This is not an echo of these words of P. T. Barnum – “As a general thing, I have not ‘duped the world’ nor attempted to do so… I have generally given people the worth of their money twice told.”, but rather these “Every crowd has a silver lining.”
For Millennials, at least for this end of April 2017 weekend, it seems that person is Ja Rule, née Jeffrey Atkins, rapper, and creator of Bahamian Ponzi Scheme also known as the Frye Music Festival. *** 2 May update – Federal Trade Commission violations cited and lawsuit filed.
Like so many before him Ja Rule was successful in his scam (or “not a scam” as he claims) for two reasons, he understood the raw vulnerability of the masses (even privileged ones willing to spend upwards of $250,000) and created a compelling campaign leveraging LOTS of young beautiful women (gaining more than 800k views) whose only claim to fame is to have built very successful personal brands making them social media influencers as a means of monetizing that vulnerability for personal gain.
The influencers (I think the term shills is more appropriate) among them Kendall Jenner (nearly 22m Twitter followers), Bella Hadid (more than 750k Twitter followers), Em Rata (more than 1m Twitter followers) made out like bandits with paychecks reported to being $250,000 to stand around, or lounge in bathing suits adorning the eye with a promise of ‘come play with me’. Using Instagram they promoted, and promoted, and promoted and in doing so the money poured in. Sex, as ever, sells.
Yesterday, April 28th, Ja Rule (allegedly) tweeted and someone posted a screen grab to Instagram that the Frye Festival was all a big ‘social experiment’ to test the mettle of participants in a Hunger Games like scenario of adversity. (Some of the related posts include drinking their own urine to survive.)
Time will tell how short the memory of the public is, and whether by association these women have negatively impacted their credibility and their future earnings, and whether Ja Rule will be the subject of both a Class Action lawsuit and criminal charges for fraud.
This goes back to my last post, less than a week old, about ethics and reputation management. The nature of social media is that everything good or bad plays out in real-time. In our Wild, Wild West of social platforms there is broader issue for Twitter and Instagram and Facebook to consider – if ‘sponsored content’ results in an abuse of the public trust by hosting the influence peddling content are you complicit?, and if so, are you culpable?, should you distance your business further from such content and somehow shift the juncture of revenue generation? If a post subsequently results in bullying, terrorism, human trafficking, stalking, domestic violence, fraud, wrongful death, or murder have your policies enabled such to take place? Will any of these potential tragic events subsequently amplified to audiences approaching 600 million people globally result in lawsuits for ‘pain and suffering’? Corporate communications professionals should be involved in risk assessment, and not simply for the sake of reputation management or avoiding crisis management. I hope that this weekend legal, executive and communications teams at various social companies are meeting to develop (or expand) policies and legal protections.
The public clamors for social influencers to more carefully examine their choices of endorsement deals, a fairy tale ending which will never happen. It is the idolization of the rich and infamous which brought these individuals to Exuma and they need to take personal responsibility for their choices.
In closing, Caveat Emptor.
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