The Fyre Festival Debacle: Should Social Media Influencers Be Accountable for What They Promote?
Not for the first time, the Fyre Festival recently found itself splashed across the headlines — but this time, it was for all the wrong reasons.
The campaign promoting the “can’t-miss event of 2017” began with star-studded endorsements by names like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. Then came the glossy video campaign with a booming voice in the background, on a microphone, trying to sell a subliminal message that went something like this:
“The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that is hard to put into words. All these things that may seem…big and impossible…are not. It gives people that type of energy.“
Notice how nothing concrete was communicated in that statement. There were also promises of a custom, VIP-configured Boeing…
…”eco-friendly” luxury domes and villas…
…Blink 182 performances…
…and parties on the beach.
Then, in quite a spectacular fashion, it all came crashing down. The now-infamous bread-and-cheese sandwich picture making the rounds on Twitter showcases just how far removed from reality the event’s social media campaign really was:
The campaign was a caricature of reality at best and fraud at worst, and that is exactly what federal investigators and the filers of multiple lawsuits thought. It’s also what Billy McFarland, one of the architects of the Fyre Festival, pled guilty to in 2017.
Besides the myriad questions that Fyre sparked about event management, the lures of its social media advertising, and the utter lack of due diligence done during the event planning, it also brought up a much larger issue: with a case study like this on the books, how can brands possibly trust influencers to market on their behalf in the future?
The Relationship Today Between Influencers and Brands
To unpack that loaded question, we need to start by going back to the basics. What is an influencer, and what role do they play in the promotion of a brand? According to this comically-ironic infographic, many people, both consumers and marketers, are confused about the definition of an influencer.
There is plenty of evidence that shows that people don’t trust companies. They trust people. They especially trust influential people (hence the term “influencers”) and are frequently willing to make purchase decisions based on the recommendation or endorsement of a brand by such individuals.
So at its core, the definition of a social media influencer is “Someone who has the power to affect the behaviour or purchase decisions of others through their own actions on social media.”
When you consider the definition of an influencer this way, along with the fact that people fundamentally do not trust companies, the role that influencers play for those companies becomes clear. Influencers have the potential to not only promote and drive sales of a company’s products or services; they also have the power to forge bonds of trust and loyalty between customers and a company in a way that the company wouldn’t be able to do on its own.
Influencer marketing on social media started when a few smart brands realised that …read more
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