The timeline of events for brands on social media looks roughly like this:
Early stage social media times: Social media is just for individuals… instagram doesn’t even exist yet… why would Oreos need a facebook page?
The middle-ages: Being a brand on social media makes so much sense because it’s great marketing and our customers can contact us really easily
Present day: Social media is evil and I don’t want to associate with that crap, thank you
Just the other week Lush announced that they are coming off social media. This cool, slick idea has made me realise how potentially pointless it is for brands to even be on social media anymore. Putting your brand on social media was once progressive and different. Now it’s the new normal. That means, the ‘new progressive’ is coming off social media. Let’s unpack…
Brands adopted social media because it made sense. They wanted to blend in with their consumers and appear friendly and relatively non-evil. Social media was perfect for this. They could post selfies and videos and promotions and none of those things would even look like adverts.
But then, a decade swept by faster than you can Google ‘what the fuck is GDPR’ and tech companies (✅) grew into scary tech giants (❌). Entities such as Facebook had spunked out an unholy throng of gross ideas and mistakes, and suddenly looked very, very evil.
Brands - especially ones like Lush who actually pride themselves on somehow not being evil - now may not want to associate themselves with a company like Facebook, or social media as a whole. Surely you can do marketing and advertising without social media? People used to do it all the time, look:
The fuck… that’s not a LEMON it’s a CAR. How did anyone sell anything in the 60s?
The answer is: I have no idea. But the important part is: people still managed to sell their products, even without instagram. How? Magic? Was it LSD? Because LSD was big in the 60s? People only bought things because they were on a constant trip?
No, look, if social media already never existed, it’s pretty easy to market yourself without it (stay with me). But if it already exists and everyone is using it except you… what then? Could be hard to compete. In the same way individuals might feel a bit stuck on Facebook because it’s the only way they get invited to birthday parties, a brand might also feel that social media is their most reliable stream of marketing.
This ultimately boils down to the problem of centralisation on the internet - we don’t use Facebook to invite people to events, we begrudgingly rely on it. Brands and other entities probably feel the same way about marketing.
I mean, some of them are really great at it - just look at how Wendy’s use twitter. I actually follow them just because I think the account is hilarious. Will this make me go to Wendy’s? No sorry I live in London therefore always five minutes from a Five Guys or Honest Burger, and at least fifteen miles from any Wendy’s. But, do I sort of think that Wendy’s are a bit cool now? Yes, yes I do.
So, going back to Lush: what is it that people like about them? They’re as ‘ethical’ as they can be with how they source their ingredients and make their products (a vegan’s wet dream, you might say). They’re products smell nice and work well. The staff are friendly. They have a great social media pres- oh wait.
If you look at some boring statistics, you will see that most of the people buying Lush products are adults under the age of 34 which is the same age as most of the people who use instagram. But, this is besides the point. Lush would not be taking themselves off social media if they couldn’t afford to.
In fact, leaving social media is the best piece of social media marketing Lush have ever done. Just think about it: what is the best and coolest way to convince everyone that you truly detest the idea of being an evil sort of company? Use social media (evil) to announce that you are leaving social media.
Lush obviously know exactly what they’re doing, and it will be interesting to see who does this next…