The world has moved on from ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos. For several weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge trended on social media and made news headlines, as well as making a load of money for the ALS Association. Now UNICEF wants to achieve similar success with a “Wake Up Selfie” meme.
High profile individuals from Bill Gates to George W. Bush have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge while others have turned it down for a variety of reasons – for example President Barack Obama (he doesn’t have to win another election) and Pamela Anderson who objects to animal testing by the ALS Association.
The Ice Bucket Challenge now has its own Wikipedia page and has taken on more varied formats as people try to keep the phenomenon interesting, like the Zac Brown Band getting drenched with a fire truck and tractor buckets full of ice cold water.
I too was challenged and shot a video of my icy shower in the parking lot of our office, before passing the challenge onto others.
As you might expect, I see numerous marketing lessons for lawyers in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Taking on the challenge and producing your own video puts you in a good light to your friends and flock. It helps you build a relationship with potential clients so that they can begin to know, like and trust you.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gives everyone the chance to have some fun while doing something good for the community – an opportunity to give back and show your humanistic side, demonstrating that you’re not just about taking the money.
Seeing the benefits of the Ice Bucket Challenge is easy. Understanding how and why it went viral, so that its success can be duplicated, is more complicated.
A couple of years ago, I had my own charity challenge to lose weight, and while there was some traction among the people who know me, it didn’t go viral. I’ve also seen other people try to make different challenges go viral without accomplishing their goal.
So, I think one of the keys to a successful viral charity campaign is that it needs to not benefit you and instead be about being selfless. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took off by challenging people to produce a video of themselves enjoying a mild humiliation where they were in on the joke, before passing it on to a larger group of people.
If you’d told me a year ago that I was going to post a video on Facebook of me getting a voluntary ice-water soaking, I would have said you were crazy. But because of the spirit of the challenge, and because it gained momentum, you’d be an ass if you were challenged and didn’t soak yourself on video.
The Ice Bucket Challenge format is a simple meme, making it easy for people to join in, although many participants aren’t sure if they get soaked and donate or only donate if they don’t take the bucket of ice water. And even though it’s simple, participation is asking for a lot more than just clicking a ‘like’ or ‘share button’.
The success of the campaign has to be, in part, from watching friends willingly humiliate themselves at the request of others, for a good cause. Finding a similar formula that won’t seem like you’re playing copycat will have to be carefully thought through and well timed to be effective.
Trying to create a viral movement can often misfire if everything isn’t exactly right and it often happens accidentally rather than through concerted effort. So don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a social media challenge that is likely to fall flat.
When it comes to lawyers trying to gain traction on social media, the key lesson is to produce interesting content. Jumping on a meme bandwagon can be an easy way to do that.
Nobody cares about boring content. You have to make the reader jazzed up enough to share what you’re posting. And for a law firm, that may take a good deal of trial and error before you find a rhythm that works for you.