Social Media Management Lessons from The Ice Bucket Challenge

September 7, 2014

The world is hooked on another viral social media campaign and this time it means dumping ice-cold water over your head. Who would've thought of that? There is not magic formula for a successful social media campaign but it is always worth looking into the latest craze to go viral and try to learn from it. This blog tries to unravel some of the key points that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can teach a social media professional.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is all over the place and has splattered newsfeeds across the world with streams of short videos of both the famous and not so famous people of the world drenching themselves in icy cold water. Everyone from Justin Timberlake to Bill Gates have taken part in the challenge that has been set up to raise awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

The campaign has been a huge success raising a reported $70.2 million for the ALS community.

So where did it all begin? Surprisingly, the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn't even created by ALSA but by the golfing community who have done similar contests in the past for various charities. One competitor in the gold challenge tied it to ALS and, viola, viral campaign well, not quite that quickly but basically.

What can we learn from this challenge?First off, there won't be another ice Bucket Challenge - that ship has sailed. But there are many takeaways you can use.

Captivating Message

This challenge provided a captivating message that resonated on an emotional level with participants. The video filmed by a young gentleman who actually suffers from ALS now has nearly 15 million hits - a number that is rising by the second. Funnily enough though, it isn't necessarily the sad emotional element of this challenge that appeals. It is the humor. The amusing act of throwing ice over your head has found a way to promote a disease that is far from funny. And people love doing it and donating due to the message it delivers.

Call to Action

In any social campaign, the likelihood of success can be highly dependent on the strength of the call to action. In the Ice Bucket Challenge, participants know they must nominate three people to do the challenge within 24 hours followed by the ice dunk. This clear template and the short time frame for a response from their nominees has contributed to the virility of this campaign. It is so simple and the time frame is so fast that it spreads like wildfire.

Peer Pressure

Social people love to get recognition from their peers and by showing their charitable side as well as nominating others is the perfect challenge to appeal to users online. There is also the involvement of the celebs - if you see you favourite celebrity tipping ice over their head, the chances are you will too.

Easy to complete

The tools required to complete this challenge are items in most households: A smartphone, a bucket, water and ice. The fact that participants can complete this challenge with things lying around the house makes it easy and that is also a factor that contributes to the popularity of this challenge. The easier you make it, the more likely it is to spread.

It is every social media manager's dream to come up with a campaign as successful as the ice bucket challenge and this has shown the power of social media. It has raised awareness for ALS, a disease that was otherwise quite unknown, and has laid the groundwork for future of the charity.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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