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16 April 2018

Last call for social media?

Twitter is off the menu at Wetherspoons. Is this the start of a move towards traditional channels?

Social media is off the menu at Wetherspoons. The popular pub chain took to Twitter to announce that they would be shutting down their social media accounts. That’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – all gone.

While you could observe some irony in the channel chosen to deliver their announcement, it also raises an interesting question for communicators. Does Wetherspoons’ decision mark the beginning of a trend towards shunning social channels for more traditional ones? Or will the Curry Club aficionados be left outside alone?

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin says that the business felt social media was a waste of time, where the negatives – such as social’s “addictive” nature and misuse of personal data –  outweighed the benefits. “I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever,” he told the BBC.

Instead, Wetherspoons will stay “as vocal as ever” by turning its attention to its magazine and website. And if a customer has a particular concern, they can have a face-to-face conversation with their local pub manager.

Could Tim be onto something? After all, it’s estimated that in our lifetime we will spend 5 years and 4 months on social media. To put that into perspective, that’s longer than we’ll spend eating and drinking (a necessary and often favourite activity), which clocks in at 3 years and 5 months.

And its effects on our mental health are a hot topic of debate. Studies show that frequent use of social media can lead to increased feelings of isolation and less life satisfaction.

The stir of rebellion is in the air. After Facebook’s debacle with Cambridge Analytica, #deletefacebook became a movement on Twitter with several major companies cutting ties with the social media giant. Guardian writer Mark Boyle has gone cold turkey and eschewed technology completely.

It’s even touched our world in IC. The Comms Unplugged conference promises a place to learn and re-energise away from Wi-Fi, email and social media.

So what does this mean for the IC channel mix? Should we be moving away from ESNs like Yammer and Workplace in favour of traditional newsletters and websites?

According to this year’s State of the Sector report: no. It reports that three quarters of internal communicators want to increase their usage of mobile apps, social enterprise networks and chatbots. And improving digital channels is our second biggest priority for this year.

Going back to that 5 years and 4 months issue: whether Wetherspoons likes it or not, digital channels are an integral part of our lives. We’re used to (and even prefer to) consuming content in this way. So it makes sense that IC would emulate those trends for the employee experience.

However, the issues they raise around data privacy and effective usage are incredibly important ones. Perhaps the question for communicators isn’t “which social channels – if any – should we use?”, but “how are we going to use them and protect our employees when doing so?” Otherwise we’re in danger of our social channels leaving a bitter taste in our employees’ mouths.

More like this:

When will ESNs stop being the ‘next big thing’?