COSMETICS brand Lush’s surprise decision to abandon the world of social media has split opinion among marketing experts.

As reported earlier this week, the Poole-based brand is closing down its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts after stating it was “tired of fighting with algorithms” and did not want to pay to appear in news feeds.

The company, which has over a million combined followers across its social media accounts, said it would instead “open up a conversation” with its customers via its own channels, such as live chat.

Clare Groombridge, founder of Bournemouth-based agency South Coast Social, said Lush’s strategy was “more of a PR stunt than a brave move” and “may not pay off” in the long-term.

“By effectively abandoning the audiences they’ve built up over time, their brand advocates are likely to feel quite disillusioned – they’re saying they are all about community, then abandoning the community they already have online, who are most likely to be their most loyal fans. Social is exactly that - social,” she said.

“While Lush are completely correct in their rationale that social media algorithms are constantly evolving, smart brands are evolving with them and creating new ways of reaching their audience rather than moving offline altogether, and requesting consumers call them up or send an email instead,” she added.

Mark Masters, managing director of Poole-based content marketing agency ID Group, said: “On a customer service level, it does look odd to shut the door within a platform many have become comfortable with (Twitter). This is all about living where other people are. On the other side, if they want to curate their own party and believe that they have enough people who will stand by them, rather than looking for friends over the world, then that will be interesting to see how this moves.”

“Can Lush address people in a direct way? Is there a dialogue that will now move up a gear to those who are ‘in’? Will their narrative now become tuned in to what their audience wants, rather than looking for popularity and reach? Will Lush raise it’ bar to get people to subscribe to them, rather than relying on social channels? Whatever way you look at it, Lush don’t dip their toe into the bath.”

Ryan Haynes, director at Haynes MarComs, said: “Social media is becoming excruciatingly expensive for brands to engage with their audience, delivering poor return on investment compared to many other marketing channels, especially as it is a non-transactional platform.

“For Lush, it’s built a recognised global brand and it won’t take much for customers to find them through search and avoid the social media venting. Lush has the power to create a community of its own and build its own approach, like it does with customers in its stores.

“What also has to be recognised is that social media isn’t all what people make out it is, businesses have to ensure social is working towards revenue generation - not eating away at it, yes engagement is cool – but if we had the money wouldn’t we all want to just chill, chat and drink coffee all the time? Businesses absolutely must focus on commercial benefits first rather than purely having a cool social media image.”

Alex Dobbins, social media director for Social Sales Group, said: “With Facebook’s organic reach only hitting roughly two per cent of its audience when you post, its not a surprise that people get annoyed by this; however, with people less likely to watch TV adverts and read magazines than ever, and more likely to be on their phones, it is odd how you wouldn’t want to put your brand/ business in front of everyone 24/7 – sounds more like a PR stunt than a smart business decision.”

Leila Willingham, development executive at Liz Lean PR and founder of Digipigz, said: “Talking to our GenZ and Millennial community, our Digipigz expressed interesting views on this social move. The overriding feeling was that Lush might not see a shift in sales or customer loyalty, due to the masses of user generated content created on their behalf and, ultimately, because the loyalty they have created is through their ethical and moral standpoint. This is routed within the business itself and will be unaffected by turning off their social channels.

“However, there was a lot of talk around what Lush will do to replace social. It was apparent that still giving customers a way to interact with the brand, and for Lush to still be vocal offline, was important. It seems creative out of home marketing captures the attention of GenZ consumers far more than social media does.”