Let’s be honest, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge got us all afraid to log into social for a few weeks due to either fear of getting challenged or just having your news feed crammed full of ice bucket videos, or both. However, you must be inspired by the impact it has had.  To date, there been over $100 million in donations to a very worthy cause and over 1 billion YouTube views. This is astonishing and commendable especially when you consider that this all happened in about an 8 week time period.

The ice bucket tsunami, also hit very close to home and became very real to me. I had recently learned that a dear friend and mentor of mine, Paul Orso, had been diagnosed with ALS.  We reconnected after several years when his family reached out and asked if I could build Paul a website. Turns out he was a closet song writer and musician. After being diagnosed with ALS people came from everywhere to help him get his music published. It was beautiful to see real people, devoting real time, to help a real person. Building a website was the least I could do.

Why The Ice Bucket Challenge Worked

  1. People care – People can come together around causes that they are emotionally connected to. Social media is the glue that binds them and facilitates the process. The individuals working with Paul as well as people challenged to pour ice water over their heads came from all over the world and were miles, states, and even countries apart.
  2. Crazy works – The ALS Association could have promoted another 5K run or gala event just like every other non-profit. What a loss that would have been.  ALS thought outside the box and it paid off big.
  3. Appeals to our vanity – Part of what makes social media so popular is it gives us a platform to show off and also to peek into the lives of our friends.  The ice bucket challenge worked for both reasons. It made building awareness of this disease personal and to do something about it in a very public place. It also gave participants a chance to feel good about themselves.
  4. We love challenges – Whether it’s bungee jumping, arm wrestling, video games, or one-upping a great story, we are inspired and motivated by a good challenge.
  5. Simple and compelling event – Challenged parties clearly understood what was expected of them and in what time frame.
  6. Incorporated multiple social elements and platforms – Participants used YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to document and share their participation.  They also used @mentions and tagging to challenge their friends.

Lessons Learned

  1. Tap into an emotional connection – Ask how your business can partner with your social community to advance a common cause.  For example, one of our clients provides $50K in scholarship money each year to students that are nominated by their teachers for academic achievement.
  2. You don’t have to be crazy but you do need to find your niche – Spend time understanding what it is that your company offers customers that they cannot get from any other business.  Hone your message so you can develop and clearly communicate what your unique selling proposition really is, then eloquently weave this message into social media conversations.
  3. Let your followers show off and congratulate them when they do – For example, each week we rank the top 100 franchises on how well they perform in social media. Then we acknowledge the top performers in social media.
  4. KISS theory – If you want your followers to take action, keep calls-to-action socially simple, engaging, and easy to understand. Have a compelling event and a deadline to participate.
  5. Use video – People would rather watch the internet than read the internet.

The ice bucket challenge showed us the power of social media and the impact an engaged community can have. While your business may not be fighting to stamp out ALS, it does stand for something your followers can get behind.   It’s up to you to equip, enable, and empower them to spread the word and become your volunteer marketing army.

PS – If you are so inclined head over to Paul Orso’s website and drop him an encouraging word.