Last week UK company Lush (yes, the bath bomb brand that I cannot walk past without having either my daughter or my wife — or both — beg to go in!) told the world that they would soon be “switching up social.” And switching things up, they have done!
In a statement across channels — LOL, yes, social media channels — Lush took what I see as the first step of brands bidding adieu to paying bajillions of dollars for little community or brand return. Their move will be one which other brands are bound to follow. Increasingly, businesses are paying to fight algorithms for space and attention.
By saying what many of us are already thinking (that social media is actually making it harder for all of us to connect to each other directly), Lush peeled back a layer of the banality that social media marketing has become.
Increasingly the lazier marketers amongst us have stopped asking questions and simply open our wallets and budget lines to the main platforms. Believing in “success metrics” that have been proven to be fudged time and time again, we blindly trust in platforms that commoditise human attention, but that pay no attention to humanity itself.
A thoughtless like, comment, or share does not a successful campaign make. Strategy is not found in spots and dots on a media recommendation, it is carefully crafted around human insight and strong stories that matter. We seem to have been blinded (sometimes blindsided perhaps?) by the shiny metrics of reach and engagement
Across the inter-webs, Lush has riled up a lot of anger and angst amongst so-called social media gurus. They're seeing red, team. My recommendation: Namaste, my friends. Namaste. Let's all take a deep breath and then rock into how we move forward in ways that better society and drive the purpose of our organisations. In the wake of the disgusting cowardly attack on Christchurch where the murders of 50 people were live-streamed on Facebook, brands need to do better for and by their customers.
Those who have taken to being 100 percent okay with wading knee-deep in sponsored posts, collection ads, mid-roll interruptions, and beyond must now start rethinking why, how, where, and what they will spend their money on when it comes to serving their customer bases. Should we still invest in social media marketing? Yeah, I think we should. To an extent.
As someone who's worked in social media since working in social media was a thing, I get it. I see, feel, and have experienced the beauty of social in changing the lives of customers for the better and in opening up conversations where before there was only one point of view being shared. However, I see Lush’s side of things, because I remember those good ol' days of social media where the social aspect was what made all of the connectedness between consumers and brands beautiful.
Now though, it is time for all of us to start critiquing the nature and quality of what we’re served (and what we’re serving) on social.
From the moment brands started trying to outbid each other for a share of our wallet and attention spans, we’ve become data points, our humanity seemingly forgotten. Digital pollution is real. We’ve a glut of soulless content being thrown into our lives, and trends seem to be that we’re disconnecting more while opting for online experiences that are individually tailored to our own needs and wants. We’re also facing bigger issues than a company that sells yummy-smell-good-products going off of Instagram and Facebook.
We’ve yet to tackle ethical marketing on these platforms. We’ve yet to consider how much data and information we’re giving up as businesses to platforms that aren’t truly concerned with our purposes. We’ve yet to flex our collective muscles in demanding the major social media players put money into protecting the humans they so desperately need to keep on site. The good news is that governments are getting involved now. Rules will be in place mandating safety and the distribution of factual information over the misleading.
Don’t get me wrong here, I always have been quite the fangirl for social media. I love the democratisation of connectedness and of creating content that can be shared far and wide (or not at all). Social is a great tool for driving business and conversations when used with good intentions. But we’re living now in a time where bad actors and brands with budgets begging to be spent in our timelines need to be reigned in. Lush’s move to lessen time and resource on social media is only the beginning.
As I see it, until the main channels put money and effort into creating truly safe spaces and until we as global citizens can value metrics beyond a shallow like or share as measures of success, then we can change the game by not playing it. If everyone is just going to accept the status quo, then nothing will change. And change is what is needed.
From a brand perspective, Lush still has people ready to talk and interact — just in a one-to-one way that doesn’t originate from a social media channel. Email, DM, live chat, and (shock/horror) phone calls still remain.
Businesses spend the dollars that the social platforms are after. By rights, it is brands that stand in a prized position — businesses can change the world for the better. First though, we need to start looking beyond ROI and bottom line as measures of success. As we move forward into a time where generations growing up now will never know a world without connected technology, it is on us right here and right now to look beyond the sweet fix of shiny reach numbers and dive deeper. It is on us to do better.
While it might not make sense for all brands to quit social media, Lush as a brand seem to be putting their money where their heart is. And, if that's the case, I'm all for it.
- Cassie Roma is head of content marketing at The Warehouse Group