ANNOUNCING FYRE FESTIVAL — a social media scam

Poppy Yip
Digital Society
Published in
3 min readFeb 13, 2019


Social media is full of lies. Lies about image, lies about possessions and in this case — lies about almost everything. Psychology today highlight the very real problem with this fact — “when we engage on social media and our propensity to trust is met with overt lying and less than honest presentations it can be problematic because we internally presume that what is presented is true.” In 2017, thousands of rich kids flocked to the Bahamas paying up to $100,000 per ticket, only to experience one of the biggest failures of the 21st century — Fyre Festival. If you haven’t already seen the Netflix documentary, Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music experience on a posh private island, but it failed spectacularly at the hands of a cocky entrepreneur.

If Fyre Festival was good at anything, it was social media. The campaign sold a dream to thousands but how did a bundle of lies on social media sell out thousands of tickets?

1. A 1 minute 42 second Video

Fyre Festival’s promotional video

A key part of Fyre Festival’s social media campaign was this promotional video released on Youtube which has now racked up 4.6M views. This included several of the worlds biggest names in modelling; Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Baldwin to name only a few, with these three influencers alone having a combined total of instagram followers at 143M. With such a big following it is clear that Fyre Festival would not be short of exposure. But it is the choice of influencers that made this video so powerful, the average person wants to relate with these supermodels, live the glamorous lifestyle that they lead but more importantly they trust their endorsements. Viewers saw the video and believed they would be partying with supermodels and leading this lifestyle, although this was far from the reality, social media led them to trust this. As Brockes rightly puts it “social influencers inculcate inadequacy in their followers, then sell them products and experiences”.

2. A Blank Orange Tile

Image by The Fashion Law via BBC

Fyre festival then rolled out an Instagram campaign where several influencers were no doubt paid thousands to post this (now deleted) picture of a simple blank orange tile and caption with their excitement for Fyre Festival. The picture was clearly unlike anything these influencers would regularly post and hence drew masses of attention. Before long this simple but effective marketing ploy had gone viral and everyone wanted to be at Fyre Festival.

If you research the views of those who attended Fyre Festival you will find that many of them now realise that they only have themselves to blame. A short video of some models in the Bahamas and a few Instagram posts led them to fork out thousands of dollars to an an unheard of company? Fyre Festival’s social media strategy shows just how powerful influencers could be, but will we now take a step back and consider their real motives? Could this be the end of the ever-growing influencer culture?