Last week pub chain Wetherspoon announced that they would no longer be using social media which caused a furore amongst social media ‘experts’.
I like Wetherspoon’s pubs. There are three within walking distance of where I live. When I was vegetarian I liked that I could go get a quorn sausage butty for breakfast when no one else seemed to understand the need for veggie tastiness, and as a mother, I like the fact if I take my kids to Wetherspoon’s to eat, the menu is diverse enough to keep everyone happy. I also like the fact they have a wide range of interesting beers and lagers on tap and in the fridge. So say, I want a Kingfisher with my Chicken Tikka Masala, I can get a big bottle from the fridge.
I also like the fact that wherever I go, it is a similar set-up, and it’s not just the food and drink, it is the localness of it and a quick way of meeting community. You go in there and you see the regulars. And even if you go to a different town, you can meet regulars from there who like to have a chat. It doesn’t play music either which is nice, as sometimes I want to drink my beer without shouting like I am in a club, ‘cos if you are going to play loud music well you are going to have to let me dance. However, I have never followed Wetherspoon on social media ‘cos I can’t eat or drink Wetherspoon’s vittles on social media. I can only do that in a Wetherspoon’s pub.
It used to be that going to church would provide you with a community and a quiet space and food if you were needy. Nowadays, the Church of England is always talking about how to get more people through the doors and create a community of people. They could do a lot worse than take a look at the business model of Wetherspoon’s which is: Serving a (Maslow’s) fundamental need of reasonably priced food and drink all day, often in old and really interesting buildings.
The words community and need are bandied about a lot by social media experts too. What fundamental need does the CofE and social media experts give us? I don’t know. They seem to be following an arbitrary set of rules mainly made of Thou Shalt Nots in order to get people to do things, extra things, mainly for them to make money off.
It really irritated me last week that some of the US-based social media experts were giving their analysis (their words) having never set foot in a Wetherspoon’s, nor researched what Wetherspoon’s is about, and were hell-bent on telling everyone that social media is absolutely necessary to have as part of a business model and Wetherspoon’s will suffer. How do they know? They absolutely don’t as demonstrated by the BBC ‘commentary’ (using the term v loosely) in the link at the beginning of this blog. I have said it before: no one knows how social media works which is rather like religion.
I was in a restaurant in Sorrento, last month, and a guy with a super loud voice was ordering his dinner. He had loads of specific requests of which I couldn’t help but hear snippets: He couldn’t have cheese, I think it was with meat at the same time, but then he couldn’t have certain meats. He wanted wine, but he couldn’t just drink wine, he could only have it served with the meal, so he couldn’t have the wine on the table before the food, it had to be served at the same time. As the list of things he couldn’t do was very long and I didn’t listen to all of it, I concluded it was for religious purposes not allergies. Either way, his life (and his wife’s who sat silently near him) his business, but it did make me think: Do you really think that God will love you more because of all this effort? Love is patient and kind (1Corithinians 13). Love is unconditional. And we all know that no one who ever turned up with a load of rules and conditions for how you should be before they can love you has ever been good news.
It’s not just religion and social media marketing, it’s self-help too, and dieting, there are so many rules with what to eat and not eat, what to think, what not to think: your five a day, the green juice smoothie, the affirmations, the yoga classes, the meditation, a long list of things you have to do. I loved reading Danielle La Porte’s White Hot Truth which is a funny take on all the self-help, new age and therapy she felt she had to do to improve herself before she could become spiritual. I laughed out loud at a podcast when she said something along the lines of how she was a lot more balanced nowadays and then added: Just ask my astrologist.
When I had chemotherapy, I bought a cancer-fighting food book, which was all special food recipes for strengthening your body. There was a nice recipe for biscuits and I would say to my husband: I can’t believe you ate all the cancer biscuits. And he would say: Well they were tasty, which they were, but the idea that I had to fight cancer by eating cancer biscuits and think positively was less so, it didn’t make me feel better at all. I threw the book away, stopped thinking altogether, and ate fried egg sandwiches and chocolate cake, which my Oncologist said was hangover food, as that is basically what chemotherapy gives you, a big bad mother of a hangover.
Hangover food or comfort food or favourite like a curry and Kingfisher at Wetherspoon, a bit of a giggle on Twitter or Facebook, praying, dancing, or not thinking, makes me feel better and to feel like I am not alone in all of this. And to be fair, there are some Church communities who can do this for people too, but I have to say, never in my life have I looked at list of any rules of things I shouldn’t do and felt better. It makes me feel like I cannot breathe. The Thou shalt nots sap my soul.
However, as a society I know that rules are good for us, just take a look at the trolls on social media who seem to operate without them. But then it is not just them, it seems to me that it is the social media experts too who are just as dangerous making up rules as they go along about a thing they don’t understand, telling people what they should and shouldn’t do to be SUCCESSFUL! I know many business owners who say I hate social media and I don’t blame them, because they are trying to use a social tool as a marketing tool whilst being guided by people who don’t know how it works, especially if they don’t have a weightless product. The idea of marketing on social media is like a mailshot to randomers. It’s like putting things through peoples’ letterboxes in the neighbourhood, without knowing who lives there, and even then there’s a maximum 2% return, which is why Wetherspoon’s withdrawal is really refreshing.
Wetherspoon’s provides a warm place to go for food and drink and a chat. It’s already successful it doesn’t need social media to improve on that. It’s like preaching to the choir.
We can’t eat or drink on the Internet, though we can eat and drink with our phones or computers in front of us to chat in a space and call it a party. But it’s just not the same. The medium is the message but when your message is about something physical in a virtual space, well that just doesn’t always work.
As a business you need to get clear on what successful looks like and measure your returns on social media. Or, just do it for the joy, the love, the community you can create and throw away your measuring stick. Just please don’t do it and hate it. You are better off not doing it at all.
I don’t see Wetherspoon’s marketshare suffering. We don’t all need to be on social media. Don’t be taken in by the experts who tell you otherwise. They need you to be on it to buy their how to guides and Ten Commandments.
I have decided to compose my own Ten Thou shalts (instead of shalt nots) for social media, and following Wetherspoon’s example, I will begin with:
Thou shalt do what’s best for you to feel joy.
On second thought, I am thinking that’s the only rule we need. Don’t you?