What Lush did next... on social media

James Whatley is strategy partner at Digitas UK where he works at the nexus of brand, content, and customer experience. You can find him on Twitter @Whatleydude.

It’s been a little over a week since everyone was yelling about Lush switching ‘off’ social. The sky is falling! Lush is abandoning social media! Social media for brands is over! Anti-social brands are the future!

To be clear, in its own words, Lush never once said it was completely shutting down its social channels. Specifically, it said it was switching 'UP' social. Changing tack. Shifting strat. From an organic approach (one that doesn't put media money in the pockets of the large and in one particular case, entirely-and-consistently-proven-to-be unethical, social media platforms) to a community-driven approach.

Less about brands more about people.

From a brand handle, @LushLtd, to a hashtag #LushCommunity.

In a follow-up post on Monday (15 April) Lush revealed that only 6% of its fans and followers were serviced with its content in their newsfeed. An unsurprising statistic that speaks to why so many brands lean into the media part of social more than ever before.

But not for Lush. It has made a big song and dance (more on that later), about how it is leaving some of its social media presences. Instead offering the above hashtag for others to gather around online (read: Twitter + Instagram; Facebook isn’t exactly hashtag central).

At first glance, you might think 'Oh, this must be an influencer play'. But that would be wrong. Lush famously has a policy about never doing any paid-for advertising. This includes paid social and I would argue, paying for influencer content – so that's completely off the table.

Which means we are left with what can only be described as decentralisation of the responsibility of social to its people and staff.

Swapping a Twitter handle for a hashtag is like locking the door to your own house party – and you’re the wrong side of the door. Simply put: you can’t participate in the conversation if you are not there. Lush has to show up somehow.

Therefore, it should come of no surprise AT ALL that Lush has no intention of ‘abandoning its social media’.

In Lush’s own words:

“We will be continuing conversations… via staff, friends and our shop social media accounts across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.”

Right. So same strat, different sign-posts. Got it.

What can we learn?

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Is this the death knell for paid-for social media advertising? Absolutely not. One look at Facebook's quarterly earnings report should tell you the answer to that.

Is it another chapter in the book of how to court controversy and maximise PR value from slight policy changes from Lush? Absolutely yes.

And here we are back at the song and dance – first with Lush and second with all those who rushed to comment on it after. This is no accident.

Lush marches to the beat of its own drum. Not its competitors, not the LinkedIn love-in orators of best-practice, and most certainly not the algorithmic content serving platforms that everyone else pays to play on.

And that is something perhaps we can all learn from.

James Whatley is strategy partner at Digitas UK

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