I am sure by now everyone has heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and most have probably participated. This was an ingenious idea that was made possible by the connections and overall size of social media. So what made this campaign so successful?
Let’s Take a Look Back
Let’s look at two of the most noted nonprofit social media campaigns of 2013. Water is Life chose to use a common hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, to grab the attention of social media users. The organization used individuals who are in need of clean water and aligned these images with first world problems in a series of videos which were shared over social media platforms. The reality of what is really important in life was enough to supply over a million days of clean water to those in need.
According to Tom Khazan, a writer for The Atlantic, these ads called out the “slacktivists”, activists in symbolic action rather than action and made people realize action is more than a simple “like it”.
While both of these campaigns were bold and moving, neither produced the results of the ALS challenge, which as of August 2014, has increased from $2.5 million to over $70 million in donations from this time last year.
What did ALS do right?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge called out the social media users in a similar manner as the UNICEF campaign, but the challenge required action, and better yet, videos of action, which turned viral, very quickly. The challenge also encouraged competition. Challenging one’s friends, on video, to compete in a challenge that is for a good cause provides the classic call to action so many marketers have learned about over the years.
The Water for Life campaign was successful at creating a call to action, without the same directive language as the ALS Challenge. But the ALS’s message was simple and direct with a clear call to action: donate or get the ice bucket, or for most participants, match your predecessor and do both.
According to Eric Carson, the magic formula is hard to finalize, but a few key ingredients have helped with this incredible challenge:
- A compelling message
- Peer pressure and competition
- 24 hour call to action
- Clear and simple instructions
I am sure many copycat campaigns are to follow, but the ALS campaign has created a new relationship between social media and nonprofit organizations. ALS has worked hard for many years to promote their organization through traditional media and emerging media. This hard work is what made their organization known to the beginners of this challenge. Credit for this challenge should be given to both the hard workers of this nonprofit and the devoted friendship of the challenge originator.
Thank you ALS for working hard to save lives and assist those living with this disease.