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Some months ago, there was the ALS ice-bucket challenge, where people were asked to donate money to fund research into curing ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease. As part of this challenge, donors were asked to dump ice water over their heads in support, AND donate money to the research as well.

Style: "70's look"I’m sure your Facebook feed was filled with friends and family dumping water on themselves. Mine was. But what did we learn about the ALS ice-bucket challenge that we can use in our marketing?

There were three main lessons, I think:

1) Low Participation Barriers are Key

People want to participate in online challenges and events. They want to be part of the trend and they don’t want to have to buy any crazy ingredients to do so. What was so brilliant about the ice bucket challenge? It took ice, water, a bucket and a camera to participate.  It’s safe to assume that the population of people who frequent social media has access to ice and water free of charge. It’s also fairly likely that they have a bucket around. And a camera? Name the last phone you saw that didn’t have a video camera.

Takeaway: If you want people to participate in your social media marketing campaign, make it easy for them to do so. The less friction there is between initial contact and participation, the more people will engage. Throw in some forms to fill out, specific sites to upload the videos to or an entry fee and the ice bucket challenge is a failure.

2) Self-Promoting Mechanisms Work via Social Invitations

The “challenge” aspect of the ice bucket event was brilliant. This plays right into peer pressure, with your friends and family looking “directly” at you from the camera and calling your name out. To drive the point home, they tag you in their post and everyone knows that you’ve been called out. You have to respond or you’re a horrible person who wants people to die! (Okay, not really, but that’s how it seems!)

Takeaway: Any marketing campaign where people are sharing the idea of their own free will, directly with other people is a winner. You don’t have to do anything to spread the campaign; it does it on its own. Keep in mind that the ice bucket challenge was initially only a three-person challenge, meaning you aren’t calling out a whole crowd of people. This makes it much harder to “hide” or get lost in a sea of tagged names. You’re in the spotlight and you must perform (or be shamed on social media), thus spreading the campaign once again.

3) Pay Attention to the Time Frame

There are two interesting factors built into the ice bucket challenge that have to do with time, both of which play directly into the success of the campaign. First, the urgency that is created through the issuing of the challenge, you have 24 hours to complete the challenge or you have to donate $100 to ALS. Now, forgetting the fact that people are dumping ice water over their head to avoid donating money to a good cause, focus on the fact that a deadline for action has been set,
urgency created. Second, think about how short these videos are, 60 seconds was the longest one I saw and that was from a self-professed camera hog. Keep the content short and fun and you’ll be successful.

Takeaway: Timing is important in that you:
1) Create a sense of urgency by building in a timetable during which the participants must act or face consequences AND
2) Keep the campaign short, sweet and fun.

Use these three strategies when planning your next social media campaign for better results!