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Could better customer engagement have kept JD Wetherspoon’s social media accounts alive?

pint of beer on a bar

Could better customer engagement have kept JD Wetherspoon’s social media accounts alive?

Earlier this week, pub chain JD Wetherspoon announced (somewhat ironically via Twitter) that it was leaving Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and social media in general – with immediate effect.

It called time on its 100,000+ Facebook followers in a move that the chain itself put down to previous bad publicity and ‘trolling’.

And as the publicity machine cranked up, its Chair, Tim Martin wasted no time in pronouncing that “Many of us are fed up with social media and think it’s got damaging effects. A lot of people are on it far, far too much.”

Whether or not this withdrawal from community online communications was done for the media coverage it inevitably created, important questions remain. Was JD Wetherspoon wise to delete its social media accounts? Or could it have better engaged with its customers instead?

And perhaps more importantly, is there a likelihood that other businesses will follow suit?

Customer engagement is everything – so why do so many brands leave their customers hanging?

Customer engagement is an explicit goal for any social media manager. Done well, it sets brands apart and offers the perfect opportunity to understand your followers, their likes and their dislikes.

And yet, at The Content Marketing Team, we long ago lost count of the number of brands who invest in opening social media accounts, spend a great deal of time and money posting content, only to the leave their customers’ comments unanswered – just hanging in the air.

Of course, the internet has its trolls, but generally speaking, surely anyone who has taken the time to give feedback on a product or service, positive or negative, deserves a reply? Certainly, other social media users think so.

A recent survey by Sprout Social showed that 81% of consumers believe that social media increases brand accountability and that almost half of them have used social media to publicly call out a brand (Source). Consumers have a voice – and they’re not afraid to use it.

Don’t let fear of engagement stop you from connecting on social media

Whatever the nature of your offering, for some businesses there is genuine reticence, bordering on fear, about engaging with prospects or customers online. What if we say the wrong thing? Will people stop buying our product? Will we get sued?

There’s no denying that social media channels need to be managed properly. They require careful consideration, need to be on brand at all times and with the right tone.

But get this right and your prospects will welcome the opportunity to engage with you, hopefully becoming customers at the earliest opportunity.

Social media also increases brand awareness

Of course social media isn’t just limited to consumer engagement. Typically sitting higher up the marketing and sales funnel, it occupies a valuable space for raising awareness of your brand and influencing consideration on the part of the consumer to buy.

We all have friends on Facebook or Instagram for example, whose opinion we trust and judgement we value. So when your news feed shows up that they have just liked or interacted with a brand, more often than not, that’s a valuable signal for us to consider that brand too.

It’s a strong message of brand advocacy and we have a natural tendency to want to better understand what our friend likes in that brand.

Don’t just rely on your website to promote your brand

Having turned off its social media channels, Wetherspoon says that it now expects customers to go to its website instead to get news and updates about their brand.

Whilst some customers may well do this, the vast majority are unlikely to bother. Not least because, as consumers, we now expect brands to be available to us in the channels that we like using.

This is an expectation that Wetherspoon are unlikely to reverse.

By deleting its social media accounts, Wetherspoon has cut off a huge marketing and advertising channel. Not only have they lost the customer engagement from their owned and earned social interactions, but this highly effective advertising channel will also be lost too. And without this, where’s the interactivity? They’ll mainly be left with the marketing channels that are ‘push’ marketing, rather than ‘pull’.

On top of their decision back in July 2017 to delete their entire customer email database (Source) (cutting off another marketing channel and engagement vehicle), it’s hard to argue that they haven’t just shot themselves in the foot.

Dealing with negative comments: the worst thing is to do nothing

Wetherspoon cited negative publicity as a reason to quit social media. But in reality, there are very few situations where saying nothing at all is the best decision for a brand.

Sure, in certain circumstances, there may be legal restrictions on, for example, an ongoing legal case. But even then, mentioning that you are constrained by what you can say is better than ‘no comment’.

In general, however, your supporters will love you when you’re doing well. And when you make a mistake, hold your hands up and admit it – and then tell your followers how you’re going to put it right. We’re all fallible and we all appreciate honesty – so tell your followers about the areas you could improve and then outline how you hope to achieve that.

Building a connection with your customers is at the heart of good content marketing and social media offers the perfect platform to do this.

Social media offers one of the best opportunities to have a genuine conversation with your customers.

Creating opportunities for meaningful engagement with prospects and customers should be the goal of any brand.

So it seems counter intuitive of Wetherspoon to have switched off this opportunity. In digital terms, it’s the equivalent of them sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting ‘la, la, la’ as their customers try to get through to them.

And whilst their marketing team will undoubtedly find themselves with more time on their hands, now that they don’t have to monitor their social media channels, they surely aren’t expecting to fully understand their customer’s innermost thoughts from emails and postal mail?

As for other brands following suit, we doubt it. Like it or hate it (and we all understand the health benefits of time away from a smartphone), social media offers one of the best opportunities to have a genuine conversation with your customers. We for one wouldn’t want to lose that.


Find out more about how The Content Marketing Team can help you improve engagement with your audience. Contact us on 0808 145 4416 or visit

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