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“Going viral” is something many nonprofit organizations dream of. This is especially true in the heath and human services sector. However, leveraging social media to generate buzz about an organization online has proven to be a challenge for many nonprofit professionals leaving them uncertain as to how best to leverage the communication channel as a way to drive constituent engagement and ultimately dollars.

For me, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is an incredible reminder of just how valuable a tool social media can be in engaging donors. While there are definitely some strategic fundraising lessons we can learn from the campaign, today I wanted to dive into a few of the social aspects of the campaign and try to answer the question… Why did this thing take off?

4 Social Media Lessons from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Here are four simple factors that helped the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral on social media

  1. It makes the audience the hero. Everyone wants to be the hero and whether you’ve noticed or not, ALS is positioned as the passive participant in this campaign, allowing each individual to be the star. Social media marketers should always consider that people want to do good–and even moreso, want to be seen as someone who does good.
  1. It is attention grabbing. How can you miss someone dousing themselves with water when it pops up in your news feed? The whole thing is fun: doing it yourself, calling out other friends to take on the challenge, watching other people do it, and enjoying the varying levels of theatrics that occur after the water has been poured – it’s hard not to watch.
  1. It’s has social sharing built into the campaign. This is a fairly uncomplicated endeavor. Grab a bucket, fill it with ice water, get a buddy to film you pouring it on yourself and tick off the names of three friends to do it next. The viral component is intuitive to the campaign making it easy to execute without the complication of instructions or guidelines.
  1. It connects two things people love: their friends and feeling good. This is why social media took off in the first place–connecting friends and family. The Ice Bucket Challenge couples a shared bonding with friends with doing something fun an philanthropic. So people get two highs: shared experiences and doing something good for someone else
What do these lessons mean for your nonprofit?

While your organization may never experience the kind of wild success that ALS has seen over the past few weeks, these are important principles to understand for all social media efforts. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has spread unprecedented awareness for ALS and raised millions of dollars. And none of that would’ve happened without social media. Social media is THE way people are connecting with their communities and networks. So the question now becomes, how does your organization embrace social media to connect your constituency.

What’s next? How will you use the fundamental principles of why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to make a lasting impact for your cause?