The pub chain JD Wetherspoon walked into a storm of publicity when it announced it would close all its social media accounts – but was it really such a bad idea?
In this article we’ll look at why Wetherspoon took the decision it did and then ask why more businesses aren’t questioning the value of their social media investment.
Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin gave several reasons for taking down the company’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram profiles, but chief amongst them was that social media just wasn’t helping the business.
Despite a reasonable following (100,000 on Facebook, 44,000 on Twitter), Wetherspoon’s couldn’t engage a sizable audience. It concluded there wasn’t a community for it on social media and that it would be better off communicating through its website and printed magazine.
To an outsider looking in, it seems like the right decision. Albeit one perhaps taken for the wrong reason.
Where Wetherspoon retreated, other businesses have prospered. Many have build large social followings and are well-established. However, like Wetherspoon, even some of these businesses are starting to question whether they can extract proper value from this online following.
Social media presents an opportunity for organisations to make customers feel part of the business. Firms use these channels to make things personal. Having adopted this strategy, however, many companies are failing to convert the conversations they have on social media into more meaningful experiences for their customers.
If these businesses find it hard to see the value in following Wetherspoon’s lead and quitting social media altogether, they’re at least starting to reconsider their relationship with it.
Many of these businesses realise they need to move conversations from social media to an owned digital community. They need to see social media as a channel rather than a destination – a tool to draw people to their own websites or applications where the customer experience is enhanced.
When social engagement is done well, it has a positive effect on a business. The issue is that if an organisation over-invests in established social media networks – using them for all digital interactions – it can leave a vital part of the business outside its control.
Customers today want more than a sale, they need a relationship. If an organisation bases that relationship on a third-party site like Facebook or Twitter, it’s powerless to prevent services changes damaging customer interactions and, crucially, it also has no control over data.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has taught us just how much we give away each time we establish a profile on a site that offers a service for no obvious cost. If we’re not buying a product, we’re the product.
To its owners, the value of a social platform like Facebook lies in pooled user data. However, the users don’t have absolute control over how their data is applied nor do they get full access to analyse the interactions that take place on their dedicated pages.
For businesses that want to make the most of the relationships they build digitally, the realisation is dawning that they need to own their own data and run their own communities.
Relationship data is powerful stuff. Without access to information on how customers behave and interact, a business is unable to conduct meaningful analysis nor maximise its digital relationships.
Conversely, a business running its own community – and controlling its own data – can tailor the experience to suit the audience.
Squatting on someone else’s platform, none of that is possible.
If you’d like to know more about maximising the digital relationship you have with your customers, please contact us.