ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Case Study

This week we’re thinking about how perceived #slacktivist movements go viral, get thousands of people involved, and then get criticised.

I’m sure you’re all aware of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.  If not, you literally must have been on a digital cleanse or under a rock for like a year.  For those that need a refresher, the viral movement was all about raising awareness and gathering donations from those who participated.  Think #WorldsGreatestShave where people get sponsorship for performing an act like shaving their head or getting a bucket of ice thrown over their head, videoing it and uploading it to their social media platforms in this case.

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Kim Kardashian gets soaked by Ellen Degeneres, by Elena Duggan.

If you look this movement up, you’re not only going to get a lot of YouTube videos of the world’s most famous celebrities getting dunked in their most creative ways possible, but you’re also going to see hundred of articles from pop journalists and academics alike heavily criticising those that participated.

They have their reasons.  They state that many of those that participated either never donated and participated only to be seen engaging, or ended up spending more on the buckets of ice or expending time and effort on the action rather than research on the issue.  This is real.  I see their points, and I agree with them that this is endlessly frustrating, especially for those that suffer with motor neurone disease who at points during this campaign’s virality it could have seemed unhelpful.

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Rita Ora contributing to #IceBucketChallenge, by Elena Duggan.

But the coolest thing about this is, that despite all the negative criticism and the negative world-view type of reporting we’ve seen on this, news came out in the last couple months that all the proceeds of the #IceBucketChallenge actually contributed to the funding of a new scientific breakthrough.

The money from donations helped fund the biggest and most widespread study of samples previously collected, that allowed the discovery of a common gene found among ALS sufferers.

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Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Rob RiggleHoratio SanzSteve Higgins soak themselves on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, by Elena Duggan.

A relatively short case study, because there’s really not much else we need to say.  This is proof that movements that start online can contribute in multiple ways to offline change.

Takeaways:

  1. You need a phenomenal strategy.
  2. Your strategy needs to be accessible.
  3. Know your objectives.  If donation is one of those, it needs to play a big role in your strategy.
  4. Make engagement fun.  You only get people interested if their role is fun!
  5. Once your campaign has created change, you need to publish and emphasise what your contributors helped with!  Follow up is key.

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ALS Ice Bucket ready for dunking, by Elena Duggan.

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