Ice, ice baby: The Ice Bucket Challenge and social media virality

Ice, ice baby: The Ice Bucket Challenge and social media virality

The news that broke last night of the accidental death of the Ice Bucket Challenge pioneer, Corey Griffin, has come as a shock.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, where people film themselves or friends dumping a bucket of ice on themselves and then donate money to a charitable cause, became a worldwide phenomenon this week.

Griffin’s social-media-savvy challenge has already raised millions of dollars for work on motor-neuron disease (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s) in North America and the UK. Inspired by their success, other countries have taken it up to similar effect for causes such as cancer research.

There’s plenty of competition for the attention of social media users, so what can we learn from the extraordinary success of the Ice Bucket Challenge? How can charities use social media and crowdfunding tools to raise money?

Step one: understanding social media trends

Trends in social media come and go. Some of these trends last no longer than a few weeks, while others eventually become permanent fixtures of online interactions. These trends can be looked at from three different perspectives: organisational, personal and community.

The news that broke last night of the accidental death of the Ice Bucket Challenge pioneer, Corey Griffin, has come as a shock.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, where people film themselves or friends dumping a bucket of ice on themselves and then donate money to a charitable cause, became a worldwide phenomenon this week.

Griffin’s social-media-savvy challenge has already raised millions of dollars for work on motor-neuron disease (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s) in North America and the UK. Inspired by their success, other countries have taken it up to similar effect for causes such as cancer research.

There’s plenty of competition for the attention of social media users, so what can we learn from the extraordinary success of the Ice Bucket Challenge? How can charities use social media and crowdfunding tools to raise money?

Step one: understanding social media trends

Trends in social media come and go. Some of these trends last no longer than a few weeks, while others eventually become permanent fixtures of online interactions. These trends can be looked at from three different perspectives: organisational, personal and community.

The question of what goes viral and what doesn’t really depends on the context – and on the whims of the crowd. While marketers and researchers have spent a lot of their time trying to work out a formula for what makes something go viral, the crowd ultimately gets to determine what becomes a trend.

The challenge, of course, is that the crowd can be fickle. From a research point of view, while some factors might increase the chances of something going viral, it is actually easier to prove what factors will lead to something not going viral. Why is this the case?

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