QUICK...How to Get the Most Out of a Viral Campaign Before It Expires?

We’ve gone viral! It’s a phrase every organization wants to hear when they are trying to spread a marketing campaign through social media and I’ve written about it before – here. So, I’m sure you’ve seen your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds filled with the latest stunt – the #IceBucketChallenge.

Per PR News, the challenge was created to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Participants fill a bucket with ice water and then dump it on their head.  The participants then call on other friends to do the same within 24 hours or donate to the ALS Association instead.

It all started when former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, created the “Ice Bucket Challenge” with friends and family on social media.  Frates has been living with ALS for the last two years and has dedicated his time to the ALS Massachusetts chapter in an effort to spread awareness of Lou Gherig’s Disease.

So as communicators, let’s dissect this a bit.  There are tons of campaigns created for good causes that aim to go viral but don’t.  What about this campaign has been so successful?

  • A worthy cause – check
  • A simple ask – check
  • Something fun that people want to watch – check
  • Celebrity support – check

It’s cold, it’s fun, and it’s contagious.

This viral campaign has gained a lot of momentum among celebrities like Hoda Kotb, Martha Stewart, Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, and Ethel Kennedy who called upon President Obama to join the challenge.

According to TIME, as of August 11th, more than 71,000 people have donated $2.3 million dollars to the national ALS Association since the campaign kicked off on July 29th. In comparison to this time last year, the organization had raised $25,000 by this point.  I’d call this a success.

But wait, there’s a twist. This challenge was actually started many months before Frates took the challenge to raise awareness for ALS.  This Slate article says the stunt didn’t have anything to do with ALS but rather a group of athletes challenging each other.  The charity idea was an afterthought.  In fact, the author of the article proposes a different challenge –

  1.  Do not fetch a bucket, fill it with ice, or dump it on your head.
  2. Do not film yourself or post anything on social media.
  3. Just donate the damn money, whether to the ALS Association or to some other charity of your choice. And if it’s an organization you really believe in, feel free to politely encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Regardless of who started the campaign, it’s well-meaning and raising money and attention for causes that otherwise aren’t thought of as often.  As we all know, these things have an expiration date.  If you want to jump on the bandwagon, you better get going before the masses move onto something else.