Is the Ice Bucket Challenge something to consider for fundraising efforts for YOUR organization and/or cause?

By Erin Carson

It might be a while before the Internet dries off.

The past few weeks on social media have been an inescapable stream of short videos of both the famous and not so famous dumping imagesbuckets of ice water on themselves in the name of ALS research. So far the lineup includes former President George W. Bush, Bill Gates, and Lady Gaga.
As of Sunday morning, the ALS Association reported $70.2 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year. The Ice Bucket Challenge has not only been an Internet sensation, but more importantly a fund-raising success.

So what does it take for the Internet to pay attention? Unfortunately, marketers can’t always answer that question definitely. After all, ALSA didn’t even initiate the challenge. CBS News reported golfers have done similar challenges to support “pet charities” in the past.

Pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS. She took the challenge, tied it to ALS, nominated some friends, and before long, William Shatner was drenched and howling in his bathroom. In the wake of a campaign like this, no doubt, other similar campaigns will crop up — do this thing for that reason and post a video — and that will inevitably weaken the potency. Rather than try and replicate the Ice Bucket Challenge, perhaps look at the parts of it that can be applied to a future original video campaign.

* Creating a compelling message – The first takeaway is the importance of creating a compelling message, said Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk. It’s unlikely a brand would be able to pull off a campaign quite like this one — breakfast cereal doesn’t carry the same importance as fighting a disease does, obviously — but the broader idea is that a video campaign should elicit some type of reaction.
Humor can also make a message compelling “They’ve taken a disease which is not at all funny, and they’ve taken a cause that is not at all funny, but they’ve attached it to social behavior that’s hilarious,” Polk said.

* Call to action — On the topic of social behavior, each Ice Bucket Challenge includes a call to action as the person in the video nominates three more people, and gives them 24 hours to accept.
“It’s the added factor of peer pressure and time sensitivity that I believe has made this go viral,” said Amber Osborne, CMO of Seattle-based social media management tool Meshfire, “If your friend challenges you to do the ice bucket challenge and you don’t do it, you feel guilty, and with only 24 hours to accept you just go ‘Screw it, let’s do it!'”
It’s also a fairly clear template — explain who challenged you, dunk, challenge three more people — so people can be more creative if they want, but don’t necessarily have to be.

* Technology helps – Another element that makes the task relatively simple to complete is the use of mobile phones. As more and more people have the ability to record and edit with their phones, and then upload the video within a few seconds, which helps turn the call to join into something that sounds and is feasible for potential participants.
Where the videos get uploaded is also important- pick a platform that makes sense. Vine, Instagram, and Facebook are well fairly well suited for short videos that are meant to be tagged (with hashtags and the names of friends) and then shared.
With regard to Facebook, Polk said one glitch for the ALSA might be that so many Facebook conversations are private. From a social listening perspective, the organization may not get a complete picture of the social conversation surrounding the campaign — something else to think about when setting up a campaign.

In any case, Polk said the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a solid case study in the power of earned media. Some are debating the breadth or depth of awareness has been raised, but the attention will lay groundwork for fundraising in the future, even it’s merely working off the newly collected contact info from people (1.3 million of them) donating to the organization for the first time, she said.

Erin Carson is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the impact of social media in business and the ways technology is transforming the future of work.