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Has social media had its day?

Christina Clarke

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has announced that it is quitting social media. Should your business do the same?
Wetherspoon recently announced that it would be quitting Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with immediate effect.  The pub chain linked the move to negative publicity surrounding social media including the "trolling" of MPs.
Social media is now seen as an integral part of a company’s marketing plan and a cost-effective way to raise brand awareness, engage with customers and develop brand personality.   It can also, in many cases, become a useful tool for gathering customer feedback about your product or service. 
Companies are familiar with using a wide range of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin (amongst others) and businesses spend a lot of time and money reaching far into the cyber-browser world in the firm (and undoubtedly provable) view that such exposure brings positive attention, and is a major part of customer/client recruitment, and thus success. 
Why then are companies like Wetherspoons now dropping out of social media?
Tim Martin, the Chairman of Wetherspoons, was quoted as saying:   ‘society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use’ 
 ‘We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business,’ said Mr Martin.
He went on to say that he had always thought the idea that social media was essential for advertising was untrue.  ‘We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers.  I don't believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever."
The firm said its decision had also been influenced by concerns regarding the ‘misuse of personal data’ and ‘the addictive nature of social media’. 
Negative publicity like the Cambridge Analytica scandal concerning ‘illegal’ farming of data from Facebook has done little to reassure Facebook and other social media users about the security of the data they’ve handed over so trustingly.  TV presenter, journalist and founder of the moneysavingexpert website, Martin Lewis has recently stated his intention to sue Facebook for using his image without his authority, claiming his reputation has been damaged.  Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is demanding legislation for the regulation of some social media outlets which, he claims, potentially cause damage to the impact on children using these sites.  In February, consumer goods giant Unilever threatened to pull all ads from online platforms like Facebook and Google if they did not do enough to police extremist and illegal content.
All this negative media coverage may cause the general public to become disillusioned with the integrity of social media and this mistrust may damage the way social media outlets are perceived by clients and customers. 
So, would you consider breaking the bond with this form of publicity and consider viable alternatives?  Or should your business continue to pursue and nurture clients with a regular presence on the social media sites?

Andy Hancock, Partner at Moore, says he is frequently asked by clients (both established and new) about the effectiveness of a social media presence.  He says: ‘Any company must consider their target audience and the image they want to portray, as well as assessing the likelihood of new business being generated from platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  The overall cost in terms of staff time and the expense to maintain a high profile needs to be assessed against the success of the campaigns.  Businesses should keep records of the source of all new business so that they can evaluate which of their marketing channels are most effective before making any changes to their marketing mix.
Andy continued: ‘It is a brave move to completely abandon a social media presence when the vast majority of successful businesses (who are likely to be your competitors) tend to rely on it as an integral part of their overall marketing strategy.  Businesses like Wetherspoon are nationally well-known entities so ditching social media is likely to have a minimal impact on their brand awareness.  Competition for business can be fierce; for smaller, less well-known businesses, abandoning a tool which everyone else uses is a risk that some may not be prepared to take at this time.’
Andy concludes: ‘Business owners need to be aware of both the risks and the benefits to using social media sites.  Companies should take all necessary steps to keep data secure,  monitor feedback on sites regularly for negative comments and respond to complaints from customers quickly’.