What does Lush closing their UK social accounts really mean?

This week Lush announced the dramatic, headline-grabbing news that they were closing their social media accounts.

How the digital marketing world was rocked, especially in the comments on the coverage across social media.

What does this mean for brand accounts? Is it the end of social for brands? Do Social Media Marketers need to start looking for new jobs?

Definitely not.

“We’re tired of fighting algorithms”

What Lush have hooked their reasoning on, is that as the algorithms have changed for all of the major Social Media channels to show you what is most likely to be relevant to you.

That means that basically, you will see posts from your friends and family, rather than what was posted in chronological order. For a brand, it’s harder and harder to get seen as is, unless you actively encourage your advocates to like, and more importantly comment on your posts. The “real human” interaction is what social media recognises, and therefore, shown to more people. So many brands miss the mark.

That real human interaction is hard - especially for big brands, who have plenty of cheerleaders (ie - I like what you’re doing even if I’m unlikely to purchase from you), or those who are more passive customers.

I think ultimately this recognition from Lush is a good thing. It’s hopefully the beginning of a shift away from brands viewing masses of followers as a sign of success.

So what next?

What their strategy has suggested - as picked up in Campaign mag is:

“In line with this change in our strategy, you’ll start to see the rise of Lush personalities online. This isn’t a replacement for the brand channels, but an opportunity for our customers to connect one on one with people within Lush based on the various categories.”

Social Chain’s Mike Blake-Crawford said Lush’s mention of a hashtag for conversations hinted at "more work with influencers", and "The challenge for me is how they adequately capitalise on this conversation without a centralised social media 'home' for their products and campaigns," he said (from the BBC coverage).

What this could also mean, and I suspect their strategy may be (and this is without any inside intelligence), is that they are moving to a ‘persona’ led strategy, blending Influencers and raising the profile of their individual team members to become the voice of the brand.

Many-to-many communities

A many-to-many approach, rather than a one-to-many via an umbrella brand.

There has been an emergence in popularity of brands pursuing “nano” Influencers - of which there are many definitions, but in essence, a small group of followers, rather than those with five figures or more.

What better way to identify your customer personas to target, by potentially identifying those people within your organisation that match those personas, and creating content in their voice?

Huge speculation of course, but it would be a smart approach to remove the onus on the social media management, in Lush’s original and most mature market.

Do I think this works for everyone - not strictly - especially for early stage startups that need to create buzz and a following to start with. The approach to consider the role, and voice of the brand across all available channels is smart. Especially in the context of your audience.

Linking back to my post on setting the purpose of your social channels, considering the voice and personality of these is super important.

What’s the downside?

The downside of this sort of approach and thinking? The risk being that your team members feel they have to adhere to brand guidelines at all times, rather than their natural, authentic voice on their personal channels... *HNRRRR….Social Media Jargon Klaxon!*

We all know that many heavily edit their lives for the purposes of social, should we further have to sift through digital to unpick what’s genuine opinion and what’s come from a brand? The move to the #ad tagging across Instagram goes some way, but if we continue to blur the boundaries, then making what is supposed to be a downtime activity additional work, then social media moves even further away from being social.

So, what does this mean?

Do I think this week’s news heralds the start of a mass exodus from Social by many brands? Not necessarily, but it is good to see brands thinking of how to innovate further. What I’d love to see is more innovation by way of creativity, brands taking more risks with their looks and messaging on social, as well as thinking holistically about the whole ecosystem of their customer messaging.

What I believe is important to remember for brands is the value lies in not relying too heavily on any one single channel. If your entire business is built on one channel and, as we know these channels don’t live on forever, this opens you up to risk.

Many comments on the Lush announcement from the industry have been around “But...all those followers, lost!”, and while suddenly switching off your connection with those who have ‘opted in’ to hear from you is bold, a quick view of their engagement - of 570,878 followers, their engagement rate is 1.32%.

I’ll be watching to see how this plays out for them in the coming weeks and months.

The cynic in me is also semi-suspicious of this being a PR stunt… we’re all talking about it aren’t we?