Yesterday morning, LUSH announced on social media that they were planning to abandon all of their social media platforms (fitting). My Twitter timeline blew up with everyone extremely confused and appalled that a brand would do this in the 21st Century. Leave social media? Who in their right mind would do such a thing?
Myself and fellow PR blogger, Jess Pardoe (jessicapardoe.com) had a little discussion over on Twitter and both knew that we would be writing a blog post about it, so thought, why not just write one together? Below you’ll find Jess’s thoughts on why she thinks it could damage LUSH’s brand image and then you’ll find my take on the scenario where I actually think it was a clever move and you’ll also find input from a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (treating you, aren’t we?).
LUSH tweeted that ‘this isn’t the end, it’s just the start of something new,’ which is very mysterious indeed. Have they magic-ed up a new social channel to end all social channels in their top-secret LUSH lab or are they just plain stupid? Only time will tell, I guess.
Starting the debate, here’s what Jess had to say:
Jess: “I’m not sure how I feel about a brand with such a large social responsibility having virtually no social presence. For one reason or another, it doesn’t sit right with me. There are quite a few rationales behind my decision that this is largely a poor move on LUSH’s part:
They’re cutting their reach by billions
LUSH’s very mantra behind bidding social media goodbye is to enact more conversation with their customers. But isn’t social media one of, if not the, best way of keeping a conversation going? It’s not only accessible (which widens their reach to all kinds of audiences), but it’s also used by 2.77 billion people worldwide. LUSH alone have half a million followers on Instagram, and 202k on Twitter. I just can’t believe that they’re closing their doors to all of those potential customers.
A recent study we did at work found that the average smartphone user spends over 29 hours on their phone a week. Turn off your social media accounts, and you’re losing 29 hours of your potential customer’s impressionable time a week.
They will be less accessible to their consumers
Customer service on social media – Twitter in particular – has improved leaps and bounds in the last five years or so. If I have a query for a brand now, I’ll almost always send a DM or a tweet. It’s fast and it’s easy and in my opinion, is one of the easiest ways to communicate with an organisation.
Not everybody wants to pick up the phone, some won’t even want to send an email or start a live chat. LUSH have announced they want to ignite the conversation. In my opinion, they’re putting it out.
Their personal brand might suffer
And finally, personal branding is so important, as I’m sure Orlagh will dive into more as she’s an expert in it.
I can’t help but think that LUSH’s branding will suffer as a result of their social media shunning. Building a brand and a rapport is so hard to do, and once you have it – you need to keep it tight. Social media is one of the best ways to do this, and so far LUSH have had it locked down. Even down to the consistent tone of voice and impressive visual branding they have, if you see an ad or an Instagram post, for example, you know when it’s LUSH. And those connotations are what can convert potential consumers into genuine sales. So long as your brand is in people’s minds, you’ll always have customers.
Sure, you can brand yourselves offline too. But social media gives you a platform to really strengthen and capitalise on it.”
And here’s my little five pence worth on the matter:
Why pay for something you are getting for free?
Orlagh: “Looking at it from an influencer marketing point of view, I think I can see why LUSH have removed themselves from social media, especially Instagram. You, me and almost everyone else have more trust in their next door neighbour than they do with big brands themselves. When you have so many influencers, bloggers and beauty enthusiasts creating so much content without payment on these social channels, why would you want to employ and pay a team to do the exact same? And sometimes even produce content of less quality?
The Marketing landscape is changing and it has been for quite some time since the evolution of the social media influencer, but this move from LUSH may just be a ripple in the wave that is to come from other brands that spend so much on social media content. Yes, they may have had half a million followers on their Instagram account, but were those 500,000 odd accounts engaged? Clearly not.
And here riseth the micro-influencer
Before we wave LUSH goodbye from the face of planet social, they have said that they will be keeping all local stores’ Instagram accounts active. And here is where the penny dropped.
These local LUSH accounts are influencing a small community. An engaged small community. For example, LUSH have just opened up their largest store in the world (no, seriously) right here in Liverpool. If I wanted to see what was going on in the store, what events they had coming up, any deals on or new product launches – would I be better going to the main LUSH Instagram account or my local Liverpool LUSH account? Now you see.
More so, influencers and Instagrammers from the local Liverpool area will no doubt be tagging the store, posting pictures of it and posting about products they bought from it. They have more of a chance of being seen by this local account and re-posted or re-shared than they would have on the main LUSH account with over half a million followers. Plus, with a local blogger’s content being re-shared to LUSH’s followers based in Liverpool, the more likely those followers can relate and go on to follow the blogger that was re-posted or shared.
And this is why micro-influencers are the (bath)bomb.
Now I get it
When I first saw that LUSH were removing themselves from social media, I couldn’t get my head around it. Why would such a large beauty brand be dropping from social media when there are no signs that social media is going anywhere? A brand that rely heavily on imagery, boomerangs and videos from people dropping their bath-bombs in their bathtubs and pushing their message of being eco-friendly and sustainable – why would they shut down these channels of communication?
But do LUSH really need to be investing in this large account with little engagement? Can’t they just have their employees run individual social channels and interact with influencers and content creators from specific areas?
I think it’s a great move from LUSH, if this is why they intended to leave. They will receive so much more ROI (in my opinion) by focusing hard on micro-influencers and publishing content from the local public.
As for complaints and queries on the likes of Twitter, well it makes them less public if you have to take to an email or phonecall. So in turn, kind of does the brand image a favour. If you look at the likes of the Topshop Customer Service Twitter page or the easyJet feed, it’s just full of the same ‘I’m sorry this happened, can you DM me your order number/flight number please?’. And who really needs that to be made public when we’re only dealing with lotions and potions?
Jess spoke with Steve Prior, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, who can see both the good and bad side of LUSH logging out of social media.
“It’s difficult to know whether it’s a good or bad thing. But social media is just a media channel like many others. The brand can reach and talk directly to its consumers and prospects, it can create a dialogue and respond to consumer feedback (or handle customer service). But all of that comes at a cost. And someone has to balance that cost with sales/income. Does it pay to engage in a myriad of conversations? Or could the money be better spent elsewhere? ” Steve explains.
“We seem to have evolved to a default position where a brand HAS to be active on social media. But when resources are limited, brands need to analyse where they spend for the best return – be that reputation, brand awareness or directly in sales. My guess is Lush looked at the numbers and it doesn’t make sense to continue to spend in social against other alternatives.”
So now you’ve heard all of our opinions, what about yours? Let us know what you think of LUSH’s latest move in the comments below. Or chat to either of us on Twitter.