Have you heard about something called the Fyre Festival? Well, I hadn’t until recently. I walked past my husband watching something on Netflix that stopped me dead in my tracks – even though it only had 20 minutes left!
My husband said “you’d be interested in this because it’s unbelievable what they achieved through using social media to market it”. So, intrigued as I was, I parked myself on the sofa next to him and watched the rest of the programme in shock. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to watch the whole thing from the beginning and find out just how this small group of people managed to a) build a dream b) sell the dream with little to show and c) how they actually used social media to get it so widespread!
If you want to watch “Fyre – The Greatest Party That Never Happened” then I suggest you bookmark this blog, go watch it and THEN come back and read this – just in case I let anything slip…
OK, so the overall idea (as far as I’ve picked up from the programme) was to boost the brand awareness of the Fyre booking app by organising their own awesome festival. The app had a presence of its own already but they wanted to give their marketing a rocket and grow the audience massively. They decided to sell tickets for guests to attend an exclusive “party” on an exotic island and promised a dream lifestyle to go with it – all before they’d arranged anything to actually sell.
Their marketing was on point. Slick and focused. They produced a very beautiful promo video which involved the “top 10 supermodels in the world” and the marketing team encouraged the models to use the #FyreFestival event hashtag within their own social media. This was to help promote the event via social influencers – who were in turn, advocating the event to their followers (advocating an event which still wasn’t actually planned). Because the models had such a massive online presence and following, the #FyreFestival marketing campaign absolutely boomed!
The next step was to get other social media influencers involved. They arranged for social media peeps to post about the Festival, again using the event hashtag, which again was them endorsing the event.
They also planned a social campaign which involved all of the influencers and celebrities posting an “Orange Tile” on their Instagram accounts. They set the digital sphere on “Fyre”. This was another social media campaign that took little effort but had a MASSIVE effect – especially because they used the event hashtag.
During the lead up to the event, behind the scenes you can see that the Festival was miles off from being finished in time to welcome their guests (and celebrities) – even with people’s safety being put at risk. They had created a monster! But on their social media channels everything looked totally fine… until you looked closely.
Most of the guests travelled to the festival without a second thought until they arrived on the island and were practically marooned. Still, the Fyre social media didn’t let on. It wasn’t until people started to complain and use social media to show their own real-time experiences of the poor conditions there, that the whole thing started to blow up and crumble because of social media!
One of the Fyre Team who was interviewed said “it took ten of the worlds top supermodels to spread the word on social media. It took one 15 year old boy to tweet a photo of a **** cheese sandwich to tear it all down”.
Another thing that I noticed was how slick all of the social media content was. They simply regurgitated the photos that they had (from the one photoshoot and video shoot that they did at the beginning) and just redesigned the imagery so it looked like new content. When it’s an event, you’d expect a variety of imagery and messages to go out to keep the audience informed and engaged and also excited leading up to the big day/week.
This is one of the most powerful stories about the power of social media – for good and for bad!
So what did I take away from the Fyre Festival documentary?
- With a bit of creativity and planning, you can construct any appearance that you like. You can easily pretend to be something you’re not.
- People have opinions. If your product or service doesn’t live up to expectations – especially if YOU, as the supplier, advertise it a certain way – then social media is a public domain where they can tell the world about their experience. One tweet sent the FyreFestival to crash and burn!
- Many celebrities and social influencers were called to be accountable for endorsing something that they didn’t understand. There is a new requirement coming to ensure that posts are clearly labelled (or hashtaged something like #advertisement) to make followers aware of when posts are endorsements or genuine posts.
- Hashtags work. They bring the digital community together with a topic in common. In this case it started with generating interest, then excitement building up to the event and (unfortunately) the total disappointment of the end result. However when done correctly (and where the product or service DOES deliver) the conversation continues to sing praises and raise awareness for the future.
- You don’t need a lot to start creating content. It’s easy to redesign and regurgitate content as long as you remember to keep it on brand.
- Social media allows YOUR voice to be heard. If you have a bad experience you can either complain or inform. Businesses can also address negative comments showing good customer service. OR, ideally, you can use social media to shout about something you like – which will reach your own digital network.
I still can’t believe how influential this campaign was and the digital impact it made. This should have been a massive success story but the organisers (and mainly, the CEO) got carried away with the dream and didn’t consider the ethical lines that were crossed in order to “make it happen”.
At the end of the day, social media is a line of communication between businesses, consumers and other organisations. The whole point of digital marketing is to connect, inform and generate interest about what you are doing as a business. Everyone wants to generate sales but people won’t buy something unless they TRUST the product or brand. Social media allows businesses to connect with their audience and if the content is authentic, people will start to trust AND also remember!
Don’t ever let your social media story be a cover up story. Be yourself. Be honest, be authentic, be yourself and keep it simple.