When you open @lushcosmetics and @lush on Instagram, you are greeted not by clips of bath bombs exploding into sparkles or photos of meticulously curated in-store soap displays but rather by a “No Posts Yet” graphic and a single highlight that spells out the brand’s social media mantra: Be somewhere else. Lush Cosmetics stopped posting on all Meta platforms — that’s Instagram and Facebook — in November 2021 after former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked documents to the press that revealed the company knew how much harm its algorithm was causing teens but was downplaying the effects. The company left social in 2019 but returned when the pandemic struck in early 2020. This time, though, the departure appears to be permanent. Almost two years later, they haven’t looked back.
To even the most dedicated Lushie, this news — ancient by internet standards — might come as a surprise. While the move initially made some headlines, most people I mentioned this story to had either completely forgotten that Lush had left Facebook and Instagram or never knew in the first place. Despite increased grumbling about Meta’s algorithms, the mass brand exodus from Meta that Lush hoped to inspire hasn’t come to fruition. Mark Constantine, Lush CEO, told Vogue Business at the time that he estimated the company could lose £10 million (over $12 million) as a result of leaving Meta. So what’s actually happened?
When Lush left Instagram
First, let me be clear: Lush left more than five million Instagram and Facebook followers, but it did not leave all social platforms. The brand still regularly posts on YouTube, where the Lush and Lush Cosmetics North America channels have almost 600K followers combined. It is still on Twitter as well, which is baffling for a brand that preaches the importance of transparency and ethics. When I ask Annabelle Baker, global brand director at Lush, why the brand has chosen to remain on Elon Musk’s ever-devolving platform, she sighs and says, basically, that they’re keeping an eye on how things go as content moderation rules continue to change and hate speech rises. The brand was active on TikTok before November 2021, but no longer posts to its official account.
The decision, Baker says, comes down to “the platform and the ethical considerations in being there.” In other words: The algorithm can suck in myriad ways. “There’s no transparency there for us to understand actually what [these social platforms] are doing and what they’re using that data for,” Baker says, noting that, in Lush’s view, Meta and TikTok’s algorithms are the most concerning. On the mental health front, just a few weeks ago the US surgeon general issued a warning that social media poses “a risk of harm” to adolescents.
But this isn’t just a case of Lush standing up for what’s right, profits be damned. There’s another issue with the algorithm that’s particularly bothersome for a company trying to use these platforms to sell stuff: Barely anyone was seeing Lush’s posts. In North America, Baker says only 6% of followers were seeing Lush’s content; in the UK, it was a paltry 3%. “It’s not very motivational to have a social team pull together content and then only 3% of your audience ever gets to see it,” Baker says. (These percentages are actually pretty good for a brand: Nathan Adams, senior vice president of digital marketing at DKC Public Relations, which works with beauty brands like Dyson and MAC, says he finds the average is more like 1 to 2% of followers for organic posts, especially on Facebook.)