To be (social) or not to be (social)... That is the question
Last month British pub chain powerhouse JD Wetherspoons stunned many with its announcement that it would be removing itself from social media. With immediate effect they closed their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts saying that future announcements would be made via their official website and in their own magazine. Surely in the age of social media such a move is commercial suicide?
From the statement they released it appeared the motivation for such a move was that their business had become too concerned about what was happening and being written online rather that the offline experience within their pubs. Staff energy was flowing away from what is essentially the original social networking space, the pub.
But do they have a point? On reflection, most probably. The average Wetherspoons tweet in 2018 managed to garner a total of six retweets and four likes. Wetherspoons serves three million pints a week. Its impact online was certainly questionable. I followed them online for years, though cannot remember a single tweet, image or story from their social media so for me it would be not loss whatsoever. But that’s not to say every venue should follow suit and join the anti-social league. Many don’t have the physical presence on every high-street that Wetherspoons does, nor the customer loyalty that has been built over decades. So what is the answer?
Know your market - and offer them value
Our social media platforms need to be just that, social. Sales pitches, discount banners and constant advertising don’t inspire and don’t engage so are often just create noise rather than cut through. We need to know who we’re talking to and understand what our guests want and need from us online. That might be inspiring images, witty updates or even recipes or playlists to build up your brand following.
Tackle the trolls
One major factor for many wanting to turn away from social media is the time it takes and the impact it creates, dealing with keyboard warriors and online trolls. My advice on this matter is to consider creating a policy for your approach on this and stick to it. For some it may be to respond, others to ignore and block. Most importantly though, trolls with a vengeance must not be allowed too much air time in your minds or in your venues.
Find your voice
I can almost always tell when a venue has outsourced their social media updates to an agency versus doing it in house. Purely because when you spend time in a pub, bar or restaurant, you meet the staff and the management there is a style, a personality and a voice to the place. If that isn’t mirrored online by the person updating social media there can often be a huge disconnect. Updates can feel clinical, salesy and lack the authenticity of the venue. By finding your voice and delivering your style, it only enhances the real feel of your venue and creates a connection from offline to online.
Focus on experience (both on and offline)
Nothing is more disappointing than falling in love with a brand or venue online only to be majorly disappointed at the real in person experience of the bar, pub or restaurant. Being the wittiest, the most instagrammable or the most inspiring social media account needs to translate into an awesome experience offline - or you’re totally missing the point. Of course our images should be beautiful and our booking system seamless, but our real world presentation must also be beautiful and our delivery to the table effortless. It's almost impossible to have everything perfect at all times but equal if not more focus must be spent on what we’re delivering to our guests in person rather than on our analytics pages.
Embrace alternative technology
The saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never been more relevant than it is today. With questions over Twitter’s relevance, Facebook’s integrity and the true value of your email list (GDPR anyone?) there has never been a more important time to really delve into the value of your digital assets and the leverage they have on your business. One size does not fit all and we need to be clear over what matters to our business and the impact that could have if it was taken away. Developing your own app might be important, cultivating a Facebook group might be another way to go. It has never been more important than now, to spread your influence through avenues that really work for your business that deliver returns on your investment, be that time or money or both.
There are a lot of businesses out there that take the same look at an entirely different customer base, product, brand and set of objectives and conclude that Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are the perfect tactic for them. The reality is that that decision is just as smart as Wetherspoons decision to shut down their social media. For them it just wasn’t working and therefore wasn’t worth it.
There is no ideal communications tool. No ratio of how much you should spend on ‘digital’ versus ‘traditional’ that can be applied to our venues. There is no rule that you must have a Facebook presence or that you should get rid of it. All there is is strategy, and once you have one it becomes apparent that your tactics should work for you and you alone. We need to know our customers and learn how best to connect with them, through their screens, via our menus and of course over the bar top.