Lush UK, a cosmetics company known for its bathing products, dropped a major bomb on Tuesday when the company announced it was bidding farewell to some of its social accounts.
“Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed,” wrote Lush UK in posts shared on its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds with an image that included the message: “We’re switching up social.”
The company said its customer care team would respond to messages and comments over the next week, but after that, it was moving conversations to the live chat function on its website, email or phone.
“This isn’t the end, it’s just the start of something new,” wrote Lush UK. The U.S. division of the company has, so far, not followed suit.
Risky proposition or smart business?
As a cosmetics brand, leaving social is a risky step to take. Ninety-six percent of beauty brands in 2016 had an Instagram account, according to a Statista report. That same year, Statista found that female social media users were more likely to interact online with a beauty brand than any other industry, including clothing, personal care or retailers.
Even with its more than one million followers across Instagram (570K), Facebook (405K) and Twitter (202K), Lush UK’s social feeds apparently were not offering the engagement it wanted, and as the brand said in its post, it did not want to spend time fighting algorithms or buying ads to reach its intended audience.
Instead, the company wants to create more personal communications with its followers — via its own brand properties. The risk is that puts responsibility on the consumer to connect with the brand on its terms.
“Obviously, some brands were late to the social party in the first place, but I haven’t seen anyone else just shut it down,” said Dan Ginnis, chief experience officer for Winning Experience LLC and author of “Winning at Social Customer Care”. He thinks Lush UK’s move to quit social is a mistake, pointing out that social platforms are not only for interacting with consumers, but also listening to your followers.
“Brands must remember that there are two words in ‘social media’ and both of them are critical to success. Walking away from the one marketing channel where customers and prospects can talk back sends the message that a company is not truly listening to its audience,” said Gingiss.
Oliver Yonchev, managing director for the social marketing agency Social Chain, called it a protest move — reflective of a general industry sentiment against algorithms.
“Considering the amount of time we all spend on social media, the size of the beauty and wellbeing space, the richness of social data, and the actual output of Lush, I find this a bemusing move,” said Yonchev who disagrees with the brand’s decision to leave social.
“I believe social media has to play a role in Lush UK’s marketing strategy, but will likely see them stop investing resources in the owned channel activity, and rather invest the resources into off channel activity — influencers, paid activity, campaign work (paid), etc,” said Yonchev.
Sign of things to come?
Social media marketers are entering new territory. It’s harder than ever for brands to reach their own audiences organically on social platforms. Last month, Facebook itself said it will re-orient its business around encrypted messaging, de-emphasizing News Feed.
“Organic reach has been dying for years and businesses that invested a lot of time and resources growing their audiences are now left feeling let down by the limiting organic opportunities,” said Yonchev, “Most social successes are no longer found on the feeds of brands but through general activity across social media – how other people are talking about your brand matters far more than how a brand talks about themselves.”
Marketers should be taking notes on Lush UK’s move to quit social. The brand may not be headed in the exact direction most companies are likely to follow, but could unwittingly become the canary in the coal mine — proving whether or not a brand lives or dies by their social media accounts.