5 Things Marketers Should Learn From Viral Challenges Like The Ice Bucket Challenge



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Last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was arguably the single most successful social media campaign in history. While participation numbers aren’t an exact science, the ALS Association claims it received more than $31.5 million in donations as a result of the challenge – compared to $1.9 million during the same period from the prior year. Even more encouraging was the fact that the donations came from more than 637,000 new donors.

5 Lessons for Your Brand
What made this social media campaign and challenge so successful? And what can your brand, organization, or cause learn from the ALS Association’s success? Let’s briefly review some of the biggest takeaways.

1. It’s Important to Stand Out

The success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was rooted in originality. The first time you scrolled through your newsfeed and saw a video of someone dumping water on their head, your curiosity was immediately peaked; it’s not something you see every day.

The takeaway is that social challenges and campaigns need to be unique in order to stand out. Social networking sites are so crowded and oversaturated with content that anything normal or “safe” doesn’t stand a chance. Weird, goofy, unique, and polarizing – these are words that describe successful social campaigns.

2. Getting Influencers Involved is Crucial

While success is ultimately rooted in your ability to reach the masses, getting involvement from celebrities and influencers is crucial to success. A single endorsement can make a massive difference. In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, participants included celebrities like Bill Gates, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, and Taylor Swift.

While you may not be able to secure a lineup like that, getting the involvement of just one or two influencers can make a huge difference in your campaign or challenge. This is something the new Challenged App addresses by providing an “exciting ecosystem for fans and friends to engage with the hottest celebrities and brands around.”

3. Allow for Personalization

Personalization is extremely important. The great thing about the Ice Bucket Challenge was that each participant was able to personalize his or her video or experience. This is what allowed the campaign to last for so long. If every video has been the same, interest would have waned after only a few days. However, the ability to personalize meant the campaign became stronger the longer it lasted.

When launching a social campaign or challenge, make customization and personalization your top priorities. This ultimately encourages more participation and makes involvement more fun and meaningful.

4. Keep it Simple

In the design world people frequently reiterate the KISS principle, which stands for “Keep it Simple Stupid.” The Ice Bucket Challenge was able to do this by not overcomplicating the rules or requirements. A person chose to get drenched in ice water or donate to ALS. They then challenged someone else and the process repeated.

When launching social challenges or campaigns, remember to keep it extremely simple. The more rules, requirements, and caveats you add, the lower the participation rate will be. Social media is designed for simple, fast consumption of content, not long-winded posts and difficult-to-understand concepts. Understand your audience and you’ll succeed.

5. Transcend Age

Finally, successful social media challenges transcend age. Participants in the Ice Bucket Challenge ranged from young children to adults. By not ostracizing any demographic or age group, you increase the chances of mass participation. This is probably the hardest principle to put into practice, but it’s an extremely important component of success.

Success is Found in the Details
The reality is that most social challenges fail. For every Ice Bucket Challenge, there are hundreds of smaller campaigns that fail to gain traction. While it’s realistic to assume that few campaigns will ever come close to reaching the success of 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s still possible to garner positive results by learning from these five valuable takeaways.

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