The credibility of influencer marketing has taken a big hit thanks to the ill-fated Fyre Festival. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The disastrous festival in the Bahamas was one of the biggest news stories of the past week and certainly one of the biggest of the year in the media/entertainment industry. Fyre was supposed to be a new Coachella Festival for millennials but instead collapsed under the weight of its own mismanagement. As was widely reported, the event organizers convinced concertgoers to fork over hundreds and thousands of dollars to fly to the Bahamas with the promise of a weekend of luxurious lodging, celebrity-chef prepared food, and cool music. Instead, attendees encountered primitive living conditions and chaotic mismanagement. The event was quickly canceled and guests flown home.
In light of the fiasco, the role of influencer marketing has been heavily scrutinized and criticized. As it turns out, many concertgoers were lured to the event by social media posts from many notable millennial influencers including Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski. Fyre paid hundreds of influencers to promote the event on their Instagram accounts, but the influencers failed to disclose that their posts were promotional. In fact, the celebrity endorsers were given free flights, tickets, and accommodations for their posts, and their failure to disclose the paid nature of their relationship is in direct violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s rules. No wonder an Adweek article asked, “Will the effectiveness of celebrity influencers take a hit?” and the Bitly blog asked, “Will influencer marketing to down in flames?”
But influencer marketing can achieve great returns if done in an inspiring way. Marketers shouldn’t abandon influencer marketing but rather understand how to avoid their pitfalls. Ironically the Fyre Festival actually demonstrated just how powerful influencer outreach can be. Here are some tips for doing influencer outreach well and with integrity:
- Choose an influencer who aligns well with your brand and audience
If you have the budget, you might be tempted to incorporate a celebrity into your marketing campaign. After all, big-name celebrities provide instant recognition. But it’s more important that you work with an influencer who aligns well with your brand. An influencer’s name recognition is less important than their ability to build trust and a comfort level with your audience. A food brand might be better off working with niche food bloggers who are well known to their customers rather than a nationally known celebrity who has little to do with fine dining. An influencer who builds trust with your audience will build trust in your brand.
- Be realistic
The Fyre Festival influencers did their jobs. They used their reputations and leveraged their many social media followers to create tremendous buzz for the event. But the Fyre Festival wasn’t prepared to handle all the attention they received. How about you? Will your product, event, or experience be ready to handle the attention that influencers are capable of giving you? Don’t hire influencers unless you can handle the demand for your services and products that good ones will certainly generate.
- Be transparent
An influencer should be honest about the promotion, which, as noted, was a major problem with the Fyre Festival. The lack of transparency left Fyre’s customers feeling deceived by both the influencers and the festival. And the influencers’ posts also falsified the experience, leaving attendees angered when arriving in the Bahamas. The goal of influencer marketing is to build communication and a relationship between the brand, the influencer, and the consumer. When trust is broken between this group, the brand is deeply affected. These kinds of problems can be avoided if you make it clear to influencers that they are required to disclose the promotional nature of their content. Moreover, give influencers clear guidelines for how they are to exercise transparency, for instance, by using the hashtag #promotional in a social post. And monitor how the influencers represent your brand. If the influencers make mistakes and fail to exercise transparency, make sure they correct their mistakes.
- Give influencers the right content
You want influencers to talk about you and share your story using content that reflects your brand. Doing so does not mean having to pay influencers. For instance, bloggers appreciate interesting story ideas and content. If you’re launching a new product or service, paying bloggers may not be right move. Rather, inviting influencers to test your product – like a resort inviting travel bloggers to spend a night checking out the experience – can be far more effective and generate genuine buzz.
The Fyre Festival’s underdeveloped strategy for use of influencers can be seen as a cautionary tale for all future brands when incorporating influencer marketing. However, influencer marketing can be successful so long as the audience, influencer, and content are well formulated and used to build a relationship with your audience.
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