Fyre Festival has become a case study in how not to use social media but there is much to be learned about social media and influencer marketing.
Hulu and Netflix both released documentaries about the Fyre Festival in January 2019, nearly two years after the festival went down in flames. Although I'd heard about the festival and had a general idea of the situation, the two documentaries provide us with a behind-the-scenes look at what led to its ultimate demise.
Social media was the festival's marketing backbone used for promoting the event. The initial marketing featured outstanding content, including photos of the location and the use of nearly 400 Instagram influencers to market the event. It became an instant hit on Instagram and catapulted its prestige and turned it into the can't miss event of 2017.
First, it is senseless to use social media to promote an unattainable promise in today's hyperconnected world.
Fyre Festival was doomed to fail from the beginning. Although it was backed by a thriving social media campaign, the logistics and organization did not live up to the same success. When it became apparent that Fyre Festival wasn't going to take off, it was kept in motion by co-founder Billy McFarland despite receiving criticism and doubt by his team. The social media campaign was successful because the team was able to capitalize on influencer marketing and secure the biggest industry names. With plenty of social proof to convince people to attend, including excellent content and beautiful photos of the location and influencers, the festival sold out minutes after it was announced. The biggest lesson here is to engage in transparent communication about what is being delivered.
Second, there is no way to hide anymore.
Social media reveals the good and the bad. According to American Express, consumers are more than twice as likely to share bad customer service experiences compared to positive ones. The world saw the disaster unfold in real-time on social media and witnessed incomplete accommodations, cold cheese sandwiches, and attendees fearing for their personal safety. Fyre Festival was torn down due to its prominence on social media, a prominence it had built itself.
Third, businesses and brands can no longer hide their marketing mistakes and failures and must own up and apologize.
Although organizers knew in advance the festival wasn't going to take place as it was portrayed online, there was no stopping it from happening. It was the aftermath which solidified its failure. Rather than a heartfelt apology, the organizers deflected blame and didn't want to assume responsibility. Brands need to employ honest communication with their consumers to humanize themselves and set them apart from others who stay silent.