It's been a year since our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds were drenched with countless videos of friends, relatives and even celebrities filming themselves being doused with buckets of ice-cold water.
This viral phenomenon, the Ice Bucket Challenge, greatly changed the landscape of awareness, with 60,000 Australians, and millions more overseas, getting involved, all in the name of spreading awareness and donations for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
This provides us with a great example of how social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube can be harnessed, directed and managed to reach large audiences and drive awareness for causes, holding several important lessons for communicators trying to reverse engineer the secret to raising awareness.
So what made the Ice Bucket Challenge, and other social media campaigns before it, so successful?
SPIN - Spreadability, Propagativity, Integration, Nexus
Spreadability refers to the nature of the content, and the extent to which people like and are motivated to share it. What made the Ice Bucket Challenge so successful was its ability to add a sense of lightheartedness to a serious cause, making the message compelling through its emotional resonance. Each submission included a call to action for nominees to either accept or decline within 24 hours and donate to research. This added factor of peer pressure and time sensitivity enhanced the message’s spreadability, as people were motivated to pass the message along not only for self-presentation reasons, but also with the hope of influencing their friends to also take part.
Propagativity looks at the content’s design and how easily it can be passed on. This depends on different factors like the size of your social network, the richness of the content and how close your content is to the ‘share’ button. The Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire due to its audio visual nature - we could see the water and ice drench each participant’s clothing and could almost feel goose bumps as they ran to grab a towel to warm up. Videos were easily posted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and the call to action made it simple for people to pass the message along.
Integration highlights the spread of content simultaneously across different media platforms. The Ice Bucket Challenge received a great deal of attention due to the involvement of celebrities and the speed with which it spread across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Of course, this isn’t always possible to replicate, however with a compelling message and unique execution, it can become achievable.
Nexus is the continuous reinforcement of a message through follow-ups or sequels. Although the peak of the Ice Bucket Challenge passed long ago, we are still being updated with the campaign’s progress in raising awareness and money for ALS/MND research. MND Australia recently announced on its website that 30,000 Australians participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge have funded a grant of $1.05 million for Australian MND research. Short and simple updates like this can maximise the impact of your social media awareness campaigns, keeping audiences up to date and making them feel part of the community.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is a solid example of how to correctly harness the power of social media for raising awareness of all different types of causes. Although the breadth and depth of awareness raised has been widely debated, the attention generated for ALS/MND has at least led people to Google what it is, laying the groundwork for other social media campaigns to follow and build on in the future.
Help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 for MND. Show your support by purchasing tickets to the Gundaroo Music Festival in October! Fifty acres is supporting the Gundaroo Music Festival as a pro bono client - to buy tickets to a great day out, click here.