It doesn’t matter how rubbish their customer service or product is, they will always be successful because they will always be cheap.

The events industry is better than that.