Yes, Fyre Fest's social media campaign was an epic failure

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

Then again, no failure seems quite as epic as committing multiple accounts of fraud and leaving your festival guests stranded on an island without food or water.

By now you’ve probably watched the latest Netflix documentary, Fyre Festival: the Greatest Party that Never Happened. The documentary exposes the myriad of issues that occurred throughout the planning and execution of Fyre Festival in 2017, which ultimately (spoiler alert) led a frenzy of twenty-somethings ransacking tents and fighting for cheese sandwiches on a remote island in the Bahamas.

To provide more context if you haven’t seen the doc, Fyre Festival was the brainchild (or satanic spawn) of entrepreneur Billy MacFarland and hip-hop artist Ja Rule. The festival took place in the Exumas and promised ticket buyers an exclusive and luxury music festival experience in paradise. The festival was marketed aggressively through a social media campaign that featured A-list celebrities and popular Instagram models.

The festival was an irrefutable disaster, but some of the dialogue surrounding this festival has argued that MacFarland's one success was the Fyre social media campaign. Indeed, a campaign featuring the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner seems impressive, but alas, Fyre bit the dust on this one too.

Here are the three reasons Fyre's social media marketing campaign was just as dismal as the festival's soggy cheese sandwiches and hurricane tents.

1. Strategy

The strategy throughout the entire planning of Fyre Festival seemed to be "spend a lot of money, and when a problem occurs, just spend more money." This rings true for Fyre's influencer campaign, too. Fyre engaged over 60 mega social media influencers and celebrities to promote the festival over their individual channels. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, no Fyre influencer was paid less than $20,000, and Kendall Jenner received a whopping $250,000 for just one post. Herein lies the problem.

The primary goal of event marketing is to sell tickets. Yes, brand exposure and brand mentions over social media are added benefits, but when it comes to event marketing, the total number of ticket sales is the best indicator of a campaign's performance. Considering Fyre Festival sold out to only 8,000 ticket buyers, the festival organizers could have easily achieved the same number of ticket sales through a much cheaper campaign. The sole cost of paying influencers to post must have cost Fyre an upwards of $1.4 million, meaning the cost-per-conversion for each ticket sale driven by the campaign would have been over $175/ticket. That is a staggering cost per conversion. Fyre could have generated the same ticket sales and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars (to use towards guest accommodations?) by savvily targeting the followers of smaller scale influencers.

2. Authenticity

Social media can be a powerful tool for brands to connect with their target audiences in a seemingly authentic way. The key is to provide these audiences with useful, relatable content and to establish a level of transparency by exposing “behind-the-scenes” moments. In fact, according to Jeff Bullas, brands can boost their engagement rates by producing content that offers their audiences a glimpse of the organization's staff, office and corporate culture.

Music festivals are no different. Fans love content that exposes the work that goes into producing a large-scale production: stage set-up, location scouting, site development. It can be argued that Fyre may have been able to mitigate a lot of defamatory comments and skepticism from critics leading up to the festival if they had taken the time to post a handful of photos showcasing the island and the event team. This would have provided Fyre's brand with some form of temporary legitimacy. Instead, their feed continuously cycled through repurposed photos from their celebrity photo shoot.

3. Community management

Ah, and then there was Fyre's community management. The organizers of Fyre Festival were insistent on developing a massive following behind the festival, yet they couldn't have been less prepared to deal with that following. When Fyre Festival followers began asking reasonable questions about festival accommodations, lineups or shuttle arrangements, Fyre began deleting comments and blocking users. Proper community management could have been Fyre's last opportunity to become transparent and manage guest expectations, but instead, they further tarnished their brand by evading questions and deleting comments.

So yes, Fyre Festival's social media campaign was an epic failure, and it was already failing long before guests started arriving on Great Exuma. Thanks, Fyre Festival, yet again you've shown us what not to do.

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