August 11, 2022

Influencers: Should they be Trusted?

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.

@hoskelsa via Instagram

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.

Twitter: @careriesinger


(Images: @hoskelsa via Instagram and rawpixel on Unsplash)

6 thoughts on “Influencers: Should they be Trusted?

  1. Excellent summary of concept and example! What a great blogger! Can’t wait to read more insights and analysis from this woman.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post and like how you tied in the FYRE festival as an example of how powerful influencers are in the realm of content marketing. This incident also showcases how important it is that influencers and celebrities use the hashtag #ad or #sponsored when they are being paid for endorsing a product. Great insight!

  3. I enjoyed this post a lot! I recently watched the FYRE documentary on Netflix and found it interesting how you tied that in there. Although i have definitely fallen for something a celebrity is selling, it is important for people to still be doing their research on the product so they don’t end up in a situation like the FYRE festival. I enjoyed reading this!

  4. I enjoyed this post a lot! I recently watched the FYRE documentary on Netflix and found it interesting how you tied that in there. Although i have definitely fallen for something a celebrity is selling, it is important for people to still be doing their research on the product so they don’t end up in a situation like the FYRE festival. I enjoyed reading this!

  5. The FYRE festival situation is interesting because it brings up the ethics of being an influencer. Is it ethical to promote a product/event/service that you don’t know much about? Should the models and influencers involved in the first FYRE shoot feel badly about promoting something that ended so terribly? Should they have done something with the money they were paid (like donate to businesses that were scammed by McFarland)? It’s interesting to think about the possible repercussions of doing something as simple as an Instagram post.

  6. Hi, Carolyn
    Thanks for your post. The issue you are talking about is serious right now with no doubt. Individuals’ impact is enlarged by the influence of the Internet, the chance of becoming an influencer is bigger than before. There are some people doing that for business for sure. I agree with there need to be some laws and rules to protect and regulate the environment. However, I think the most important thing is people ourselves need to have the ability to filter.

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