The power of social media

As we know the interactive character and the dynamic of social media have a huge impact on other spheres of businesses such as journalism, advertising, public relations etc. In the last blog post I was writing about how advertising utilises social media to spread campaigns within a large audience in a very short time. Continuing the theme of viral effect of social media, I can’t leave current events of the world of social media networks without attention. Subsequently I would like to talk about the power of social media regarding the example of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which became popular all over the world.

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Perhaps you have already heard about people dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads and it’s not surprising because the mass and especially social media are full of content to this theme. The purpose of the activity called ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is to raise money for and awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). After dumping a bucket of water over themselves (donating of 10$ is optional) the participants of the challenge nominate other people who must do the same within 24 hours or donate 100$ (or more) if they don’t want to take the cold shower.

The challenge has already spread on the Internet when a 29-year-old former college baseball player Pete Frates, who nominated himself, posted a video on Facebook challenging his friends to dump a bucket of ice over their heads. He wanted to turn the trend into a donation campaign for his disease – ALS. Many people got inspired by the idea and according to The New York Times more than 1.2 million videos were shared on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13 and the ice bucket challenge was mentioned more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29. Furthermore, the New York Times reports that the A.L.S. Association had received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until Aug. 21.

According to that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge provides an excellent example how powerful social media can be. So let’s take a look, which factors have contributed to the great success of the challenge.

The power of celebrities

Firstly, the celebrities participating in the challenge have contributed to the huge success of the activity. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, George W. Bush, Justin Bieber, Shakira and many other famous people were inspired by the idea and took the challenge. Though, the original message doesn’t have to be spread by a famous person, the participating of celebrities is always newsworthy, which is very helpful in achieving the viral effect.

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Online and offline

Secondly, not only the prominent people but also prominent media have contributed to the success of the challenge. For example, reputable newspapers have been following the story and reporting about the celebrities participating in the challenge, the record numbers of social media views, sharings, likes etc. and the amount of money raised through the challenge. As a result of the mass media reports more and more people are likely to communicate the challenge on the social media platforms sharing videos, writing comments, making their own videos and so on.

The power of content

In their study of social media marketing techniques and strategies Hart, C. et al. verify that the content of social media messages must be relevant and useful to the users either from a utilitarian or psychological perspective. So is the content of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Activities that supports the awareness of the disease ALS resonates not only by people who have a personal interest through personal experience or an experience through a friend or family member, but also by people who just want to show their compassion for those who are affected.

The power of interaction

It is indeed important to have a relevant a useful message but it is also very important for social media to create a dialogue about this message. The main feature of social media – it’s interactivity – can on the one hand provide some difficulties, if it is disregarded, but on the other hand it can lead to a great success, which is the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The combination of relevant and useful context of the message and utilising an interaction leads to the spreading of the message among more and more users.

Summarising this points we can conclude that several factors have contributed to the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, but the central point of the challenge success is the used vehicle – social media. The reports in the mass media and the participating of celebrities have of course strongly increased the spread area, though the spreading itself was only possible because of the interactive nature of social media. Using appropriate techniques and strategies and utilising social media in combination with mass media can lead to a great success of a campaign. Therewith the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge provides a good example for social media marketing to learn from.

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