The Ice Bucket Challenge has been taking the internet by storm. More than 28 million people globally have joined the conversation and more than 2.4 million videos have been shared, according to Facebook - and Australia is the second highest participating country after the US.
Bill Gates, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah have all dumped buckets of ice over their heads as part of an online trend that has gone viral to raise awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Twitter's Dick Costolo obviously did his as a Vine. But there's a question over the value of this kind of viral social activity for charities looking to raise awareness and funds.
The idea is that you can either opt to do the challenge and post a video of it onto social media and nominate three friends to do it next. Or, you can sidestep the challenge and donate to the charity. Most people are doing both.
Like the no make-up selfie, countless everyday folk have also taken the challenge and it has thundered through newsfeeds for the last 10 days.
The ALS Association has seen donations rocket but like any digital trend that explodes so quickly, there is a risk that it will get tired.
Karen Sutherland, a researcher at Monash University who investigates social media use by charities says while it's good thing, what's important is how it converts to funds. Her research found that social marketing is still slow on the uptake of actual fundraising and that 60% of people don't engage with charities on social
“It's good if it raises awareness but at the end of the day it needs to meet the charity’s objectives and convert into donations. But people were doing the no make up selfie without knowing it was even connected to a charity,” she said.
“I wonder if it will get tired or actually last. If it works, everyone will be looking at new ways to do it, but the novelty will wear off and it might die a death.”
As of Monday, August 18, The ALS Association had received US$15.6 million, compared with US$1.8 million during the same three-week period last year (July 29 to August 18). Donations came from existing supporters and the organisation added 307,598 new donors.
Lisa Grinham, CEO of Charities Aid Foundation said that Movember is the poster child for social marketing that becomes a successful ongoing fundraising effort, adding that charities should also be looking at how one off awareness-raising events translate into long-term regular giving.
Ian Laurie, head of social investment at SocietySocial said that jumping on to a trend like this increases a charity's relevance but no matter how much planning or strategy goes into it, the success comes down to the “power of the people” who share it and grow the movement.
The issue not for profits have on social media is that people don’t want to see negative, or guilt- inducing content in their newsfeed, so the traditional messages charities have relied on aren't as appropriate.
So something like the Ice Bucket Challenge is a way for charities to inject themselves into the relevance of people's news feed with content they are interested in.
The mechanic of seeing someone you know – personal or a celebrity – endorse something and drive the message is more powerful than the organisation doing it themselves.
“We're still in the middle of a shift of how charities communicate on social. The same thing happened with online and people are still exploring that relationship through social,” added Sutherland.
“Newsfeed is a really personal space. People go to their newsfeed to catch up with friends and escape, they don't want to see negative things or feel guilty. People want to see more about where donations are going and what impact they have - less of the before, more of the after.”
Bill Gates gets technical with his.
Watch Mark Zuckerberg's Ice Bucket Challenge
Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Top ten countries in order of participation:
1. United States
3. New Zealand
9. Puerto Rico
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