For anyone who’s devoted time and effort to building up their social media presence, the idea of voluntarily abandoning 200,000+ followers on Twitter and almost 570,000 on Instagram, as well as over 420,000 Facebook likes, must seem crazy. But that’s exactly what LUSH did in April 2019.
The self-styled inventor of the bath bomb told its predominantly young, ethically-minded and environmentally-conscious customer base that it was ‘tired of fighting with algorithms’ and did not want to ‘pay to appear’ in newsfeeds.
“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,” it declared in a statement (posted on Twitter – go figure).
The marketing world was stunned. The need to be visible on social media platforms has become an article of faith: to deliberately disconnect felt like a kind of heresy. But when a company turning over almost a billion pounds a year believes it can survive without social, it’s got to be worth asking ourselves a few searching questions, too.
If your customer base is mainly local, is a global online presence of any real value? Have you got something genuinely important, interesting and informative to say to people, or are you just trying to fill space? Is someone who Likes you from Australia ever likely to become a customer? If only one of your 10,000 followers ever buys something from you, what do the other 9,999 add to your business? And if all 10,000 suddenly DID place orders or get in touch, could you actually cope?
These days, we’re routinely approached by companies worried about their social media presence (or, usually, their lack of one). Our message is always the same. Social media is a marketing channel, that’s all; and like all marketing activity, there has to be proper thinking, analysis, strategy and purpose behind it. If it’s not appropriate or cost-effective for your business to invest time and resources in it, there’s no law that says you have to. For some businesses, it’s absolutely the right thing: for others, standing on a box on a street corner and yelling into a megaphone would probably be just as effective.
For LUSH, the calculation was that social media was hindering effective engagement with its customers, rather than helping. Instead, it’s pouring its energies and efforts into its (brilliantly designed) website, where branded photos and engaging, relevant copy that its customers actually want view and read provide the hook.
Whether it made the right choice, only time will tell; but it was certainly a bold and thought-provoking one. Which poses another:#WhatAboutYou?