Is There Life For Lush After Social?

Someone has called it. All brands have been struggling with lower organic reach of their social media accounts, but cosmetics retailer Lush has taken those concerns to what, for some, will be a logical conclusion.

It surprised many in digital marketing yesterday by announcing this week will be the final time it will respond to customers over social channels as it closes down its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

To be fair to the brand, and its sub brands that hold social accounts, the message was very clear. It was a direct swipe at the way social media has been working for a few years now. The brand was, it said, "tired of fighting algorithms" to appear in front of its followers and it didn't want to get around this by paying to promote its messages to ensure they appear in feeds. 

Very few have been brave enough to take this decision. I think Wetherspoons is the brand that most in adland will probably think of for shutting down social channels and its email database so customers could have a direct conversation with the brand through its app. 

This appears to be the approach taken at Lush. The brand is saying it wants to move the conversation so it's more direct, presumably on its website and through its app. The official line is certainly that the people who were answering queries on social will now be ready and waiting to have a chat.

Part of the official announcement, which wasn't picked up on so much by the media, was that customers were being invited to email in queries, to a supplied address, as well as clicking to have a live chat or call the customer service line.

I think this is the second half of the two-edged sword that would have been behind the decision. Brands have made a noose for their own neck with social. People know their issues will be dealt with speedily if they complain on social and that can make a brand look like all it's ever doing is fighting fires.

The end result is a series of platforms that are expensive to staff, whose reach is diminishing for those who don't want to pay for posts to be promoted -- and which inadvertently ends up as a means for brands to wash their dirty customer services laundry in public. 

So, the million-dollar question is whether this will impact Lush. I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest not.

What could happen is that a social community prospers on its own site. At the moment is has an expandable frame to the top left of its home page, which features recent posts and comments. These can, of course, be initiated now through the site directly. 

Some have suggested that Lush could still keep its social channels open but quiet, or pay influencers to gain social reach. I'm not so sure. I suspect the brand really does mean it when it says it wants a direct conversation with consumers that doesn't involve a tech giant's algorithm or its advertising team.

All eyes will now be on Lush to see whether kicking the social habit without losing sales is possible. I suspect it is for those brands that are big enough to no longer need 'social proof' and can build their own community where reach, for those who visit a site or open up an app, is guaranteed.

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