Fyre Festival: The great social media experiment

Now I’m sure by saying that the Fyre Festival was a success would be a controversial statement. After all, it was a nightmare that should only happen in B-list movies. If you haven’t read about what this whole Fyre incident is all about, you can catch up on it here.

(In a nutshell, Fyre Festival was promised to be a star-studded music event in a private island with luxury amenities + cuisine that is worth up to $12,000. Famous celebrities and personalities backed it up by talking about the event on social media, which made many of their followers bite on it.)

Join the music festival set in a beautiful island with all the beautiful people~

But the one thing that they did do well in was in their marketing. Particularly their social media marketing. It worked so well that people were able to buy into something that wasn’t even built yet. And pay $12,000 for it too.

As a designer working in a digital agency, this festival and the fiasco that followed fell on my radar as I started to analyse what made the sales for the festival tickets so successful on social media and how they gained the trust (and money) of popular instagrammers.

Disclaimer: Not that I approve of how they were not able to deliver what they promised, but hey, you gotta admit their campaign did get some stuff right to convince people that they were the next big Coachella.

This just goes to show that a whole new world can indeed be cooked up and served to you on a silver platter, with the right images used and the right marketing tactics. Now, it’s up to you to find out if it is indeed a gourmet wagyu steak on the platter, or slices of bread with cheese squares. (But that’s a whole other story about gaining consumer trust and credibility.)

When your gourmet dinner expectations meet reality. Credits: @omgRainMan

So just how did Fyre Festival convince hundreds of people to part with their money for an event that has never been done before?

1. Influencers

With the rise of social media influencers and sponsored ads, you can now ‘buy’ a good word-of-mouth for your brand.

Fyre Festival used the best people for its target market: Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid are just some big names who gave a shout-out for the event.

With millions of people following these influencers, they got to the right target audience. People who were into fashion, luxury, trendy, Coachella, Drake were the people most likely to shell out big bucks at the promise of THE NEXT BIG music fest of the year. And these people followed these instagrammers. Ka-ching. $$$

“Influencer marketing presents a glaring opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire.”

You can read more about influencer marketing and why it works here.

2. Compelling visuals

As much as I wanted to shake Fyre for its poor planning and execution, all anger was momentarily distracted when I went into their Instagram feed. (How superficial, Fel. I know)

White beaches, turquoise waters, hot girls in bikini, sailing on a private yacht, looking all glamourous. I could be a part of this life too???

They even have those cute Bahama pigs???!

They fed you a manicured world, and made you want to be in it too. The FOMO creeping up on you made you click the link that said: “Purchase the VIP festival pass now”.

Visuals are so important to tell a story. Especially a story that can be read by millions of people through the advertisement of popular influencers. 
And Fyre sure made the story look like a fairy tale. 
Too bad there was no happily ever after.

Day 1 of Fyre Festival situation: Concierge stand and luxury accommodation not fixed up

Lessons learnt from this whole situation?

People can still be fooled with impressive visuals and sponsored ads by influencers. But at the end of the day, your product will speak for itself and no amount of cool Instagram grids can remove a bad reputation. 
For all the brands out there, take note. Its best to first ensure you have a good product before sharing it out to the world!

Once you have your products, then it’s time to jump into the scary and vast world of social media!

But have no fear, I’ll be writing an article about how to speak and be heard in this digital scape — next week. So stay tuned!