The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Why we are closing the Club Soda Facebook group - picture of a person in a blue jumper holding a clip board with the words "digital detox"

Why we are closing the Club Soda Facebook group

The Club Soda Facebook group, Club Soda Together, is closing on 31 May 2023.

Over the past eight years, tens of thousands of people have been part of our Facebook group. Supported by a team of dedicated volunteers, this group has helped countless people cut down or quit drinking. And for some of our members, it’s been the only part of Club Soda they know.

But over the past few years, Facebook has become an increasingly challenging place to run a safe and supportive community. Direct communication with group members is practically impossible. And Facebook’s algorithm always has the last word in what gets our attention.

Despite the challenges we’ve faced, closing the Club Soda Facebook group isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly. Our members’ wellbeing is our highest priority, and there are lots of ways we can continue to support you to drink mindfully and live well.

This video, originally shared in the Facebook group, explains why we’ve decided to close the group, the timeline for closure, and what happens next.

The history of the Club Soda Facebook group

Our Facebook group predated Club Soda itself by a couple of weeks. Opened in December 2014, the group was one of our first ways to create connections between members of the Club Soda community.

At the time, there were very few groups on Facebook that provided safe spaces for people who wanted to cut down or quit drinking. So the group grew rapidly. As our numbers swelled, we wanted to keep the group safe and supportive. So we recruited a team of volunteers to help us run the group. Over time, simply managing the group became a significant undertaking, and running the group has taken more and more of limited resources.

Over the last eight years, we’ve invested a huge amount of time and energy in supporting the Club Soda Facebook group. We’ve learned from painful experience that it’s easier to maintain a community where people already are rather than trying to take the community on an unfamiliar platform. So we’ve worked to try and make Facebook work for us.

In 2020, we even participated in Facebook’s Community Accelerator programme for community leaders. Ironically, however, examining the mechanics of our community began to show us how difficult it was to support people safely on Facebook. Ultimately, our learning from the accelerator pushed us to focus on developing our website and signing people up for our email newsletter.

The challenge of supporting people safely

Club Soda is a social impact business and certified B Corporation, and at the heart of our approach to behaviour change is the simple idea of substitution. People change their drinking by choosing alcohol-free drinks. And we know that this is an approach that works for the overwhelming majority of people who engage with Club Soda, whether they visit our Tasting Room or buy drinks from us online.

Some people will always need additional help to cut down or quit drinking, and so our behaviour change courses enable people to take steps towards change. The courses are an essential element in our approach to customer education, like our newest course, Rethinking Your Wine Drinking. But we’ve always been clear that we’re not a treatment service, and we signpost people to talk to their doctor or find 1-1 support if they need more help.

However, in recent years, alcohol support services in the UK have become increasingly stretched. So we’ve seen a significant upturn in people seeking information from us about managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. We have safeguards in place to identify and support people who might be at risk if they stop drinking suddenly. We take people’s health and wellbeing seriously, including by being members of the Zero Suicide Alliance.

But extending those safeguards to Facebook has proved impossible. Even with clear group rules about not seeking medical advice and a vigilant team of volunteers, the algorithm means we cannot guarantee that we see everything that’s posted in our Facebook group. Nor can we prevent people from sharing dangerous and unhelpful advice privately.

Sadly, we’ve come to recognise that Facebook is not a safe place to support a community.

The practicalities of closing the Club Soda Facebook group

Facebook has changed the way that groups close. The only way to permanently delete a group is to remove every member individually, which would be massively counterproductive. So instead, on 31 May 2023, the Club Soda Facebook group be officially “paused”.

After that point, group members will still have access to everything they have shared in the group. So anyone who has been part of Club Soda Together will be able to go back and look at old posts and see their progress over time. But they won’t be able to post anything new.

Pausing the group preserves the record of everything that’s happened in the group. But Facebook also has a useful tool to access and download data for anyone who prefers this option.

Since announcing the group’s closure, we’ve made a series of posts in the group about ways to connect with Club Soda and other sources of advice and support. We’ve invited group members to make connections with each other, and we’ve asked for their recommendations for other Facebook groups that they are part of.

Each of these final posts will be pinned to the top of the group, so anyone coming to the group after 31 May can find useful information about what to do next.

Other ways to connect with Club Soda

Club Soda is not leaving Facebook completely at this point. To help people find and connect with us, we will continue to manage our Facebook page, sharing information about our Tasting Room, advice and events.

By far, the most effective way to keep in touch with Club Soda is to sign up for our mailing list. Every Saturday, we send an email newsletter with our suggestions to help you drink mindfully and live well.

Our most active social media is Instagram. Connect with us there for alcohol-free drink recommendations, info about our weekly webinars and events and new advice articles we publish.

We’ve also recently joined TikTok. If you can get over how noisy it is, it’s becoming a great place to find with other people who are drinking less or not at all.

And if you still want an online network where you can connect with others who are changing their drinking, we offer a Telegram group for people on our paid courses. Course places are also fully funded for UK hospitality and drinks industry professionals, thanks to our partnership with The Drinks Trust.

Other sources of advice and support

We don’t think it’s our place to recommend other groups on Facebook. But if you are a member of the Club Soda Facebook group, a pinned post in the group includes recommendations from other members about which groups they participate in.

If you are looking for meetings online or in the real world, we’ve always been happy to recommend SMART Recovery. They have an evidence-based approach, solid governance and specialist groups, including for veterans and first responders. They also have a website dedicated to SMART Recovery groups in the UK.

Connecting with Club Soda in the real world

Club Soda’s commitment to the power of community is undimmed. And with the opening of our permanent bricks-and-mortar space, we can now create connections in the real world.

If you visit London, we’d love to see you at our Tasting Room at 39 Drury Lane. We’ve just won Drinks Business Independent Retailer of the Year 2023, and we’ve got the UK’s biggest selection of low and no-alcohol drinks to try and buy.

We’ve got a bar in the Tasting Room, too, with alcohol-free cocktails, beer on tap and wines by the glass. So, something for everyone.

We run regular drinks tasting and special events, so you can meet other people and make friends. Check out our regular Queers Without Beers event for London’s LGBTQ+ community, plus monthly Beer Club, Wine Club, Cocktail Club and more.

And if you’re coming to the Tasting Room for a special event, you can now book a table. So celebrate your birthday or soberversary with us. We’d love to see you.

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