16 September 2014
Author: T. Todd Elvins
copyright (c) 2014 T. Todd Elvins
Originating sometime in the past year or two, the history of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a bit murky. We know that somehow self-refrigeration evolved when a few nutty individuals challenged their friends to benefit one deserving charity or another, and millions of soaked philanthropists later, we have perfect hindsight on the tsunami of viral fund raising. What do you suppose were the key factors that melded and ignited viral growth in the historical blink of an eye? And could these factors be combined again to bring attention and donations to another cause such as global warming?
Let’s review the factors that melded to make the ice bucket challenge go viral. The ice bucket challenge is:
- Fun, funny, clever, and marginally daring – The ice bucket challenge is fun to do, funny to watch, and judging by one’s heartrate, seems a little bit dangerous.
- Accessible, simple, and easy to copy with materials on hand requiring no preparation or shopping, An challenger can recruit a camera man, fill a bucket with ice water, and post the video for all the world to see in less than ten minutes.
- Compelling cause, doing the right thing. ALS disease is bad. Everybody knows it. Any small donation of time, money, or video gives the challenger a warm feeling.
- Recordable, automatic social proof. High resolution video cameras are so ubiquitous, one might expect a free one with a tank of gas. A youtube video is proof beyond doubt that the challenger fullfilled their side of the bargain and made a positive contribution to a compelling charity.
- Associates the challenger with influencers and the right crowd doing a positive thing. Millions of people have taken the challenge. Not self soaking is almost weird. Counting one’s own name among the names of neighbors, friends, family, influencers, and celebrities, creates a sense of community. An on-line meetup with everyone the challenger knows and potentially others the challenger would like to know.
To investigate further, I wrote a script that mimics the ice bucket challenge — with climate as the cause — and recorded a video viewable here. I achieved a couple of the factors above, but i clearly missed the fun, funny, and daring factors. And until someone copies it, I have no sense of community bucketeership. How did i miss the fun, funny, and daring factors ?
- Social media is almost always fun. Making movies, taking photos, and sharing those with friends, relatives, and sometimes a large network of followers is fun in itself. Watching other peoples’ clever, thoughtful, well-planned, or well-executed media offerings is fun. Simple is better than complex. Mustn’t require much background. Better if the watcher can relate the media to their own life. My video is too complex and insufficiently clever.
- A slightly embarrassing or awkward situation is funny. Self deprecation is funny. Sea level rise devouring a large polluting company might be funny. Or maybe just ironic. My video is too serious; I don’t get soaked or embarrassed.
- Daring seems easier. An individual sharing a selfie photo or video of the individual advocating a carbon tax to a stranger could be daring. Wearing something carbon tax related or dressing as a carbon atom for a month is daring. Daring is absent in my video.
There will be some trial and error required to add the factors above, but analysis of what has worked for others will help to reduce the number of errors. To be continued…