Nearly two years after the Ice Bucket Challenge took the internet by storm engaging millions to pour water over their heads to raise awareness of ALS (and donate to the cause), the ALS Association has proven the value of a social media movement – research funded by the challenge has led to the identification of a gene that is responsible for the disease.
The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million in eight weeks and engaged numerous celebrities. Ultimately, 17 million videos of people pouring buckets of ice water over their heads were posted online. As the videos rolled in and the movement grew, so did awareness of ALS and its debilitating effects.
While the value of social media marketing is often put into question, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of a concept that had legs, was driven forward by social media and ultimately made a tremendous impact. Not only did it introduce new audiences to the disease and build a case for funding research, it has since led to an important scientific discovery that is being heralded as a breakthrough. Now that is ROI worth talking about.
How do you create the next Ice Bucket Challenge?
For many nonprofit organizations, engaging 17 million campaign participants during an eight-week period would be a dream, as would be raising $115 million during that same period of time. While there isn’t a step-by-step process to follow for ensuring you social media marketing content goes viral, there are several lessons to be learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge.
1. Keep it simple. Nobody asked someone to walk on the moon or set a world record. They asked them to fill a bucket with ice cold water and pour it over themselves. This was a simple task to execute and came at no cost to the participant, aside from some chills.
- Make it shareable. The Ice Bucket Challenge participants shot videos on their smartphones and uploaded them to social media. No editing and post-production required. The content they created could easily be shared across social networks and their friends could become engaged in the challenge in a couple of clicks.
- Close the loop. Two years may have passed since the Ice Bucket Challenge swept across the internet, but it remains a talking point years later. It is a case study in successful social media marketing for nonprofits; it is an online fundraising success story and the outcomes of the research it funded are being shared by media and across social media. What better way to keep those who participated and/or donated engaged with the cause then by letting them know how much of an impact they made?
As nonprofits hone their fundraising strategies and social media marketing programs, finding simple ways to create shareable, digestible and actionable content remains a key priority. While the Ice Bucket Challenge was unique, and undoubtedly a home-run for educating people about the devastating effects of ALS and raising critical research funding, every nonprofit has the opportunity to build a groundswell of support and engage both existing and new audiences in rallying for their cause.