Somewhat ironically, it has been described by Lush as a bid to ‘open up the conversation’ between the brand and its customers.
The Lush UK channels across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will close, leaving only the hashtag #LushCommunity for the brand to post and share content on Instagram instead.
In a world where social media is seen as a key marketing strategy for brands of all kinds – for customer support as well as general communication and engagement – it’s a bold move from the cosmetics brand.
So, why has Lush taken this decision, and will it prove to be a wise one? Here’s more on the story, and the potential impact.
An extension of Lush’s brand values?
Lush UK’s announcement on Instagram states that: “Increasingly, social media is making is 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.”
The brand goes on to the say that from next week, it will only be talking to customers via the live chat feature on its website, email, and telephone.
View this post on Instagram
We're switching up social. 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. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead. Lush has always been made up of many voices, and it’s time for all of them to be heard. We don’t want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities – from our founders to our friends. We’re a community and we always have been. We believe we can make more noise using all of our voices across the globe because when we do we drive change, challenge norms and create a cosmetic revolution. We want social to be more about passions and less about likes. Over the next week, our customer care team will be actively responding to your messages and comments, after this point you can speak us via live chat on the website, on email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by telephone: 01202 930051. This isn’t the end, it’s just the start of something new. #LushCommunity – see you there.
Most notably, Lush reinforces the fact that it is still very much a community, with the move being a push for ‘all voices to be heard’ but so that conversations do not have to only happen on social.
In a way, this does sound very like Lush; the brand has a strong history of standing up for social, political, and environmental issues. The pressures of social media and technology on mental health have been widely reported in recent times, so in this sense it does appear to be another example of the brand challenging norms and standing up for the issues it believes in.
On the flip side, the move also seems a little out of the blue considering the brand’s heavy and (largely) successful use of social media. With 569,000 followers on Instagram and over 420,000 on Facebook, Lush UK engages a highly invested audience with content relating to its cult products, enthusiastic store employees, and brand activism.
Perhaps recent backlash relating to its #SPYCOP campaign has contributed to the decision. The campaign aimed to highlight how undercover police officers had infiltrated the lives, homes, and beds of activists since 1968. However, many criticised Lush for appearing ‘anti-police’, and for executing a poorly defined and ill-thought-out campaign (especially in light of other current and ongoing issues in society).
I am appalled by the message @LushLtd are promoting in their windows in relation to the police and the undercover work carried out pic.twitter.com/4m6ebdxAmG
— Laura Storr (@Laura_Storr) May 31, 2018
There were also reports in the media that the brand had denied deleting one-star reviews on Facebook left by people who were angry about the campaign. Whether or not this took place, the brand’s social media reputation is certainly not as squeaky clean as it once was.
A stance against algorithms
Lush has suggested that social media algorithms are making it hard for brands to reach audiences. Indeed, Instagram updated its algorithm in 2018 to prioritise newer posts (so that feeds feel more up to date).
For businesses, this makes strategy trickier to manage, with factors like timing impacting upon how many people see and engage with content. From Instagram’s perspective, it is not necessarily a bad thing, leading more brands to get involved with advertising on the platform to increase visibility and reach.
This appears to be what Lush means by comments that it does ‘not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed’. And certainly, it has a point; why should it have to?
Then again, while ads certainly do alienate and annoy a percentage of users – it is something of an assumption to suggest that its entire audience would be against them too. Even if they are, it is also quite the leap to go from an anti-ad stance to removing its social media channels entirely.
More influencer marketing
Although Lush is removing its main social channels, it will continue to post and share content using the #LushCommunity hashtag on Instagram. The brand has also insisted that this is the ‘start of something new’, which could indicate new channels appearing (rather than the sole act of removing its existing ones). It could also just mean a different approach to content.
From the ‘community’ angle, it sounds like Lush will lean much more heavily on influencer marketing. Not necessarily in the traditional sense of large-scale personalities with massive online audiences, but rather the grassroots style of influence that draws on Lush’s most ardent fans. Looking at brand events like the Lush Creative Showcase – a convention where Lush enthusiasts gather to try new products and celebrate the brand – this level of devotion clearly does exist.
What consumers think about influencer marketing
However, is it strong enough to sustain an entire social media strategy?
Perhaps the most engaged online fans will be encouraged by the move, however, many followers will surely miss brand content (and the ability to make contact through social media).
Let’s not forget that in order to discover any content posted by Lush going forward, users will have to actively follow the #LushCommunity hashtag on Instagram, which also means that they’ll see all posts that include it. Consequently, users will have to scroll through endless posts that might not be of interest to them, most of which are likely to be of the classic ‘user generated’ style, involving people experimenting with bath bombs etc.
It’s hard to know where any authoritative or informative content might come from (or how users will know where to find it).
View this post on Instagram
Splash bath bomb I bought @lushliverpoolspa makes the most beautiful blue bath water and has some gorgeous ingredients such as neroli & lime oils and tonka absolute. It’s a fast fizzier and the scent is very fresh. I will definitely buy this again???????????? #wethebathers#splashbathbomb#nerolioil#limeoil#elemioil#tonkaabsolute#bathbomb#lushcommunity#lushies#lushiesofinstagram#lushaddict#lushbathbomb
Will it backfire?
The general consensus seems to be that Lush’s move is a dangerous one. It is also unclear whether the company will be pouring more resources into customer service. But considering that it this will be the only way people will be able to directly communicate with the company, one would hope so; especially considering much of its social content going forward will be user or influencer-generated (rather than created by social media or marketing teams).
There’s also the question: is it merely a publicity stunt? Perhaps something to generate conversation in the short-term, before the brand appears back on social media in a new or updated format. After all, individual store accounts (e.g. @lushliverpool) plus its US social media channels will remain.
The biggest Lush fans will undoubtedly await what’s next with bated breath. For the rest of its soon-to-be-former followers, it could be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
However, if its history is anything to go by, Lush certainly won’t be satisfied with staying silent – regardless of what direction its social media takes.
Social media is good value if your followers are predominantly your customers and supporters. This lets you publish to your own little media bubble of friendly people. Which increases sales.
The Lush UK “spy cop” campaign appalled and angered people who were previously unaware of the company, drawing them into the media bubble, so it became unfriendly as a result. Which decreases sales.
The only real response is to back off from social media until the haters leave. Oh, and not to behave like idiots by attacking the emergency services in future. If this blows over, Lush will be back on social.
Thanks Peter. It is interesting to note how the majority of comments on Lush’s Facebook page – which hasn’t been deleted yet – are overly negative (and not just about the Spy Cop campaign you mentioned). It could be a similar case to JD Wetherspoons, which appeared to close its social media because it couldn’t keep up with sheer number of trolls/bad reviews.