Anatomy of a Successful Viral Campaign


If I were to take the temperature of my Facebook feed this last week or so, I would say it’s cold. Ice cold.

The number of ice bucket challenges is unbelievable. And, awesome. And, I’m happy to report, is actually driving donations for ALS.

Here’s what makes the campaign so successful:

Sharable content

Who doesn’t like to see family and friends get soaked with ice cold water? What parent isn’t going to share (and share again) a video of their kids doing something fun?  Especially when it’s in support of an important cause.

A personal charge

By positioning the campaign as a “challenge,” the campaign geniously inspires people to take responsibility for the cause.  Not only do followers answer the call, they keep the momentum strong by summoning their friends to ice and donate. Most ice bucket soak-ees are tapping multiple friends, and therefore exponentially increasing the campaign’s reach.


It’s summer. It’s hot. Getting soaked by a bucket of ice water is refreshing.  A tiny bit fun, even.

Appeals to multiple audiences

What’s great about this campaign is that it’s not just for adults. Everyone from kids to celebrities to corporations to college students are getting into the mix. The audience, and the sharing, have no boundaries.

Compels people to act

The challenge requires immediate action: those who get summoned on social have 24 hours to either act or donate.  There’s no option to do it later (or conveniently forget.) No doubt, this sense of urgency has led this campaign to not only generate awareness, but also increase donations.

I have really enjoyed seeing many of my Facebook friends from near and far gain awareness of this serious and important cause — and have some fun in the process.

And, just for the record, I have yet to be challenged!

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