Lessons on Going Viral

As Fall approaches and cooler weather drifts in, we bring to an end what may have been the chilliest summer of all time. Well, at least online. Whether or not you had the opportunity to participate directly, it is no doubt the #ALSicebucketchallenge made it’s way to your screen. The viral phenomenon that poured out all over social media gained enormous traction, resulting in over 180 million search results on Google, more than 2 million YouTube videos, and engaged over 30 million people on Facebook. Overall, the ALS Foundation claimed to raise 35 times more than they did the previous year. With the end goal being donations, it’s simple to say the campaign was a huge success. But how did the campaign obtain that much reach? How does something become THAT viral? Here’s my observations…

1. Emotional & Simple

The best ads & commercials touch on an emotional driver that triggers a response. People feel an emotional connection to this and want to act. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is clever, funny, and above all… simple. Pour a bucket of ice on your head, challenge 3 others and post it on social media. Now, getting someone to act is more difficult. People are lazy. People value time. The Ice Bucket Challenge only takes 30 seconds to do.

2. Easy to Share

This is pretty straight forward. People need to be able to find your content. With the Ice Bucket Challenge, people were able to use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to easily share videos with their followers and beyond.

3. Connected Call to Action

Yes, of course there should always be a call to action in any ad, campaign, or marketing material for that matter. However, there’s a direct difference between your standard call to action and what I call “connected call to action”. Your standard call to action might consist of “LIKE us on Facebook and SHARE this post to XYZ”. That’s great… but why? Why do I care do that? A connected call to action, on the other hand, is not a prompt coming for the brand, but from someone who is connected to your social circle in some way. This contest is the perfect example. The Ice Bucket Challenge prompts you to call someone out online, tag them, and illicit a response within 24 hours. The call to action is coming from someone you trust. Someone you are connected with. Someone you will want to engage with in the public eye. To me, this is why the contest was such a success and why so many people chose to participate. You can’t avoid your aunt on Facebook, right?

So, the next time you are thinking of raising money for your organization, take a close look at this campaign, but don’t think too hard. Be simple. Be shareable. Be fun.