Having personally dropped off the Facebook bandwagon a few years ago in favour of regaining my privacy and rekindling face-to-face relationships with loved ones before I turned into a total social recluse, these days I rarely use the site unless I’m desperately bored or in need of a stalking fix.
But lately, I have found myself logging on and scrolling through my news feed at least several times a day because, though I’m shamed to admit, I’m thoroughly enjoying the newest craze, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. My news feed is jam-packed with videos of people being soaked or soaking themselves with buckets of icy water and it’s their reactions to the challenge – screams, gasps, profanities and the like – that I find particularly entertaining.
The craze apparently began back in July when Charles Kennedy, a golfer from Florida, responded to a friend who told him “pour ice over your head and I’ll donate to the charity of your choice”. Charles chose ALS because his cousin is a sufferer of the disease. He then challenged his wife, who challenged her friends and so on until it reached an ALS sufferer. He challenged a famous sports player and voilà, overnight it had infiltrated the celebrity circle. Now it’s gone viral across the globe, and it’s showing no signs of slowing.
At the time of writing, the Ice Bucket Challenge had raised almost $US100 million (almost £60 million) – an undeniably superb sum and further evidence of the incredible potential for social media in ‘doing good’. It also highlights the power of social media to spread ideas and news quicker than will ever be possible for more traditional forms of media. By the time a press office has begun writing a release, a campaign may already have reached millions across thousands of countries around the world, if it attracts the right social media attention.


Examples of celebrities taking on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This isn’t the first ‘nominate and challenge’ campaign to go digitally viral, either. Back in March this year, the No Makeup Selfie challenged people to brave posting a picture of themselves wearing no makeup and donate, which raised over £8 million in aid of Cancer Research UK.
But with a plethora of celebs getting involved in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it has attracted some bad press and has been dubbed “just another great PR campaign for the rich and famous”. Not just celebrities, though – companies of every industry, from retail giants to restaurants to financial firms, are jumping on the bandwagon, and enjoying the free publicity and charitable rep that comes as part of the package.
A couple of weeks ago, Senior Vice President of integrated marketing at Coca-Cola Co., Wendy Clark, posted a video of herself getting doused by a giant polar bear, the brand’s iconic ad character, and drying herself off with a bright red, Coca-Cola branded towel. Where this works as marketing tool for a brand is that it gains global media attention (Wendy’s video has almost 21,000 views on YouTube), but it is not seen as unethical or as ‘in your face’ marketing, because ultimately, it’s all for charity. Very clever.
Sure, success for such campaigns happens because they appeal to our emotions and are highly entertaining, but it’s the power of multiplication that’s key here. If a challenge calls on each participant to nominate three others, for example, it causes a serious viral effect that spreads very quickly.
So, in an age where social media is so unequivocally present in our lives, businesses have to think on their feet and many are out there now, furiously trying to brainstorm innovative ways to use the potential virality of social media to their advantage.
Ever wondered how could your business do the same?