Lush is ‘switching up’ (read: switching off) social media.
UK corporate social media accounts are closing next week, in favour of a hashtag community (#lushcommunity), as well as individual store and influencer accounts. Customers are being redirected to phone, chat or email for support queries.
I think what Lush should have done is built up its influencer and store presence more solidly over the next six months, as well as the #lushcommunity, before making any big decisions about its corporate accounts.
And although the official statement says otherwise, I suspect this is cost-cutting as part of the recent poor financial performance across the business.
Here’s four times I think Lush will soon regret its decision:
1.When the hashtag gets hijacked
Lush says it’s moving away from a brand handle to a hashtag instead #lushcommunity. This feels like a risky move that will leave it wide open to trolls, spam and competitor campaigns. Will cut-through of content and meaningful conversation be any better on a hashtag than through a handle?
2.When a crisis hits
In a crisis, customers need to hear from an official source. Social media is the fastest way to own and lead the conversation if a crisis hits an organisation. Without an official voice Lush will either need to rely on its new network of influencers (decentralised, lower credibility, slower to respond), individual store accounts (decentralised and inconsistent) or it simply won’t take part in the conversation on social at all.
3.When customer support gets messy
Customer enquiries aren’t going away. Without a corporate account customers will be @’ing the influencers, the individual stores or the North America handle (@lushcosmetics which will not be closing).
At best, customers will experience a delay in support as Lush awkwardly figures out internal processes to hand enquiries country to country and from individual store to head office. At worst, UK customers will simply get ignored.
There’s also rising support costs and governance to take into account – training for individual stores and influencers managing accounts which now have to deal with customer support enquiries.
4.When it wants to take a meaningful stance on the environment
Lush’s CEO recently indicated that it will begin to take a more active role in protecting the environment saying “We are not the number one cosmetics company, but for the sake of the environment, we really need to be.”
So much of this important conversation happens on social media that I can’t see how Lush will be able to participate in a truly impactful, credible way without an official corporate voice.
Add to this the Edelman Trust Barometer 2019 results this year which showed fifty-eight percent of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.
That shows how things are changing – employees want to hear their employer taking a stance on issues. If Lush thinks it can rely on influencers or individual stores to carry this message I suspect it’ll soon figure out that’s not going to work.