Fyre Festival: Why Instagram influencers (and the people who listen to them) need to be careful

Over the past few days, two documentaries have been released on streaming platforms, one on Netflix and one on Hulu. The documentaries plot the hopeful beginnings and fateful end of Fyre Festival.

The festival, which didn’t make it past its first day, became a global laughing stock when droves of well-off millennials were flown to Exuma Island (not Norman’s Cay, the originally advertised island owned by Pablo Escobar) on a standard commercial plane (not the promised private jets) where their luxury villas were replaced by flooded disaster relief tents and their fine dining experience consisted of two sad looking slices of bread with an even more miserable slice of plastic cheese.

Much of the conversation about Fyre Festival has been an attempt to understand how people were so easily persuaded to part with their money (standard tickets started at $4000) by a slick social media marketing campaign, fronted by a team of Instagram influencers.

It was simple, really. Festival organisers (one of whom, Billy McFarland, who masterminded the whole thing, will be sitting in prison for the next six years) brought Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin, Chanel Iman and many more picture-perfect models to the Bahamas. Once there, they shot one of the most Instagram-ey videos imaginable, which was then promoted by over 250 influencers, who all posted a literal orange box on their Instagram feeds.

Then, a mixture of hedonism, fear of missing out, the promise of celebrity and good old content marketing kicked in, which meant that the festival sold out sooner than anyone had anticipated. The last hurdle, of course, was to actually start planning the thing…

There’s plenty of learning lessons to be taken from this utter mess, but one of the most interesting lessons to learn is that consumers’ relationship with influencers is starting to change quite significantly.

First of all, we are now being told that we’ve reached peak influencer, and that this particular method of marketing will start to decline, as users become more and more cynical about the picture-perfect and meticulously manicured lives that these influencers pretend to live online.

Secondly, horror stories like Fyre Festival will continue to happen, as marketers are finding themselves unable to keep up with the promises being made about their products and services on social media.

As well as this, the way that influencers declare their relationships with brands is starting to become solidified with rules and regulations, made startlingly clear on Thursday when a number of high-profile celebrities agreed to clearly state if they have been paid to promote a product on social media. This, of course didn’t happen out of choice, but due to intervention from the Competition and Markets Authority.

This more transparent approach to influencer marketing could be seen as a negative, but actually, a clear and invasive approach to marketing, coupled with a slightly more cynical consumer, could actually result in a much better environment for both consumers and these influencers.

If influencers start to recognise and appreciate the power they have, and maybe even pick and choose their brand partnerships with a little more care, we could end up with social media advertising that feels a little bit more natural. Couple this with a consumer who is actually able to identify when and how they are being marketed to, and maybe Instagram won’t become one huge advertisement for charcoal toothpaste after all.

So, what does influencer marketing look like post Fyre Festival? And what are the elements that every brand should seek to build into their social media marketing campaign? Here’s my top three examples of what the perfect influencer campaign needs to have.

1. Authenticity

Here’s a novel idea – social media is designed to be social! With plenty of opportunities to like, comment, retweet and repost, every post and every element of written copy should encourage a real and meaningful conversation. A simple question, for example asking your audience how their day is going, can go a very long way. This idea of being authentically you on social media, both from a brand and influencer perspective, is very important. Being able to proudly broadcast your brand partnership also creates a sense of authenticity.

2. Relevancy

If you are a brand that is marketing a music service to millennials, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of which influencers can help you communicate that message. However, what happens if it’s little bit more complex than that? Or if your product or service is location-specific? That’s where research skills become your greatest asset.

3. Creativity

This one should explain itself – the best campaign will always be the most creative, both in the way in looks and what is actually being said.

Have you got an example of your favourite influencer campaign (that isn’t Fyre Festival!)? Tweet your ideas to @agent_marketing, we’d love to hear them!

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