The news of the week in Digital Marketing is that Lush is closing its social media accounts in the UK. At first, I thought this was an April Fools news, but hey, we passed that from a while.
The news was a bit of a shock among Lush’s clients, but also between the digital marketing community. It made it the front pages of many national and international newspapers, like BBC.
This is what Lush wrote across its channels on the 8th of April:
«Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead».
Why would a “social brand” like Lush take such a decision?
It looks like that Lush is blaming “algorithms” for this choice. They are struggling to appear on people’s social feeds without paying.
But is this true? And if it is, what are the reasons?
Premise: most of this data is based on tools that use machine learning and AI technology analysing the accounts without direct access. Report results rely on statistics, might be used only for reference. I don’t claim that the reports result are absolutely accurate.
As a Digital Marketer and owner of a Digital Marketing agency, I struggled to understand the decision. It’s even more difficult to understand it when I read their statements. So I took some time to analyse their accounts to see if I could find anything that could give me some answers.
I will have many clients, prospects and friends asking me why a leading company would quit Social Media.
How the hell am I going to explain this?
The Lush UK account ranks 2912 in the UK, with 569.7K followers. In the last 4 weeks, they gained more than 20K followers, so the growth rate seems healthy. Analysing the category rank, Beauty and Fashion, Lush places 1026 in the UK. Not too bad, considering the top 100 is formed of huge influencers.
But what gets my attention, is the ER (Engagement Rate), only 0.89%, low, compared to the average in this category, that is 1.4%. In RichClicks we have a special benchmark to evaluate ER according to the number of followers, country and category. We expect Lush UK to be well over 1.4%.
The average likes are 5K per post, average comments 161. These numbers are decent but could be improved. Their advertisement posts average ER is 1.22%, which is much higher than the organic, but still very low to be promoted posts. Please note that by advertisement posts I mean brand mentions post, and this might be not paid. Unfortunately with an external tool is not possible to know what is promoted or not, on Instagram.
Lush has a content quality score of 69/100. This is a score that I got from our tools which combines audience quality (not quantity), engagement rate and it’s authenticity into one metric. It’s not that bad, but I would expect a higher score.
So yes, Lush UK is somehow struggling to obtain a decent engagement rate, despite the number of followers. But they aren’t doing terribly. Nothing that can’t be fixed.
I went into depth to analyse a bit more the audience and then the content, to see if I could spot anything evident.
In terms of demographics, 77% are female, 23% male, but what is a bit surprising is that only 33% are actually from the UK. That could look a bit strange, being this the UK account, but it’s fair enough to say that Lush is an International brand and it’s easy to follow the UK Instagram, instead of a local one, as it’s the most popular.
English is the main language for 80% of the followers. The most important age group is 18-24 on their Instagram account. Does that reflect their average buyer personas? I’m not too sure, I would bet it’s a bit older.
Lush has healthy likes spread, good comment authenticity and a good like-comment ratio, so those indicators are all spot-on.
So, where is the real problem? I didn’t find any suspicious activity and the only real evident problem is related to the engagement rates. In other words, content and possibly target audience. Basically Lush is losing – or we might say is not winning – the Social Media game, at least on Instagram, probably for a weak content strategy.
But is this really it?
I continued my research analysing Facebook, and that is where the real problems are. Let me explain.
Their Facebook channel is similar in terms of engagement values and number of followers. Over 400K followers, an engagement rate that could be improved but not terrible, and no direct active Advertising campaigns (unlike Instagram, Facebook gives you the ability to see if a company has active ads, and which ones).
What caught my attention, is the number of negative reviews and the overall average being 2.5 out of 5 based on the opinion of almost 35K people.
Quite a terrible score for a company that used to be loved by everyone.
I went through some of the negative reviews to understand more. Some negative comments are related to their products (not everyone can love Lush, and this is normal), but many are related to the “Spy Cops” campaign that brought Lush into the spotlight back in 2018.
In other words, Lush is under attack by some of their former brand lovers and not, criticising a 2018 campaign called, in fact, Spy Cops. Many on social media have accused the company of attacking the police and have called the campaign “disgusting”. Since then, the problems started on Social Media.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been used to criticise and attack the company.
In Social Media marketing, this is called “flaming” and it definitely went out of control.
Staff have been intimidated online and offline, tweets against them were thousands, damaging the reputation of the brand. Since this happened, back in June 2018, the company struggled to get the numbers right, and the rates dramatically dropped, until yesterday’s news.
Some Final Thoughts (Nay, Questions)
I don’t have access to a lot of information, and I don’t want to jump to speculative conclusions, but a few questions still buzz in my head:
- Lush UK has more than half a million followers on Instagram, almost half a million on Facebook, 202K on Twitter. It’s a total fanbase of over 1M. Why would a company give it up?
- Is Lush UK closing social media because “it’s harder to talk to customers” as they stated, or because it’s hard to get the ratings up and to stop haters to flood their social accounts?
- Lush is closing their Social Media only in the UK, not in the US or other countries. How come this is not an international decision? Aren’t algorithms the same everywhere in the world for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Maybe Lush can give us some answers and help us understand. Can they?
And if you are reading this, you might have your own opinion about this?
Let us know.