Businesses are quitting social media

Businesses are deciding to quit their social media presence despite revenue losses. Lush, a UK cosmetics brand, closed their Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram accounts because of social media’s unsafe environment. The company declared it couldn’t be a ‘caring’ business if it ignored the research that suggested social media was harmful to young people. 

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Irvin Blake
December 3, 2021 12:21 pm

In early October 2021 when Facebook went down and was in the midst of accusations from whistleblower Frances Haugen, I wrote that I didn’t see Facebook continuing in its current form for much longer. We are seeing signs of this now as the UK Competition and Markets Authority is blocking Meta’s acquisition of Giphy. The regulator argues that Meta could limit other platforms’ access to Giphy’s GIFs, which could cause more people to stay on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. This would, of course, reduce competition and concentrate more ad revenue in the hands of Meta.

As businesses question their role on social media, Founders and senior executives are questioning their relationships with the platforms they worked so hard to make successful. Jack Dorsey has had multiple senior roles at Twitter from the start including co-Founder, CEO, Chair and Executive Chair. Twitter has transformed from the Founders’ original vision of a text messaging service to an information/social network. Nowadays if you need thick skin for Facebook, you damn well need thick skin for Twitter. Maybe Jack was forced out of the company. It is also possible that he can’t control Twitter anymore. Perhaps he sees it as an untameable social media beast that he needs to distance himself from. He has already resigned as CEO and will stick around on the board until May 2022. A much shorter term than resigning CEOs in other big tech companies.

David Marcus, the lead for Facebook’s Diem, formerly Libra, cryptocurrency project is leaving too. Interestingly Facebook’s cryptocurrency endeavors were thwarted by lawmakers who believed Facebook was accruing too much power. The combination of resistance from the government and the public may be too much for some who feel it’s better to jump ship now before things get even worse.

Zhang Yiming, Founder and CEO of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has also resigned. He explains ByteDance’s mission to “Inspire Creativity, Enrich Life” and I get a sense reading his resignation letter that TikTok is falling short of this mission. He also says he’s “not very social”, an interesting admission from the head of a social media platform. Yiming’s letter is an honest take at his contributions to the business. He mentions that he wants to work more on “giving back to society”, perhaps a cryptic acknowledgment that TikTok is not having the societal influence he wants it to.

Carly Sembre
December 1, 2021 12:57 pm

Honestly at this point with the image big tech social media now has, I wouldn’t blame businesses from reconsidering their online presence. In these times businesses are subject to oversight by the public. If they fall short of the public’s expectations, they face the consequences.

That’s why big corporates have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams that work closely with Marketing and PR departments. I used to work in a CSR team and while we did a lot of good work for the community, we were always on the back foot against critics; something to be expected if you work in the banking industry. 

We could do a charity drive that helped a lot of people but the next week if there was news about a rogue trader who had lost tons of money, our charity work would be forgotten. In the world of corporate reputation, memories are short-lived. 

Get things wrong and you’ll have a trending hashtag like #DitchCoke or #BoycottWalmart. If the company is publicly traded, share prices will bounce like a tennis ball and CSR, PR and Marketing teams will have a string of all-nighters to enjoy. The phrase “crisis communications” has lost its urgency because it happens so frequently. 

Profit and reputation are of equal importance. Nowadays you can’t have one without the other. They’re highly interdependent too. A ruined reputation? Profit will suffer. Profit so high that the bosses are getting huge bonuses? Reputation will suffer. If businesses are losing out on sales by quitting social media, the boost in reputation could more than make up for it.

Kaitlyn Mora
December 2, 2021 11:14 pm

The health, beauty and personal care sector is estimated to be worth $1.34 trillion by 2026. Over a quarter of that value, $358.4 billion, will come from online sales. This seems about right to me. I learn about a lot of new products online but most of the time I buy in-store. Testing products is a must. Advice from experts who can see me face-to-face is also useful. I’ve actually been to Lush before. It’s a great store with a cool vibe, creative layout and funky music. The staff were really helpful too. You can’t match that experience on social media.

Lush’s announcement that it is becoming anti-social is brilliantly crafted. It feels that they have their customer’s interests at heart, which is also something I felt visiting one of their physical stores. It is the right decision because it is the right thing to do. “Bullying, fake news, extremist viewpoints, FOMO, phantom vibrations, manipulative algorithms” are resulting in “youth suicides, depression, anxiety“. Lush wants no part of this and is gaining a bunch of goodwill in choosing morality over profit.

Lush won’t switch off entirely from the online scene. It will still be posting on YouTube. Also as augmented reality technology improves, it is probable Lush will leverage it to keep an online audience engaged – maybe by testing products virtually. Gucci is selling virtual sneakers to be worn on virtual reality or augmented reality platforms. Lush could have taken a similar route by selling virtual cosmetics to be worn on VR & AR platforms and social media. The digital fashion trend is just starting and by making this decision to be anti-social, Lush has opted out of a fledgling digital cosmetics sector.

In my opinion this is a smart move. Digital cosmetics has all the ingredients to be problematic. It could be a wave of insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem that has already been demonstrated by people’s use of filters and image manipulation. I’m supportive of Lush’s decision. It has made me a bigger fan of theirs. I’m looking forward to hearing about other businesses that follow suit.

Robert Huot
December 2, 2021 6:49 pm

The cynical side of me rises to the surface when I hear news stories like this. Breaking News: Beauty brand loses profits because it cares about its customers! Sounds good, but there may be more than meets the eye.

Now don’t get me wrong. The toxic environment of Instagram and Facebook would have played a big part in Lush, or any other brand for that matter, quitting Facebook. No brand wants to be associated with the Facebook comments section where people flame each other and the brand is picked apart every time they post. 

Coming from a different angle, what benefit does having a Facebook Brand or Business Page provide? Customers can contact you on Facebook. Ok. But they can do that by email, over the phone and by instant chat on the company’s website. They can find your store’s opening hours. Uhh, ok. They can do that on your website too. In fact for anything brand or store-related, I would go to the company’s website, not their social media. I’ve contacted brands on Facebook before without getting any reply. Generally from my experience a company’s website details tend to be up-to-date… if they are still active. Brands create social media accounts with the intention of using it as a promotional tool, but they soon learn that a significant chunk of time is taken fielding complaints. Rather than a promotional vehicle to reach more customers, the social media team effectively becomes a contact centre.

Also if you have ever run a Facebook page you’ll know by now that organic reach is almost non-existent. Facebook is a platform where you have to pay to play. In the early years, Facebook pages were great for brand exposure but those days are long gone. Anyone who is Admin of a Facebook page will be familiar with daily notifications. At first you get excited that there’s some engagement on your page. Instead it’s a notification from Facebook telling you to ‘boost’ your posts for a charge. Facebook’s recent rebranding from Facebook Inc to Meta is appropriate. Facebook isn’t really a social network anymore where people connect. It’s telling that when you search for Facebook, it doesn’t say social network anymore. Instead it describes itself as “Advertising company”.

So my cynical side tells me that Lush and other brands do care about their customers, but that’s not the only reason why they are quitting social media. To put it simply, Facebook and other social media platforms don’t give brands the value they used to.

Cristina Pellini
December 3, 2021 5:40 pm

Bigger businesses are able to absorb the hit of ditching social media. Not all small businesses have that luxury. Many small and medium-sized businesses depend on social media-driven sales. While it sounds great that a business can ditch social media out of principle, for others the same action could jeopardize its survival. Think of a small business that owns a Shopify store. It’s all set up and you’re ready to start selling. But there’s a problem. No one visits your store. Why would they? There are over 1.7 million Shopify stores in 175 countries. What are the chances a customer will come across yours? There’s a better chance of finding a needle in a haystack.

This is where social comes in. Regardless of limited organic reach on some of the older platforms, social media gives you access to potential customers. Nothing is a must-do for businesses in today’s age, however it is expected for a business to have a social strategy. Social is where people spend their time. A lot of time. Some estimates say half of a person’s mobile usage is spent on social (Source: Techjury). If you want customers visiting your store, a social presence isn’t dispensable.

In the wave of congratulations given to businesses that can and do make a stand against social media, the forgotten story is the staff who lose their jobs. If a company has no need for a social media team, where do the copywriters, account managers, complaint handlers and general SoMe executives go? If a company is strong enough to withstand the hit by going off social, then one would hope it can find other positions or retrain staff whose roles have been made redundant.