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When Social Media Revolts Against You, featuring Raleigh's ITB Insider William N. Finley IV

[lead]Most of the sentiment surrounding the fallout of Fyre Festival is a bit of schadenfreude.  Rich kids getting their comeuppance by getting duped after being promised a ridiculously excessive VIP experience.  However, if you talk to our own Raleigh ITB Insider, William N. Finley, IV, he gives a different perspective.[/lead]
“The way it’s being portrayed is ‘rich kids of Instagram meets Hunger Games’… and the Hunger Games part is true,” Finley says half-jokingly. “The mainstream media is glossing over the fact it was a mix of people, not everyone was an influencer. I know people who paid $500. No one paid $12,000.”

Fyre Festival joins the ranks of brands like Pepsi and United Airlines combating an angry digital mob armed with endless tweets instead of pitchforks. Walk West sat down with Finley, who is recovering in Florida after a very disappointing and frustrating weekend, to get his perspective. His account of the situation illustrates the carelessness of organizers, who at times, jeopardized the safety of attendees. Finley recounts how there was no signage, no official staff, not enough security, and no infrastructure. Just Billy McFarland, standing on a table telling guests to grab a tent. What followed is a case study in how not to handle a brand crisis. We discussed with Finley where they went wrong and what brands can learn from it.

We discussed with Finley where they went wrong and what brands can learn from it.

HAVE A SOCIAL INSURANCE PLAN

“We live in an immediate response, instant gratification culture,” Finely explained, surprised at the lack of social media use from the Fyre organizers to communicate. Finley added that it is imperative to have a social media team on standby in the event of a crisis or emergency, whether you need them or not. “Even if everything is going great, you need insurance,” he added. In addition to a team, your social insurance needs one more very important element: an actual plan. Whether specific to an event, launch, or on-going potential issues, digital teams should brainstorm any negative scenario they can think of and develop an action plan for each. Implementing a social listening tool to capture what is being said about your brand outside of your channels also helps keep a pulse on

In addition to a team, your social insurance needs one more very important element: an actual plan. Whether specific to an event, launch, or on-going potential issues, digital teams should brainstorm any negative scenario they can think of and develop an action plan for each. Implementing a social listening tool to capture what is being said about your brand outside of your channels also helps keep a pulse on conversation.

BE A REAL HUMAN

There’s nothing worse than an over-crafted, public statement that uses corporate speak to address everyday consumers and if you don’t believe me, just ask United. Their notorious use of the phrase ‘re-accommodate’ to describe dragging a passenger off a plane by force caused just as much outrage as the event itself. Real people don’t talk like that. True apologies take responsibility for mistakes without adding too much explanation that would unravel their intent.

When asked how Finely felt about the statement released by Fyre, he felt it wasn’t enough. “Everything about it is a joke,” he said frankly. “I’m not in PR, but I know enough that this is not acceptable.” His reaction further illustrates just how important a real, authentic apology is building back brand trust. Fyre never truly owned up to the fact they did not know what they were doing, and instead passed the blame around and made excuses.

OVER-COMMUNICATE THE RIGHT WAY

If you haven’t added Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer into your marketing book library yet, order now. Baer reminds us that customer service in the digital age is a spectator sport. Part of your social insurance plan mentioned above is being able to quickly respond to everyone interacting with you. That’s right, respond to EVERYONE. Even the worst haters. The key is to not be defensive and talk like a real human. The Gogo Squeez recall last March is a great example of how to do this properly.

It’s important to have the right communication in place and be sensitive that you don’t add insult to injury. In the case of Fyre attendees, Finely confirmed their app scheduler was still emailing about events well after it was called off. Furthermore, the refund website hackled ticket holders of the defunct festival for not choosing the option to apply their investment to next year’s uncertain fiasco. The option for denying letting it ride was “No, I’m not down for the adventure” confirming event organizers’ delusion.

UNITED FRONT

In a large organization, it’s important to make sure all parties involved in your brand communication are in lock-step. Mixed messages and contradicting information only fuels consumer frustration and social ridicule. It is also disjointed when those with influence tied to your brand start abandoning ship, such as Ja Rule’s statement that the Fyre disaster was not his fault. Finley believes, along with us, that you need to know the level of work your name is attached to stating, “If you put your name on something you better make sure it’s perfect. Be more involved.” We couldn’t agree more.

DO THE RIGHT THING

Finally, we believe you shouldn’t be afraid to make an unpopular choice if what your brand is trying to launch doesn’t feel right. When you stop and think about it, doing the right thing could have prevented almost all recent PR missteps. Fyre could have postponed their event, United could have given passengers more of an incentive, and Pepsi could have gone back to the drawing board. It might seem like a loss, but doing the right thing saves money and reputation in the long run.

Recalling arriving at Fyre Festival, Finley said it was apparent they were not ready. “Once we talked to Billy McFarland and it was clear no one knew what they were doing,” Finely recalled as he was told all the tents were first come, first serve. “You get there and you’re like it can’t get any worse. And then it would. And that feeling never ended.” To borrow a tweet, it seemed Fyre was a great idea and that’s where it stopped. Even the good intended mindset of ‘the show must go on’ need to be evaluated if the execution isn’t there.

When we asked Finley about attending Fyre 2018, he feels he has to attend just to document. This time, however, he shared that he will be more prepared, “I’ll have a backup plan and a survival kit, just in case.”

If your brand needs help with a social insurance plan or crisis management, please reach out at info@walkwest.com.

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Ann Marie Taepke

Ann Marie Taepke

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