Big brands are leaving social media. 

Earlier this year, Bottega Veneta announced that it would no longer be posting to Instagram and Facebook, followed by beauty brand, Lush who recently dropped their Zuckerberg-owned channels in 48 countries. Is this the start of a major trend, and will your brand be the next to follow?

It all started when luxury darling Bottega Veneta, helmed by creative director Daniel Lee, made the call to cut socials from their marketing activity at the beginning of 2021, stating in an interview with The Guardian that “[t]here is a mood of playground bullying on social media which I don’t really like. I wanted to do something joyful instead… I don’t want to collude in an atmosphere that feels negative.” Similar reasons were cited for Lush’s high profile exit last month, with Lush chief digital officer Jack Constantine quoted as saying, “it is counter-intuitive for us to use platforms that keep you hyper-tense, engaged and anxious” (Vogue Business, 2021). 

It pays to remember that these big brands are in a strong position to quit the content sharing hampster wheel, with an existing strong customer base, high brand awareness, and customers who are talking about their brands online, whether or not the label themselves are sharing content on social media. They also no doubt have large email lists and stockist relationships to buffer against a drop in sales from a lack of posts on social media. However, as customers demand more from the businesses they buy from, this evolution does feel very on brand, and was potentially inevitable. Social media has long been documented as having negative effects on it’s target audience, and brands who claim to be socially responsible need to seriously consider their support of the platforms through their patronage, and their advertising dollars. Lush’s Global Anti-Social Media Policy, being rolled out across 48 countries, sees the brand recognise that “[p]eople are looking for brands living their values and prioritising the right kind of relationship with customers rather than any relationship for easy bucks” ((Vogue Business, 2021).

Aside from the obvious negative effects of social media, these pay-for-play channels are becoming more expensive. According to Vogue Business, customer acquisition costs have risen substantially, particularly so in 2021. ProfitWell estimates costs rose 50 per cent from 2014 to 2018, while the pandemic saw several million new advertisers begin marketing on Facebook, driving up prices (Vogue Business, 2021).

Luxury brands also need to consider the fine balance between over-accessibility and exclusivity, according to Kalyani Saha Chawla, former VP of marketing and communications at Dior, who was quoted in Grazia UK as saying, “luxury brands are diluting their image by using the same social mediums that every high street brand is utilising. Luxury stands for exclusivity, and if it’s all over Instagram and Twitter, it becomes too accessible, which might not resonate with a niche audience” (Grazia, 2021).

The brands who are ditching likes and follows aren’t leaving a void of marketing and PR activity in its place. Lush, for example, will be growing its Youtube presence, using Twitter for customer care, leveraging it’s email database and sharing inspirational content to Pinterest, alongside physical events and a printed magazine. Bottega Veneta will be doubling down on it’s quarterly online audiovisual magazine that will offer slow content that is “more progressive and more thoughtful” than content on social media (The Guardian, 2021). 

As always, the subject of social media is nuanced, and depends on a number of factors that include a brand’s values, market position and appetite for challenging the status quo. Overall, social media is not the marketing darling it once was, but it’s also important to be where your audience are. Unless a brand has a really compelling way to communicate with their fans beyond an iPhone screen, social media is here to stay.

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Image via @newbottega