It takes a bold brand to quit the Twitter bubble

 
Rachel Cunliffe
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A Wetherspoon banner is shown after it w
At a time when the average British adult spends over two hours a day on social media, removing a brand from the world of likes and retweets is a risky move (Source: Getty)

Is social media essential for brand building in the modern age?

Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, doesn’t think so.

On Monday, the chain announced it was quitting Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, citing concerns around the misuse of data, while Martin himself went further, saying society as a whole would be better off if people cut down on their social media usage.

Read more: JD Wetherspoon is shutting down its social media accounts

At a time when the average British adult spends over two hours a day on social media, removing a brand from the world of likes and retweets is a risky move. But Martin’s confidence that shutting down the company’s online profiles would not “affect our business whatsoever” should spark a period of reflection at other companies, many of whom jumped into social media simply because everyone else was doing it.

To be sure, in an age of constantly changing technology and 24/7 media, brands cannot afford to get left behind. And there are always advantages to being early adopters in any new technology, especially if the target market is young people. But jumping on a trend just because you feel you ought to, without looking at its true value for your specific business, is no more sensible with social media than it would be in any other area.

Cynics will question whether Wetherspoon’s decision was based more on the brand’s low number of followers (44,000 on Twitter) than any ethical stance on personal data. But even if that is the case, it still makes business sense to focus resources on where they will have the most value, whether that’s traditional marketing, investment in personnel, or simply making the product better. Maintaining a lively and engaging social media presence, without making the kind of gaffes that lead to online outrage campaigns, is costly and time-consuming work.

The fact that, according to Martin, 90 to 95 per cent of Wetherspoon pub managers felt that “using social media was not helping the business” speaks for itself.

With the scandal still raging across the world over who owns data and to what extent technology companies have been abusing consumer trust, now is as good a time as any for brands to rethink their presence and interaction with these firms.

But beyond the politics, there is something admirable about a business that is bold enough to buck the trend, think for itself, and get out of the bubble.

Wetherspoon’s share price has nearly doubled in the last two years. We will continue to watch the company’s progress with interest.

We may even Tweet about it.

Read more: Wetherspoons sales and profits up but tax troubles lie ahead

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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