ALS IceBucketChallenge Vector

Viral marketing is a home run for small businesses; while you may try to plan for such a campaign, it is merely the combination of the right pitch and excellent timing.

One of the largest viral marketing campaigns we have seen in 2014 is the #IceBucketChallenge. If you haven’t been on Twitter or Facebook in the last month (is that possible?), the premise of this campaign is for a person to donate a certain amount of money to a charity and dump a bucket of ice cold water (with ice still in it) over their head.

Yes, this may sound ridiculous. But, let’s go back to how this all started:

In Sarasota, Florida, Jon Bullas created a video on Twitter to raise awareness about and donate to a charity that was close to his heart, the Payton Wright Foundation. He challenged a few of his friends to do the same. Chris Kennedy was one of those friends. In Kennedy’s video he names ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease), as his charity of choice and created the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge. From the network of people Kennedy nominated, the #IceBucketChallenge virality took off. Most notably, a former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates who suffers from the disease, made a video to show his appreciation for spreading awareness about his condition and started the hashtag, #StrikeOutALS.


From there, the campaign went full throttle. Everyone from Justin Timberlake to Oprah Winfrey has been nominated to participate AND donate. And in a press release from the ALS Foundation, we have learned that the charity has received $31.5 million in donations as of August 20, 2014 compared to last year when they received just $1.9 million in the same period of time (July 29 to August 20).

Needless to say, this viral campaign is one of the best we have ever seen, and mostly because it is bringing awareness and donations to a charity rather than views to a funny cat.

But, what I am truly impressed by is how the ALS Foundation has handled the situation. Specifically, they took four smart steps in contributing to this campaign that benefit their brand, reputation, and those who suffer from the disease.

Take a moment to read these four steps, and be conscientious as you manage your own social media campaigns to see if you could apply the same techniques!

Monitor the conversation
It didn’t take long to see the #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS in the trending topics of Facebook and Twitter. The Foundation most likely became aware of what was happening regarding their charity, kept tabs on where the conversation went, and had discussions on how to best handle the publicity.

The best way to do this for your own business is to either choose a social media monitoring tool to stay engaged in the conversation surrounding your brand, or have a set of brand- or industry-related keywords to search for around the web. For example, if you owned an Indian restaurant your keyword terms may look like: “Indian food,” “Indian restaurants,” “[Your Restaurant’s Name].” That way you are ahead of the game in being able to prepare for whatever may come.

Be appreciative
Once this campaign ramped up, and the Foundation confirmed it showed their charity in a positive light, they started marketing around the trend. Their best method was through a standard press release that showed how happy they were that people were learning more about ALS and donating. The ALS Foundation even specifically thanked Pete Frates for getting the party started, and called out celebrities who were willing to donate to the cause.

For a small business, writing a blog post or giving mentions and shout-outs on social media is a great way to start. Try sending a handwritten letter to people who have helped you, it goes a long way even in this digital age. The important thing is to acknowledge that you know what is going on and publicly state your approval of the trending topic.

Support the campaign
Through their Facebook and Twitter pages, ALS Foundation has shared many of the #IceBucketChallenge posts that have circulated the internet. When sharing, retweeting and favoriting the posts that are in favor of their cause, they are engaging in the type of two-way conversation that social is all about.

Take this move from the ALS playbook for more than your potential viral campaign. If you engage with your audience beyond answering questions, it will enhance your social strategy exponentially. In other words, showing you care about people’s engagement will fuel those same people to get more involved with your brand in the future.

Capitalize on the momentum
Giving back to the community who gave to you will ensure that your viral campaign is a success. ALS Foundation announced what they would be doing next with all of the money they have raised through this stellar trend: I know that many people are wondering what The ALS Association is going to do with these donations, and my answer is this: invest prudently in helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives.”

Now that your business has their attention, show them what you can do! Don’t let this viral campaign be a one-hit-wonder. Use the momentum to swing you into your next campaign and leverage the increased attention on your brand. You have done great things, and you’ll want to keep up with the stamina.

In the end, the best takeaway about viral campaigns is that they are a natural opportunity; an opportunity that can be a great one if you handle it with care. So take these four tips, apply them to your social campaigns, and enjoy the ice bucket dumped on your head for winning the big game!


About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Content Marketing Coordinator for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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