The Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t the first social media charity campaign to go viral — and based upon the success of these other online movements, it certainly won’t be the last.
The videos filled your Facebook and Twitter feeds for weeks. Everyone from your great aunt to your favorite actor to politicians jumped on the bandwagon and doused themselves with ice-cold water all in the name of charity.
Whether you love it, hate it or experienced the challenge’s chill firsthand, it’s official: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in all its cold, wet glory, is a bona fide social media success. But it’s far from the first online marketing campaign to go viral. Here are five social media campaigns — and what you need to know about them — that have made a substantial impact on an organization’s efforts to raise awareness or funds for its cause.
1The Ice Bucket Challenge
Origins: Oddly enough, the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t originally started to support the ALS Association, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness of, and fundraising for, the neurodegenerative disorder known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. While its origins remain murky, the first person to connect icing oneself to ALS was Chris Kennedy, a minor-league golfer, who took up the challenge on July 14. From there, it reached Pat Quinn, an ALS patient who has also been credited with starting the campaign. Quinn challenged his friend, former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who also has ALS. After Frates took him up on the challenge and posted his video on Facebook, it exploded on social media. In late July, the ALS Association noticed a surprising uptick in online donations and moved to capitalize on the campaign. While the remarkable growth of the challenge happened organically, the ALS Association has made a concerted effort to educate new site visitors about the disease and their work, even allowing donors to funnel their contributions directly to research.
Virality: In a summer news cycle dominated by international wars and domestic unrest, the reason why the Ice Bucket Challenge has traveled as far as it has for as long is its simplicity: Dump a bucket of water on your head; challenge others to do the same; donate to charity. The opportunity to one-up your friends by creating an original response to the challenge kept it interesting. The celebrity response hasn’t hurt, either.
The Bottom Line: As of press time, more than 3 million people and organizations have donated to the ALS Association, accounting for more than $110 million in total donations (and growing). Additionally, $3 million has been raised for the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a nonprofit focused on treatments, and £3 million was raised for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, a British nonprofit. Overall, videos of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge have netted more than 1 billion views on YouTube.
2It Gets Better Project
Origins: The It Gets Better Project was created by media personality Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, in response to an uptick in suicides by teens who were bullied because of their sexual orientation (or suspected orientation). The mission was to let LGBT youth know that life does indeed “get better.” The project began when Savage and Miller uploaded the first “It Gets Better” video to the campaign’s official YouTube page on Sept. 21, 2010. This video has since been viewed more than 2 million times. From there, thousands of people from around the world uploaded their own messages of hope on the campaign’s website. The It Gets Better Project continues to engage the community — both online and in person — to rally for LGBT rights and equality.
Virality: Thousands of celebrities, activists, politicians and media personalities have contributed their own messages to the campaign’s growing catalog of more than 50,000 videos, which include President Barack Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Hillary Clinton, Facebook and Google employees, the Broadway community and many more. The campaign has also gone international — deploying programs such as conferences, pride festivals and government outreach to benefit LGBT youths on six continents.
The Bottom Line: More than 50,000 entries have been uploaded on the campaign’s website since its inception. So far, these videos have received more than 50 million views.
Origins: The face of fundraising gets a bit hairy in November, when males around the world unite to grow mustaches to raise money and awareness for charities that support various men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancers and mental health. Movember was started in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003 by two friends who were “questioning where the Mo had gone,” according to theMovember Foundation’s website (“mo” refers to the British spelling of “moustache”). About 30 friends got involved, but it wasn’t until a year later that Movember was connected to raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Over the next decade, the movement has gained traction and is now recognized and celebrated internationally.
Virality: There’s no denying that men love mustaches. They’re often considered a symbol of manhood (not to mention, good humor). But during the month of November, they become something more. As the Movember Foundation states, “Mo Bros, with their new mustaches, become walking, talking billboards,” using their social networks to garner support for their mustachioed journey. And with ambassadors like Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation”and his venerable ’stache, the campaign doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
The Bottom Line: In just over a decade, the Movember movement has grown to include 4 million participants worldwide. Together, these “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” have raised $556 million, which has funded 832 men’s health programs internationally.
4The Red Equal Sign for Marriage Equality
Origin: In March 2013, the United States Supreme Court was gearing up for hearings on two separate cases regarding gay marriage: one on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and another on California’s much-debated Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. In advance of the hearings, the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest lobby group for LGBT rights, outlined an extensive plan to bring the discussion about gay marriage front and center. One part of that plan is the now-iconic red-tinted version of their equal-sign logo. The organization posted the image on Facebook on March 25, 2013, urging supporters to make it their profile picture in support of gay marriage. The following day, actor and LGBT supporter George Takei changed his profile pictureto the symbol, garnering more than 80,000 likes and 40,000 shares. From there, the campaign took on a life of its own.
Virality: For the next few weeks, the Internet was awash in red as people across the country and around the world showed their support for LGBT couples. According to the HRC, the images created upward of 10 million impressions. Celebrities, politicians and for-profit companies took up the logo, as well. And then came the memes. Marriage equality officially went viral.
The Bottom Line: HRC’s posts appeared more than 18 million times in people’s newsfeeds. The organization’s website received more than 700,000 unique visitors within a 24-hour period, with 86 percent of site visitors being new. More than 100,000 people signed the group’s “Majority Opinion” petition within 48 hours, and it was shared more than 30,000 times. HRC’s Facebook followers grew by over 200,000 in two days, and it gained 26,000 Twitter followers. As for the Supreme Court rulings? Gay marriage supporters were handed two small wins.
5#BostonStrong for One Fund Boston
Origins: One simple hashtag, first used in a tweet of support from a Cleveland man, Curtis Clough, following the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, helped spur one of the most effective victim-relief efforts in U.S. history. As the nation reeled from this tragedy, which left three people dead and an estimated 264 injured, #bostonstrong started popping up all over social media as a rallying cry of solidarity and defiance. The slogan was printed on T-shirts, placed on billboards, written on the sidewalks, used in speeches and, eventually, utilized as a way to raise money for the victims through One Fund Boston, which was established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. (Read more about the story behind One Fund Boston.)
Virality: “There’s always been a social aspect to giving, even before the Internet,” says Rick Cohen, director of communications for the National Council of Nonprofits. “Now some groups are trying to find that magic formula for what’s going to take off. Unfortunately there no one equation that works. If there was, every organization would have something go viral. You have to have a little bit of luck, in addition to some good strategy, to make it work.” Since Clough’s first tweet was sent out (as of April 2014), The hashtag #bostonstrong has been used more than 1.5 million times, but the term has extended far beyond the Internet and has taken on a life of its own as a post-tragedy brand. “#Bostonstrong is about the triumph of community,” Gov. Patrick tweeted on the first anniversary of the bombings.
The Bottom Line: One Fund Boston has raised more than $72 million, which enabled each of the families of those killed and each victim with double amputations to receive $2.2 million, and each victim who lost one limb to receive $1.1 million.
Via Plus91, Danielle Gillespie