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Social Marketing Success = Fyre Festival Fail

Fyre flames out - but proves social media marketing success

The recent events that unfolded at a highly advertised music and arts festival may show just how far people are willing to go (literally) when prompted by their favorite celebrities and influencers.

Fyre Festival was meant to be a flashy and luxurious music, food and arts festival held over two weekends on the island of Exuma, a district of the Bahamas. Social media influencers and well-known celebrities, such as Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Chanel Iman and Emily Ratajkowski, all supported the event through social media endorsements and promotional videos, many of which have since been removed.

Dressed in their most Instagram-worthy attire, excited festival-goers arrived on the island only to be greeted by a less-than-glamorous scene. Half-built tents on the sand, mishandled luggage, unhelpful staff, minimal security, scarce food supply and unsafe conditions are just some of the unexpected disappointments that came along with the high-ticket prices of the Fyre Festival (some tickets were upwards of $12,000). What was promised to be two weekends of great music, beautiful scenery, tasty cuisine and celebrity appearances, quickly turned into a site of mass chaos, as attendees sought to leave the island.

So, what can we learn from what recently has been dubbed the #FyreFail?

The dangers of trusting paid endorsements

While we often see our favorite celebrities endorsing products and events, it’s important to keep in mind that, in most cases, these are paid product placements. No matter how happy our favorite Instagram influencers seem to be while using a product or attending an event, be cautious of what he or she has received in return for the post. Unfortunately, in the case of the Fyre Festival, trusting fans and followers were misled to an event that the influencers on their news feeds had no base to back up. It’s safe to say they’ll all be more thoughtful with their endorsements from now on.

Advertising goes a long way

On a positive note, the Fyre Festival incident did teach us just how impactful successful marketing and advertising can be. While the event could not substantiate any of the claims in its marketing, it did get hundreds of people to purchase high-priced tickets for music on a private island in the Bahamas. That’s a successful call-to-action for something that turned out to be an unfortunate disappointment. So, while paid endorsements on social media may be sticky waters, they do seem to work, giving hope to advertisers who are utilizing the strategy.

Social media serves a swift backlash

As we’ve learned in recent months, companies dropping the ball on customer service or quality will most likely be met with widespread reprimand. The events that took place on a now infamous United Airlines flight reminded us that, in the world of social media, nothing goes unnoticed or undocumented. Customers are quick to reveal any dissatisfaction to their social following, which can go viral in a matter of seconds. In the case of the Fyre Festival, rightfully dissatisfied customers shared minute-by-minute updates on their experiences upon arriving at the event. Newsfeeds were flooded with photos of the poor conditions offered on the island as followers shared the posts that have now become a viral sensation. The upside? Companies are more inclined to step up their customer service policies and go the extra mile to ensure safety and quality.

Mistakes happen – it’s how you respond that matters

It’s safe to say that those who endorsed the Fyre Festival are now feeling the guilt from their faithful followers. While the past can’t be changed, these influencers do have control over their response to the situation; and this may be the most critical part of the timeline. Taking responsibility for the mistake can go a long way, rather than placing the blame on their own misfortunes regarding the event. Although they also were not aware of the festival’s shortcomings, they are responsible for blindly supporting the event to their followers. Owning up to the fault and exhibiting a genuine empathy for those who were affected can take a damaging mark on one’s reputation and make it positive.

The aftermath

After the first day, it was announced that the Fyre Festival was to be postponed and attendees were eventually flown back to the U.S. One of the event’s first and most prominent supporters, model Bella Hadid, issued a statement addressing the misfortunes at the festival. While she did note that her intentions were genuine, she apologized for outwardly supporting something she could not stand by. Event promoters, businessman Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, are now the subjects of a $100 million lawsuit in the state of California with more than 150 plaintiffs. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism apologized on behalf of the nation and denied all responsibility, as it was not an official sponsor of the event.

The now-infamous Fyre Festival, which has been compared to scenes out of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, can teach us a lot about the impact of social media and the influence celebrity endorsements can have. While it is an unfortunate series of events for all who were involved, the lessons learned remind us all that we can’t believe everything we see on our newsfeeds.