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Lush Exit: Can Brands Survive Without Social Media?

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Lush, the well-known cosmetics brand, has announced its departure from social media platforms Instagram and Facebook as they insist Meta takes steps to create a safer and healthier environment for its users.

Lush is renowned for their activism, with a mission statement that commits to protecting the environment and people’s wellbeing. So, this might not be a particularly surprising move from the company, especially as they cite Meta’s apparent disregard for users’ mental health as the motivation for closing their Instagram and Facebook accounts.

This social media boycott from Lush has noble intentions but it does not come without repercussions for the company. They have already acknowledged that they expect to lose close to £10 million in sales and it will have an expensive impact on their alternative marketing strategy, as they will no longer have the direct line of communication social media provides.

Perhaps we should question the sincerity of Lush’s protest. After all, the brand seemingly left social media back in 2019 due to the changing algorithms and the emphasis of paid marketing to “boost” posts. However, they seemed to return to the sites when the pandemic cut companies off from their customers and social media became one of the few lines of communication left for brands to market and sell directly. While the message Lush sends out now is campaigning for better practises and even legislation to protect social media users, many people might view this move from Lush as “performative activism” and “virtue signalling” to other brands and smaller companies cannot afford to abandon social media channels. Lush’s success and profitability gives the company freedom to be able to make these choices but if they are hoping other businesses will join their cause and boycott Meta’s platforms until sincere changes are made, they could be facing a lonely battle.

Businesses and brands that do generate sales via social media often have a larger number of new customers and better customer conversion rate than those who do not use social platforms for marketing or sales. SMEs often don’t have a choice whether they do use sites like Instagram and Facebook because of their affordability and the limited budgets small businesses have for marketing. With the global number of social media users setting at 3.3 billion, social media marketing is one of the most effective and most economical way for SMEs and brands to reach their target audience.

Lush’s campaign for better regulations and a restructure of addictive and sometimes destructive algorithms is certainly raising awareness but, their boycott seems unlikely to affect meaningful change unless other large brands who can afford to take the financial hit follow in their footsteps and join their cause.

Can brands survive without social media? Larger companies may have the budgets to invest in alternative forms of marketing and be able to survive the inevitable loss of revenue. However, SMEs and freelancers will not have the same financial flexibility and often to rely significantly on their social media accounts to communicate directly with customers. Other forms of marketing; TV, radio, newsletter, email marketing, etc. cost much more and take much more time for brands to create and so, they will struggle to achieve the same results without social media.

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