In a surprising move, Lush Cosmetics announced in late November 2021 that it would deactivate its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat accounts “until these platforms can provide a safer environment for its users.” While it’s hanging on to Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, Lush assured its community that it would find better ways to communicate with them.
In an interview with Fortune, Lush Chief Digital Officer Jack Constantine explained the company’s decision, citing that certain social media platforms can be opaque about their inner workings. “In the last two years, we’ve really struggled to be able to see what social media promised us in the beginning,” he said. “I think there needs to be a big shift in transparency around the algorithms and the data that is being managed by these companies.”
Lush isn’t the first company to take this step; popular United Kingdom pub chain Wetherspoon made the same decision in 2018 and hasn’t gone back. However, there are some interesting takeaways to glean from the company’s specific approach.
Lesson #1: Social media platforms aren’t invested in protecting your community
One of the reasons Lush made this move comes down to the poor community guidelines enforced by certain social media platforms. When an investigative series in The Wall Street Journal revealed that toxic communities on Facebook and Instagram have detrimental effects on the mental health of teen users, Lush felt compelled to act because its user base tends to skew younger.
But whatever age demographic your audience falls under, a badly moderated community experience doesn’t just pollute your social media page; it ultimately reflects poorly on your brand because your customers still expect you to be in control of your social presence — even if social media platforms make it difficult.
A 2019 study by PR firm Weber Shandwick also found that almost 50% of those who experienced online incivility prefer to remove themselves from the situation altogether. This suggests not only that bad moderation could lead to losing followers, but also that social media does not react in time to keep those followers from leaving.
Conversely, when you transfer your community to your own platform, you’re able to moderate them according to the behaviours and values you endorse. You can select comments that get published and those that get filtered out, or use AI moderation to do it for you. The end result is an audience that feels much safer on your platform and may not need to return to social media to interact with your brand.
Lesson #2: You have the power to reclaim your audience
On the one hand, it seems bold — if risky — to completely abandon such huge platforms like Facebook and TikTok. On the other hand, what have they done for us lately?
Here’s the thing about social media followers: There may be a lot of them, but it’s difficult to tell which ones are actually loyal to your brand. Some react to or comment on your posts without ever visiting your platform or even clicking through on a link. Some aren’t your followers at all; they just landed on your post because of a nebulous algorithm. Ultimately, what you don’t know about your social media following is a lot.
If you ever make the leap away from social media and toward your own platform, those who follow you will be the ones most likely to sign up to your newsletter or register on your Web site. And from here, you get to regulate the message and the value exchange with your audience. You may even see an uptick in dwell time, because our own research shows registered users who read and post comments can spend 168 times more time reading and interacting with your site than anonymous visitors.
Lesson #3: The audience data you can capture on your own platform is richer
When Lush made its official announcement, it encouraged people to sign up to its newsletter, which is already well-known among subscribers. Visitors to its online retail Web site are also encouraged to register.
Lush has run online newsletter strategies for more than a decade, so it had a head start in building its relationships and learning from its growing user database.
Keeping its data acquisition strategy in-house means Lush is not relying on social media’s narrow insights, which tend to be limited to follower demographics and post-performance metrics.
To create a user-informed experience for your audience, you also need to understand their interests as they relate to your content, their behaviour around your content, and even how they behave with one another. The best place to capture that kind of precise data is on your own site with settings and a social dynamic you control.
Read the room
It’s worthwhile imagining what it would be like to build and nurture a community in the absence of social media because their platforms will never have the same interests as your company. Here’s a question: What would interactions with your audience look like if you got to set the temperature?