Let’s take a minute or two and rewind to summer. Back when it was warm, and we didn’t have to worry about shoveling any snow! Most of us may recall a trending cause that went viral on social media: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a participant and donor in this challenge, I decided to do some research and get down to the root of it all. Who and what inspired it? What qualities of the campaign caused it to trend? How successful was it really?
As an Omni-channel marketing company, we at i76 are constantly intrigued by the effects that social media can have on companies, people, agencies, and more importantly, non-profit organizations like this. Social media has that power to turn something small and nameless into a worldwide trend.
For those of you who may not know, the ALS Bucket Challenge was an online phenomenon, challenging people to dump a bucket of ice water on their head after being nominated to do so by a fellow friend, family member, etc…It encouraged the raising of both awareness and donations to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Participants had 24 hours to complete the challenge, or they must forfeit by way of a charitable donation of $100 or more. After accepting the challenge, participants were required to film themselves completing the challenge, while nominating their own three people to complete the challenge. Following this, you must post your video on social media as proof of completing the challenge. Facebook, saw the most activity by far. As of August 15, 2014, Facebook released a series of statistics that stated at least 15 million people have posted, commented, or liked a post pertaining to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Additionally, it was recorded that over 1.2 million people posted a video. Sources say that by the end of this past summer, over $70.2 million had been raised, which is a $67.7 million increase when compared to August 2013. To this day, the ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million in donations. With this money, scientists have increased their global research efforts and are one step closer to finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
When I first visited the ALS Association’s website, it brought me to the picture displayed on the left. It speaks volumes about how the entire campaign is driven by social media. It encourages hashtags, and specifically directs people to post their video on social media. Its success has not only created a world-wide trend online, but even more importantly, a fund-raising triumph! Its impact has been substantial, and participation from celebrities, schools, professional athletes, etc…has not gone unnoticed. So, how did it become so successful? What made it unique?
Though there have been varying speculations as to who officially came up with the original idea, it has been credited to Pete Frates and good friend Pat Quinn. Frates and Quinn share a similar story; both former athletes, Frates and Quinn were diagnosed with ALS within one year of each other. On July 31, 2014, Pete Frates kicked off the Ice Bucket Challenge by posting the very first video for ALS. Since its launch, the campaign turned into a social media sensation.
One of the campaign’s greatest accomplishments was its ability to convey emotion. Whether it’s laughter, sympathy, empathy, and so on, the entire foundation was rewarding. Not only did folks get to share a memory or a laugh while participating in this challenge, but they also got to contribute to a good cause. “They’ve taken a disease which is not at all funny, and they’ve taken a cause that is not at all funny, but they’ve attached it to social behavior that’s hilarious” says Gartner Analyst, Jennifer Polk. Two of the strongest human emotions that are commonly expressed are humor and anger. Many marketers stray away from anger, as it tends to be associated with controversy. What’s left is humor. In addition to that, adding a sense of urgency, as well as the concept of a “challenge”, is even more engaging; not to mention promoting this campaign in the heat of summer paired well with the refreshing thought of dumping freezing cold water on yourself!
Secondly, choosing social media and the most effective platforms was another major factor. Social media is much more interactive and engaging when compared to traditional media. Its ability to reach a mass market and spread a message at rapid rates is exponential. The top 3 social network sites, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have transformed into professional networks that businesses now rely on for traffic, and ultimately, sales (or in this case, donations).
So there you have it. Social media took one simple idea and turned it into a multi-million dollar success. But now that the summer has passed us, what can we expect next? Though there has been no recent campaign launches for the ALS Association, I’m sure we can expect to see something big again. In the meantime, i76 Solutions would like to pay homage to the ALS Foundation too-but in a very different way. After much collaboration, we have come up with a much more lingering type of challenge. Instead of the Ice Bucket Challenge, in the event of avoiding pneumonia this winter, we have opted in for a Pizza Eating Challenge. Co-founder & Chief Digital Officer, Drew Salamone and Michael McCall, our Director of Strategic Account Leadership and Development, have volunteered themselves and their stomachs to rise to the occasion.
Here’s how we play:
Each competitor has exactly 20 minutes to consume up to 2 and a half pizzas and yes, crust must be finished! If crust is left on the plate, that slice does not count! If both competitors fail to finish, they will both make a charitable donation of $250 dollars each to Saint Francis Inn Ministries and JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). There’s no losing here! Find us on social media to see who wins!