Another week goes by, and another big company ditches their entire social media strategy. Yip, I’m talking about Lush. And screed and screeds of commentary has been written about whether they are right or wrong to do this, and what the consequences might be. The digital marketing world is alarmed! How can Lush possibly communicate with their customers after doing this? What could they possibly have been thinking?
I’ll tell you what, they’re thinking about return on investment, that’s what.
Social community management is not cheap. It doesn’t just take five minutes to “put up a post”. Well, it does if you don’t really care much about your brand. But for the most part, companies treat social media channels, quite rightly, like an advertising medium for their brand. The photographs are often professionally taken (a great deal of the time), the copy in the posts carefully crafted and the timing of execution carefully planned. This takes both time and skill, and that costs money.
Increasingly, however, marketers are scrutinising the costs of managing these communities and the beauty of digital media is that you can pretty much track the impact of the channel right back to source. Or not, as the case may be.
So when I recently conducted a review of a client’s social media activity from an ROI perspective, it took me less than a ten minute conversation to convince them to close down their Twitter account once and for all, free up the investment we’d been putting into it and redirect it elsewhere to something that would actually generate them a return. It was quite a momentous occasion deleting the account. But, with the use of solid analytics, and seven years of experience of working that channel, no-one can say we didn’t give it a proper chance. It just wasn’t the channel for them. Their customers weren’t there. So, while it might be compelling to do what all their competitors were doing and “have a presence”, we took the view that It was wasting time and money trying to make it be something it couldn’t be.
And I suspect this is where Lush arrived at in their reasoning to back out of social all together. So while Oliver Tunmore in his piece in Influence magazine this week wondered, quizzically “When asked how the world will receive product information or access customer service, the replies simply state “through our website and newsletter, along with the #LushCommunity hashtag” seeming somewhat blasé in its response.”
Blasé, perhaps. But realistically, why not? Why not simplify the channel experience for customers and for the business? Cut off the fat. But, sure, let people talk about you. Which is entirely what Lush intends to do. Word of mouth is such a valuable marketing tool. All Lush is saying is that it will no longer be starting those conversations, their customers will. They are going to let #LushCommunity do all the talking instead. Much cheaper. Much better ROI.
So back to the question in hand, is it OK to ditch social media as a market engagement tool? You bet your boots it is. All marketing should deliver a return on investment, if it doesn’t it should be re-prioritised accordingly.
Which then leads me to my next bug-bear: the new generation of marketers seems to think that digital is it. They seem to have completely forgotten about the effectiveness of so-called “traditional’ channels – and there are a great many of them too. Digital isn’t the be-all and end-all. Look around, there’s media everywhere. We consume it hundreds of times a day, every day. And some of it is damned effective. Radio, television, print (don’t knock it, it still works), outdoor. Tried and tested methods of moving people along the spectrum of decision making towards purchase.
Taking your brand off social is, therefore, not the end of the world, it’s just a shift in marketing strategy. And a logical one at that if the channel is not driving any sales.