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Fyre Fraud

If you haven’t watched Netflix’s original documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. Then come back and read this blog. If you have seen it, it’s probably safe to say you were just as blown away as our team was – every single one of us has seen it and we have talked about it every day since. Here are some of our key takeaways from the film:

The Dark Side of Influencer Marketing

Just as it can generate much success, influencer marketing, if done incorrectly, can also contribute to great failure. Exhibit A – Fyre Festival. We can all agree that finding influencers for Fyre Festival was never the issue. Garnering big names like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Alessandra Ambrosio, and many more Instafamous models and celebs, the Fyre Festival marketing team had the idea to display their attendance to the week-long promotional shoot in the Bahamas. With Kendall Jenner’s first post stimulating around 6 million unique impressions, it’s safe to say this was one goal that was accomplished. By the end of the “promotional shoot,” which was supposed to be an accurate representation of the festival, thousands of people were paying anywhere from $1,000 to $12,000 per ticket and some even splurging on VIP packages at even higher prices.

Now, here is where the problem lies: out of those 250 people on the influencer list, little to none of them disclosed they were being paid, in some form, to post about their “attendance” to the festival, whether it was cash or free tickets or “villas.” In 2017 the FTC took action against social media influencers for not following its guidelines for disclosure of advertisements. Now, partly in response to Fyre Festival, according to the FTC, failing to disclose that you are receiving payment of some form in return for promoting a brand or event on social media is illegal. Whether you use #ad, #sponsored, or #brandambassador is up to you, but it must be disclosed.

The Impact

The failed Fyre Festival serves as a prime example of the impact that marketing can have on a brand. Without any real plan, location, or other logistical aspects completed, Fyre was able to sell tickets to thousands of people. The festival was not even real yet and logistically was virtually impossible to pull off. But the marketing was strong. Influencer marketing impacts their target generation more than you think; .more than 70% of teens trust influencers more than they trust traditional celebrities. Powerful marketing caused over 6,000 people to give hundreds of thousands of dollars with no real evidence that they were going to get what they were being promised. An orange tile was all they were given.

Social Media Moves Faster Than We Ever Could

As we saw in the film, one social media post has the power to bring down the positive reputation created by hundreds. One festival attendee tweeted a picture of the food provided – the infamous cheese sandwich – and it went viral, even when his account had a small following of 400. That picture became the face of the farce that was the execution of Fyre Festival. People were promised luxury yurts and villas; they got hurricane tents. They were promised sushi and gourmet meals; they got cheese sandwiches. This information spread rapidly across social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, proving that marketing happens faster than you can imagine, in real time.

The Facade of Happiness on Social Media

When you open Instagram, you might see an amazing photo from your favorite blogger, or a distant friend smiling alongside her new boyfriend, or an amazing vacation destination. The blogger’s life looks glamorous, the friend’s relationship looks perfect, that vacation looks perfect. This has created a culture of social media as the great lie we present to the world. Social media is how we want people to think we live our lives. It leads us to hold ourselves to unrealistic standards, asking “why can’t I do fun things like her?” “How do my significant other and I become happy like them?” “How could I ever afford that life?” We’ve all had at least a few of these thoughts. Even among Fyre’s employees who were miserable, the image they presented was that life on a beach was pretty awesome.

The Fyre Festival poses a perfect example of how quick we are to believe everything we see on social media. The beach pictures posted by the employees of Fyre Festival and the videos of top models all ended up being a facade that had to be torn down. Watching this documentary, particularly from a marketing perspective, causes you to think both about who you can trust when it comes to marketing, and how unrealistic social media can be. It shows that one sociopath with a computer and investors can impact thousands of people in a negative way, all from something as simple as a series of orange Instagram tiles.

Around our office, we love social media. We love that it presents a great way to share content, stay in touch with friends, exercise creativity, stay informed as well as entertained, and so much more. But it’s an important lesson to remember that social media can be good, bad, and ugly when it isn’t transparent. We pride ourselves on total transparency in all things.

So what struck you about the Fyre Festival documentary? Was there anything in particular that you responded to? What were your favorite parts? Let us know in the comments.