Unless your home address is listed on Neptune, youve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Known on social media platforms as #IceBucketChallenge or #ALSChallenge, it swept across the Internet with lightning speed. In fact, within a few short days in August 2014, it seemed like everyone who was anyone was dumping icy water on their heads and filming the experience for posterity.
The ALS Association was incredibly grateful for the outpouring " literally pouring! " of interest in their organization. As of mid-September 2014, the nonprofit had received more than 112 million dollars thanks to the Challenge. It was an incredible phenomenon, and one that other charities will no doubt try to emulate in the months and years to come.
However, make no mistake: The speed with which the Challenge went viral was not an anomaly, nor has it left all marketers scratching their heads. In fact, much of its success can be directly linked back to Facebooks autoplay video system.
Why Facebook Made the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Buzzworthy
Not only did Mark Zuckerberg embrace the Challenge himself by posting his own video, but his clever employees at Facebook used their own autoplay system to boost views like crazy of all users who were dumping buckets of icy H2O on their bodies. The autoplay system may beannoying to some folks, but theres no doubt that its simplicity is the key to its marketing power: When someone logs on to Facebook, hot videos " which can also be sponsored videos " play without sound. If the user is intrigued by the video, he or she can tap or click to turn up the volume and enjoy.
Because Facebook is such a hyper-alert medium anyway, Facebook enthusiasts not only turned on the sound on Challenge videos, but continued to watch more to see what all the fun was about. After all, its enjoyable to watch the president and CEO of a company get an ice bath, and these videos were crazy - from fashioning a unique high-tech pouring mechanism, or bringing the downpour from the bed of a massive truck. As The New York Times reported, between June 1 and September 1, 2014, more than 17 million Challenge videos were uploaded on Facebook. Those videos collectively garnered more than 10 billion views by hundreds of millions of Facebook users. This huge response to what could have been a flash-in-the-pan idea has autoplay to thank as part of its longevity in a world where here-today, gone-tomorrow seems to be the marketing mantra by which social media experts live.
How Businesses Can Learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge Phenomenon
There are many lessons to be taken from the ALS Challenge, not the least of which is for businesses to jump on these kinds of viral bandwagons when they make sense. Some companies did and with good success; in fact, several used it as a springboard to get more exposure while giving back to a good cause. For example, CJ Pony Parts, a Mustang part retailer, ran a contest asking for 10,000 viewers to a YouTube video. If they reached the 10,000 views, they would give $5,000 to ALS on top of the $1,000 they had already given. As of today, their video has 5800 views. They are hoping to entice people through Facebooks autoplay and viral nature to spread their message.
Another company, CarePoint in New Jersey, took the Challenge to a new level. About 150 of their employees simultaneously dumped buckets of ice water on their heads. It was a fun event, raised money for charity and got people talking. But CarePoint didnt stop there. They continued to host other Challenge events and post them on the corporations Facebook wall. From pictures to videos, they attempted to get noticed. They raised in excess of $15,000, and they hit the jackpot.
It should be noted that even with Facebooks autoplay and other social media prompts, a viral sensation like the Challenge still takes marketing skills. As CarePoint and CJ Pony illustrate, its important to urge people to keep coming back to your site. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder; the trick is to turn any kind of buzzworthy videos as sticky as possible. Autoplay can and should be part of that plan, as should other types of creative, proven social media outreach methods that lead the viewer into a more significant relationship with the company.