If you haven't heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge, you have clearly been living in a cave or hibernating.
The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.
Beverly, Mass. resident Pete Frates, along with his family, helped to make the “Ice Bucket Challenge” go viral on the social sites Facebook and Twitter. Frates, 29, has lived with ALS since 2012, and he has worked with The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. A former Division 1 college athlete with Boston College Baseball, Frates tirelessly spreads awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
This viral sensation, which has used the hash tag #IceBucketChallenge, has attracted thousands of followers, including Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, who willingly dropped frozen ice on themselves and issued the challenge to others.
On Wednesday, former President George W. Bush joined thousands of others who got doused for a good cause. He challenged Bill Clinton to do the same.
Now that's going viral. On top of the crazy videos being posted every few seconds -- ALS has raised more than $31 million dollars, as of 8/20/2014.
Hard to argue with the success of this home-grown promotion. Along with the $31 million in donations and videos of everyone from Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik to Michael Jordan to Bill Gates and even Oprah Winfrey, the campaign has brought out the worst and best of social media.
The worst -- many so-called social media experts and jealous non-profits are complaining about the campaign, saying everything from 'you are wasting water' to 'someone is going to have a heart attack' from how cold the water is.
Others are upset because the campaign is working so well that they think everyone is forgetting about all the other non-profits out there. Interestingly, people who have ALS are also demanding (some more rudely than others) documentation on where the donated funds are being spent.
As with any successful endeavor, it brings out people who want to take the discussion to all sorts of sidebar issues.
Lots of sour grapes, some legitimate questions and people trying to steal a little of the spotlight.
On the flip side -- this is one of those crazy, luck-of-the-draw situations that is putting ALS on everyone's lips and wallets. It's also a great study in why viral can't be contrived or orchestrated.
If I'd said to you -- do you think we can get everyone from President Bush to Oprah to all videotape themselves being doused with a bucket of ice cold water and share it online -- what would you have said? It's tough to get people to click LIKE or share a story, let alone go to the elaborate measures that some of the bucket challenge participants have undertaken.
I'm sure that the folks at ALS had absolutely NO idea this was going to get so big, so successful and so out of their control. While I am sure they're thrilled, they must also be a little freaked out.
They're doing a great job of fielding questions, keeping the spotlight on the families who are dealing with ALS and using the global stage to educate people about ALS and their fight for a cure. They're not allowing all of the negative buzz to pull them off message.
They are creating specific web pages to deal with some of the common topics like "you're wasting water" to "where is the money going" and everytime someone repeats the same issue -- they point to the same resource.
A huge hat tip to the ALS Association for handling this uproar in a best practices sort of way. They are:
- Staying true to their mission
- Educating and advocating
- Being consistent in all their messaging
- Not letting the naysayers derail their efforts
- Grabbing the tiger by the tail and promoting the famous and not-so-famous as they take the challenge
- Looking ahead and planning for what's next
Whether your own marketing/social efforts go this big or deliver a more modest rush of attention -- these best practices will still serve you well.