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What can we learn from the success of the ice bucket challenge?

As I'm sure many of you probably know, there is a huge viral sensation going around social media lately called the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge." For those of you who aren't aware, the challenge comprises of dumping a bucket of ice-water on your head and nominating several others (usually three people) to do the same within 24 hours, or else they have to donate $100 to the ALS Foundation. The videos are all over Facebook and friends challenged are tagged. It has spread like wildfire - with celebrities from Reed Hastings to Justin Timberlake to Ethel Kennedy getting in on it andthe ALS Foundation has raised $5.5 million since July 29th, compared to just $32,000 in the same time period last year, so it has clearly been very effective.

I see at least three major characteristics that have led to it's success:
  • Easily shareable content + requirement to challenge friends(you need to tag a bunch of friend)
  • A 24 hour time limit
  • Non-profit + charitable cause.
I'm wondering what others believe have contributed to making it such an effective viral campaign and what other products can learn from it?

1 Reply

Sloan Eddleston
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Sloan Eddleston Advisor
Chief Operating Officer at The New Republic
You've nailed most of them. I would say:

1) Specific call to action
2) Quick deadline for that action
3) An action that is relatively easy to do
4) Publicity demanding that you take that action (public shame if you don't)
5) Actual cost ($100) OR private shame (I not only didn't do the video, I didn't donate...I suck) if you don't take that action
6) Feeling like you are doing something good
7) Feeling like you are doing something popular
8) Facebook's algorithm that rewards lots of comments, shares and likes - those videos are very likeable (unconscious is saying: 'hey, i'm doing my part by liking!')
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