Lessons Learned From Fyre Festival’s Mishandling of Influencer Marketing

Micro-influencers offer an opportunity to grab consumer attention in a seemingly more genuine way

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A hot topic lately is the dueling Fyre Festival documentaries. Regardless of whether you prefer Netflix’s portrayal or Hulu’s sinister narrative, one thing both cover is the role that influencers played in unknowingly perpetuating the lie.

This fact is intrinsically linked to a bigger trend today. Although consumers still love following macro-influencers on social, they don’t trust them anymore.

Influencers are typically touted as the key to authenticity. MuseFind reports that 92 percent trust them over traditional marketing. However, as Truth Decay rises, so does cynicism. It’s well known that those with 100,000-plus followers get branded kickbacks, but we’re desensitized to the sponsored content. So, what does get our attention?

One of the documentaries said it best (though paraphrased for brevity): Fyre overpaid several macro-influencers to hype the festival, but it was one person with less than 500 followers who trended and dismantled the whole operation.

When you think of the people that you really trust in your life, it’s unlikely they’re the Hadid sisters. Because we’re social creatures, people trust their tribe of family, friends, coworkers, etc. If they tell you they’re using a product they love, you’re much more likely to adopt it.

Shift to the opposite end of the spectrum, from macro-influencer to micro-influencer.

Therefore, marketers should stop doling out $1 million for a single post. Shift to the opposite end of the spectrum, from macro-influencer to micro-influencer, and focus on the people who actually use your products, truly believe in your brand and can genuinely influence your target to convert.

Prioritize loyalists

When you think about loved brands, those that latch onto social popularity to sell a product don’t come to mind. It’s brands like Glossier and La Croix, those that actively empower a community and prioritize them over celebrities. Glossier’s founder attributes 90 percent of the company’s revenue to word of mouth driven by true fans. Therefore, marketers should champion those who already love the brand and let them genuinely evangelize on its behalf to allow their sphere to grow.

Weigh the ROI

Micro-influencers are about one-tenth the cost of macro-influencers and marginally less than celebrities. Thus, instead of blowing a brand’s budget on a few posts, work with micro-influencers to consistently share content over a longer timeframe. Not only does this allow you to meet frequency needs, but it also shows that they really believe in the brand, as evidenced by repeat use. To account for the lack of reach micro-influencers have, marketers should allocate their leftover budget to amplification. Paid social visibility increases the influencer’s sphere, adding credibility to them as creators and further cementing the mutually beneficial partnership between them and the brand.

Plan for content

One thing both Fyre documentaries point out is that the influencer brief is often a light lift of creating posts. Loose restrictions can often yield better outputs, but they can also incur more reviews and revisions. In the name of being better safe than sorry, strategists should outline the content needs for the year and plot where micro-influencer content can slot in. In addition to your content needs, craft your desired look and feel to guide micro-influencer selection and avoid opting for easy solutions such as working with meme accounts when you actually need premium lifestyle content.

Collaborate and get scrappy

Even if the shoot isn’t happening on a private island, scheduling one with micro-influencers is valuable. Why? Not only does it ensure a level of creative control for the brand’s look and feel, but it also offers you an asset library to leverage throughout the year as needed. Additionally, the Fyre team dropped the launch video while still on the island, limited Wi-Fi and all. Hours of editing and over-stylized assets aren’t always the answer. That is so important. Build a core creator team who can produce strong work efficiently that allows your brand to act quickly and smartly.

Don’t rule out macro-influencers

To play to the other side of my own advice, it’s fair to say that macro-influencers still have a place in your strategy. The orange tile is proof that using them to seed excitement about an event or activation still makes sense. However, brands looking to build perception and favorability (who isn’t?) should couple that with long-term micro-influencer work that consistently builds trust with the target.

One disclaimer to the above is that micro-influencers are currently trusted because companies aren’t abusing that end of the spectrum with giveaways, claims and fake news. In order to maintain that trust, we need to be respectful of micro-influencers’ audiences and avoid a tragedy of the commons in influencer strategy.

It’s not necessarily revolutionary to recommend micro-influencers over macro-influencers; articles plugging that advice date back years. Still, brands are like people; they’re adverse to change. Hopefully, the relevancy can help this message sink in a little further this time.