#icebucketchallenge: 5 Recipes for a Successful Social Media Campaign

This has been siting in my draft for quite a while now and it’s high time I pushed the publish button, but make no mistake, this is not the last you’d read about the #icebucketchallenge, in fact so many other social media campaigns have started to model after it and more will come after.

However, a closer look at the viral online campaign allowed me identify 5 main recipes for a successful social media campaign. So let’s get to it:

1. Empathy

The #icebucketchallenge appealed to the human nature that seeks to help and have compassion. Little wonder people took time out to get the resources needed to shoot a video of themselves pouring a cup, bowl, and bucket of ice on themselves and upload it online. People care and want to get involved in causes that affect lives, and so there’s always need to work the human factor into any social media plan to make it successful.

2. Invite

Everyone wants an invitation to the party (even though they may pretend not to care). It even gets better when you go from just saying ‘Welcome’ or ‘Come join us’ to actually putting names of the invitation. The #icebucketchallenge took things to a whole new level as people invited friends by their name. So Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Cold Play, One Republic, America’s National Basketball team, and more actually invited (or nominated) specific people to join the party.


Case Study: The #ShareACoke campaign is good case study on the power of personalized invitation.

3. Scale

While invitation is a valuable recipe for a successful social media campaign, and personalizing the invite — i.e. putting a name on the invitation letter makes it more effective, people still turn down invites to parties. That’s why the #icebucketchallenge did not stop at having people invite one but three to take the challenge. The odds of turning down an invitation went down from 50% to 33% and on the other hand odds of accepting an invitation goes up from 50% to 66%. And if all was well with the world, the campaign scales on the triple with every participant — a multiplier effect.

4. Visual

A photo is worth a thousand words, and a video worth a thousand (if not a million) photos. In less than a minute long video, people who took part in the #icebucketchallenge captured and shared the message about ALS. These short videos were published on YouTube (and other platforms) and shared on Facebook and Twitter (tagging nominees to take the challenge). A text-based message would have come with a way shorter life-span, but videos and photos are more visible, sticky, and effective as seen with the #icebucketchallenge — after all, seeing (not reading) is believing.


Michelle Obama was one of many to hold the #BringBackOurGirls sign.

Case Study: The #BringBackOurGirls campaign not only had empathy as a recipe but focused on the use of visuals — a simple photo with the message.

5. Variation

Nobody likes to keep to script as we all have our inner rebel. The #icebucketchallenge gave room for people to get creative and spin off different versions of the undertaking. Some folks went from cup to truck load of ice and water, while others that did not like the idea of wasting water simply campaigned against that part and made a donation nonetheless — even Charlie Sheen poured a bowl full of money instead. However at the end, the message of ALS was shared and both money and awareness was raised.

Wondering what the featured image at the top of this post is all about? Check out my all time favorite #icebucketchallenge (after my own video of course) videohere.

Perhaps the flame has died down on the #icebucketchallenge but it still remains arguably one of the most successful social media campaign ever — especially when you consider all three words: social, media, and campaign. It’s not however too late to get involved and make a donation before getting on to creating your next campaign having these recipes in mind.


This post was first published as #icebucketchallenge: 5 recipes for a successful social media campaign on my  Medium.

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