ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN: British beauty brand Lush Cosmetics is taking a stand (once again) against social media, this time in the wake of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony that the site harms children and foments political violence and online hate.
Lush said it is disappointed that Facebook’s owner, which changed its name to Meta last month, “knows the very real harms being caused on their platform, but are choosing not to act.” So the beauty brand has decided to pull the plug on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat as of Friday, during a key week for holiday sales in the U.S. and the U.K.
The company said it will be “turning its back on those platforms” until they take action to provide a safer environment for users. Facebook and Instagram are owned by Meta, while TikTok’s parent is ByteDance. Snapchat’s owners are cofounders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.
Lush said its resolve has been strengthened by the latest information from “courageous whistleblowers, which clearly lays out the known harms that young people are exposed to because of the current algorithms and loose regulation of this new area of our lives.”
The latest policy is rolling out across the 48 countries where Lush operates.
“We at Lush don’t want to wait for better worldwide regulations, or for the platforms to introduce best practice guidelines, while a generation of young people is growing up experiencing serious and lasting harm. Now is the right time to find better ways to connect without putting our customers in harm’s way,” the company said.
“It is not enough for companies to just stop placing paid advertising; people and their time are the currency of these channels, and we do not want our content to be used by hidden algorithms designed to hold people captive on a channel,” Lush added.
A Lush spokesperson said, going forward, the company — known for its bath bombs, fragrant soaps and freshly made products — would be relying on its own channels, including its e-commerce site, corporate site, apps and retail network, to communicate with its audience.
It will also be working with platforms that “we feel are taking wellbeing more seriously, like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest — not platforms that are using algorithms from gambling sites to keep you scrolling longer.”
Lush has more than 1 million followers combined on the platforms it plans to quit.
During an earnings call last month, Meta’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg addressed the whistleblower’s allegations. He pointed to Meta’s investments on safety and security, which are on track for more than $5 billion in 2022. He also discussed the formation of an oversight board and research efforts, and framed the company as constantly working on transparency.
Lush made a similar move in 2019, and stopped posting on Instagram and Facebook due to “increasing concerns over how much control” the big platforms had “over how many people.”
At the time, Lush alleged that interaction on Facebook and Instagram was “controlled for no other reason than to extract profit for themselves,” while the idea that “a main route of communication with our customers could be regulated by a third party was worrying.”
Lush reinstated those social media feeds during lockdown in a bid to stay in touch with customers. But it was not worth the effort, Lush said earlier this week, and the company feels that its teenage customers, in particular, suffered during the pandemic.
The company pointed to research showing that teens who were trying to detox from their tech during the pandemic “highlighted just how hard it was. Anxiety, FOMO and phantom alerts all contributed toward many not being able to stay offline for more than a few hours.”
Other brands could soon follow Lush — but for other reasons. New research shows that platforms such as Facebook aren’t as powerful as they used to be for the brands.
According to Twilio, a cloud communications platform based in San Francisco, social media interactions between brands and their customers are on the wane.
Twilio, which provides the tech to help businesses communicate with their customers, said it looked at social media “conversations” between 100 of the U.K.’s top brands and their customers between July 2020 and July 2021. It found that retail brands saw a 46 percent reduction in conversation volume during the period, while fashion and clothing witnessed a 36 percent decline. Twilio said the trend was similar for other sectors, too. Financial services saw a 62 percent reduction in Twitter conversations during the same period.
In a separate business survey conducted last year, Twilio found that U.K. businesses planned to add an average of 3.5 new communication channels to their customer engagement strategy. Twilio speculated that those new channels may be contributing “to a continued decline” of brand-customer interactions on social media.
David Parry-Jones, senior vice president, EMEA at Twilio, said with “an ever-increasing number of digital touch points, businesses are presented with a goldmine of customer insights. Ultimately, those who win when it comes to customer engagement will be those who leverage this first-party data to create truly personalized experiences that reflect customers’ needs.”
Going forward, Lush said it will not be completely anti-social, “and we will do all we can to find new ways to connect, to build better channels of communication elsewhere, as well as using the older tried and tested routes.”
Lush isn’t the only brand to step off selected platforms: Earlier this year, Bottega Veneta deactivated its social media accounts, preferring to promote its wares via fan sites and influencers instead. But now that Daniel Leeis gone, and Matthieu Blazy has taken up the top creative role, it’s unclear whether that policy will stick.