6 Social Media Lessons to Learn from Fyre Fest

By now, you’ve probably heard a million things about Fyre Fest. Maybe you followed as the festival unraveled in the spring of 2017, or caught wind of the ensuing legal fiasco (it turned out the whole thing was a well-disguised attempt to defraud credulous millennials, and the founder is currently serving prison time). Perhaps, more recently, you tuned into one of the rival Netflix and Hulu documentaries. However you first heard of Fyre Fest, one thing is clear: it was a disaster.

Their social media tactics earned so much attention and engagement that festival planners just couldn’t keep up. After selling out in short order (a miracle for a first-time music fest), the Fyre Fest team just wasn’t prepared for the influx of millennials they’d earned with their strategy. And while their social strategy was ultimately fueled by deceit, there are a few nuggets of brilliance to be pulled from their failures and transgressions.

1 – Try Something Different

The “Orange Tile” was perhaps Fyre Fest’s true stroke of genius. By enlisting various influencers to post a simple orange block (seen below), they were able to flood users’ feeds with a mysterious, yet eye-catching post that increased awareness and got people talking about #FyreFestival.

Bella Hadid Instagram post

2 – Macro-Influencers Are Best for Brand Awareness…

Although Fyre Fest was ultimately a failure, they enlisted the right kind of influencer for the type of campaign they were running. The marketers behind Fyre Fest knew their target audience: well-off millennials who crave unique, high-end experiences. Knowing big names are great for increasing brand awareness, Fyre used most of their budget to partner with the world’s biggest Instagram influencers (like Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, to name a few), who helped promote the image of Fyre Fest as an exclusive, luxurious event.

3 – … but Micro-Influencers Provide More Value

Micro-influencers are significantly cheaper than celebrity influencers. But, because their audiences tend to be more niche, these influencers are often more in tune with their followers. They are seen as more relatable, leading to higher engagement rates.

We’re not saying Fyre should have gone for micro-influencers – they were going for massive reach (and boy did they ever get it). Our point here is that smaller brands with smaller budgets might want to think more economically.

According to Inc., micro-influencer costs are usually below $250 per post. Compared to the $250k Kendall Jenner was paid to post a single orange square, micro-influencers clearly give more bang for your buck.

4 – Disclose, Disclose, Disclose

Seriously. The FTC will come for you! One of the reasons people were so irate in the aftermath of the fraudulent fest was that the influencers made it seem like they were somehow involved and, to the delight of many potential festival-goers, actually going to be there. The truth was, they were paid to deliver a message, and their involvement ended there.

This miscommunication proved just how dangerous it can be when influencers don’t disclose when they’re being compensated for their posts. In fact, it’s largely because of Fyre Fest that influencers are now using #ad or #sponsored in their posts.

Whether you’re working with the biggest names in the world or super niche influencers, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure your influencer partners are explicitly acknowledging that their posts are compensated – here’s a guide from the FTC on how to disclose endorsements.

5 – Don’t Neglect Comments 

In the lead-up to the big event, the festival’s accounts were suspiciously quiet. When ticketholders began to ask questions, not only did the festival’s social media managers ignore comments, they even began to delete negative ones, blocking users who simply wanted some answers.

While it may seem obvious that simply ignoring or blocking users who are looking for answers is bad practice, in some cases, responding to negative comments can actually turn a bad situation into good. It’s an opportunity for your brand to engage on a personal level, increasing trust and relatability with your audience. Honesty is always the answer.

Here are some great ways to handle negative social media feedback.

6 – Never Forget the Sheer Power of Social Media

While social media helped make Fyre Fest so popular, it ultimately was responsible for its downfall as well. Guests arrived expecting beautiful beaches and ritzy villas, but instead arrived to disaster-relief tents and rain-soaked mattresses still in their plastic wrapping. They immediately took to social media, posting videos and photos of the conditions. Perhaps the most famous post was of a pretty pathetic-looking “sandwich” (see below). A far cry from the gourmet cuisine guests were promised, this piece of cheese with wilted lettuce and bread went viral and was the final straw in the festival’s undoing.

Social media is an amazingly fast-acting catalyst, but it can be a double-edged sword. If your brand or product goes viral and you don’t have an execution plan in place to meet demand, it could tear you apart. Social media users are opinionated and powerful – you can’t get away with having a bad product or service. The internet will not spare you.

In the case of Fyre Fest, there was just no way they could put together a festival in time to meet the demands of all the guests they’d attracted with their social media tactics. Make sure your business is ready to go viral.

In Conclusion

Whenever you start an influencer campaign, keep these three things in mind:

Consider your overall goal before choosing the type of influencers. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, or generate qualified customers for specific products with a more engaged audience? Setting your goals is the first step in determining your influencer strategy. For the rest, we put together this handy guide to picking the right influencers for your brand.

Make sure that your product or service can withstand an influx of attention. Influencer marketing is powerful and with great power comes great responsibility!

Finally – make sure you are always transparent and authentic. While Fyre Fest may be an extreme example (what with it having been a criminal enterprise and all…), many well-meaning brands suffer the consequences of misleading advertising. Our foremost responsibility as marketers is to be honest. Set proper expectations and, if it comes to it, address your shortcomings.

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