By Carolyn Riesinger | January 25, 2019
It’s no secret that social media is changing how companies earn business and interact with consumers. So, in an age where it is so difficult for businesses to stand out among the noise, having a human-like tone and being authentic is more important than ever. With the need to connect with consumers on a human-to-human level, companies have turned to using actual people and their social media platforms to be those humans for them. Those popular humans are known as influencers.
In the social media world, an influencer is someone with established credibility and a large following who can persuade others to take action. Influencers can be compensated for their posts in a number of different ways ranging from simply being re-posted by the brand, to being paid up to $1 million per post, like the queen of influencing, Kylie Jenner.
Because followers of influencers trust their opinions and believe they are authentic, there has been a new need for laws to protect consumers from potentially harmful products or events, but that doesn’t always happen. It is also not guaranteed that the product or event that the influencer is promoting is real. One of the most profound examples of this is the infamous FYRE Festival.
The FYRE Festival began their social media campaign, promoting a luxurious music festival on a private island in the Bahamas, in December 2016. The company flew out some of the most popular models/influencers of today to be filmed and “give feedback for the launch.” On Dec. 12, 2016, the company posted a sexy, model-filled teaser video showing off the island and all the fun that could be had there.
Perhaps, the company’s best social media marketing move was to pay a huge number of influencers to post on their feeds the exact same thing, on the same day. Celebrities and influencers were reportedly paid anywhere from $250,000, if they were Kendall Jenner, to $10,000 if they were less famous.
The image they chose was a bright, FYRE-orange square with simple captions such as “excited to announce #fyrefestival Join me there! @fyrefestival.” The uniqueness of the posts on a selfie-filled Instagram feed instantly made it stand out and grab the attention of millennials who usually scroll at lightning speeds. From a marketing standpoint, everything was going to plan, and people were buying the outrageously expensive ticket packages; however, behind the scenes, operations were not going as they should have been.
When influencers and guests began to arrive at the island, things were not as advertised. Because of the massive following of the people who had been invited and bought tickets, videos quickly made their way across social media and captured the attention of all major news sources. Social media stars blasted their stories with posts about being stranded on a gravel island, not having enough food, and as some described it, experiencing Lord of the Flies in real life.
The event blew up in the face of its creators, Billy McFarland, and rapper Ja Rule and has recently come back into the spotlight because of two new documentaries explaining the horror show. The event’s creators faced millions of dollars in lawsuits and Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to forfeit $26 million for wire fraud.
This event and the terrible repercussions it had for all involved has hopefully taught people to be more wary of what their favorite social media star is posting and to investigate things on their own before spending thousands of dollars to be stranded on an island.