The Ice Bucket Challenge

August 12th, 2014

Unless you’ve had your Facebook access completely restricted (or you’re one of the vast minority off the grid entirely), you have undoubtedly witnessed your friends, family, celebrities, and even pets, dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS and promote fundraising for the ALS Association (ALSA). The way in which this movement has exploded into popular culture is truly astonishing, and yields important insights for those involved in marketing seeking to utilize social media to promote their product or organization.

As of August 19th, the ALSA has received $22.9 million in donations, compared to just $1.9 million raised by the same time last year. These numbers paint a striking picture of just how much of a gamechanger “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been in augmenting fundraising efforts for the ALSA. But how exactly did this campaign realize such ubiquity with the public?

The challenge received its first significant media attention when correspondents of the Golf Channel program, Morning Drive, participated in an on-air Ice Bucket Challenge in June. By August 1st, the New York Times reported that over 1.2 million videos had been shared on Facebook and had been mentioned 2.2 million times on Twitter in that same time span.

Nominations comprise an integral component of the challenge, and in calling-out specific friends to take part in it, participants play a pivotal role in the exponential growth of the phenomenon. In this way, the ALSA has benefitted from social media’s ability to generate self-perpetuating trends. Compound this with the multitude of celebrity participants, from George W. Bush, to Lebron James, to Weird Al Yankovic, and you have one of the most successful nonprofit fundraisers in history.

Although this particular phenomenon took off inadvertently and organically, its model of utilizing the outreach potential of social media should absolutely be remembered and implemented with deliberation by those attempting to create cultural buzz for their products. People are, by nature, curious attention seekers and this is one of the many reasons why this type of campaign has the potential to gain so much traction.

The movement capitalizes on the pervasive desire to be seen as an online entity and garner “likes” and “shares,” and also integrates self-promotion for others to partake in the camera time as well. Discovering a way to promote one’s products through these mechanisms will prove invaluable to the success of a marketing blitz.

However, it is important to take these results with a grain of salt: interactions on social media tend to reflect minimal participation on the part of the user. Sure, they may “like” your page and share your posts, but are they really engaging deeply with your brand? Directing users to more immersive touchpoints from your social media page will strengthen their relationship to you as a brand.

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