Social feeds from across the country are chock-full of videos and photos of celebrities, inventors, CEOs, athletes and politicians all taking part in the most recent viral sensation: the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Whether you've laughed at your friend’s reaction to the ice cold water or taken the challenge yourself, postings about it are everywhere. This initiative has achieved something that's every marketer’s dream: going viral and capturing wide attention across the nation in a month or two.
How did this simple initiative turn into a movement that has scored participation from some of the biggest names in the country, including Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Kobe Bryant, Oprah and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie?
The Ice Bucket Challenge benefits the ALS Association, which is dedicated to raising funds to research a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as well as caring for those with the disease. It gained steam with the participation of Beverly, Mass.-based Pete Frates, who since 2012 has had the illness (also called Lou Gehrig's disease).
Startups, established firms and marketers of all types can learn from the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those trying to develop a viral campaign can take the following steps:
1. Identify the goal or cause.
The goal of the Ice Bucket Challenge has been to spread awareness and raise funds for ALS research and its success has exceeded initial expectations. The objective is simple and clear and the challenge doesn’t require much effort from participants: going online to donate or pouring a bucket of ice water over the head, or both.
Today’s consumers like simplicity and direct messaging. They typically won’t take the time to read through an entire article, newsletter or web page to understand a message. Marketers, simplicity is your friend.
2. Make it fun and easy.
Few things are funnier than seeing people have ice poured all over them and watching them cringe, scream or freeze in place. The web has been flooded with comical videos and images of those who have accepted the challenge.
People like to laugh, so keep members of your audience entertained with a video or photo that they would enjoy viewing. Keeping things lighthearted lets people connect with an organization on a human level and can encourage further engagement in an authentic way.
3. Add immediacy.
Those asked to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge have only 24 hours to do so.
If you want an idea to flourish, keep the window of time brief to propel the process forward rapidly. By giving your audience a deadline, the initiative will become a greater priority.
4. Understand the power of multiplication.
The ALS challenge calls on participants to encourage three additional people to participate, thus creating a multiplier effect.
When possible, let consumers involved in an initiative have a chance to engage with their network so as to experience the joy of others joining in. The bonus for a marketer is bringing increased exposure to a company's brand.
5. Share on many platforms.
News of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is being shared on many social-media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
If you’re hoping for an idea or campaign to go viral, make it easy for others to share updates across multiple platforms. Don’t give people a reason to not become involved.
6. Give participants a chance to feel good.
Everyone loves to feel a little better about himself (or herself). The Ice Bucket Challenge raises funds for a medical cause, and no matter the size of a donation, participants can feel good because they're helping others in need.
Plus, the challenge gives participants a sense of unity: They are sharing positive feelings and a goal with the rich and famous.
Setting up an initiative like this lets participants also allows for an emotional connection with an organization and opens up an opportunity for conversation.