Social media is a great way to start a conversation with your target audience and increase engagement with your brand. Ice BucketSocial media is also an effective vehicle for spreading a message and generating interest in a particular cause. The success of the ALS-focused Ice Bucket Challenge campaign is a great example of modern day social media at its best. While reminiscent of the chain letters of years gone by, the Ice Bucket Challenge is definitely a positive, modern day chain letter that touches on all the right notes. What is the magical formula that makes people start sharing online and spreading a brand’s message? Many brands dream of planning a viral marketing effort; however, the truth is that viral marketing is generally not planned. Content goes viral when the timing is right and the conditions are perfectly aligned for success. What are those conditions and are they replicable for a staffing firm?

Identify Your Motivation
Every marketer knows that the success of a campaign starts with identifying your desired results and overall goals. What do you hope to accomplish and what do you want your message to convey? The bottom line is that in today’s intense, social media environment, you need a great effort or cause in order to get people to sit up and take notice of your campaign. The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge will forever be linked with a worthy cause, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA). Until this summer, most people had heard of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but the recognition ended there. Once the message began to spread across social media, people identified with the cause (sometimes on a very personal level) and were prompted to take action. Although a charity-driven campaign is usually a recipe for success, is there a way to translate that success to an effort based on a different type of issue? What if your company goal is to increase the number of likes on your Facebook page or to acquire new candidate referrals for your staffing firm? Perhaps you want to increase awareness about proposed legislation that impacts the staffing industry? While the campaigns are definitely going to be structured differently, the issue or cause is what draws people together and motivates them to complete your call-to-action.

Make It Easy – Challenge Accepted
As with any call-to-action, the steps you ask your audience to follow must be simple and to the point. One of the reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge was so effective is that, as long as you have access to a bucket of water and some ice, you are qualified to participate. The Ice Bucket Challenge doesn’t discriminate based on age, your location or whether or not you are a celebrity. Individuals, entire families, and even professional sports teams have participated, with social media propelling the momentum of the challenge. When planning your next marketing campaign, it is important to keep these principles in mind and be sure to incorporate modern day social media. The steps must be clearly stated, easy to accomplish, and require a minimal investment of time and effort. Social media allows you to reach your audience wherever they may be, even if they are currently on a business trip on the other side of the world. Social media also provides the basis for the challenge. Calling your friends and co-workers out on social media for all to see is bound to be more effective than leaving a message on their voicemail or sending a personal email. People are less likely to back down from a challenge, especially if they feel social pressure to participate.

Going Viral
Marketers all over the world are likely dissecting the Ice Bucket Challenge and using it as a great example of viral marketing, but the truth is that nobody “planned” for this campaign to go viral. The viral, and newly-termed “mega-viral,” nature of this challenge was a very positive result, but definitely not something that anyone could have predicted. The timing of the initial challenge, (hot, summer temperatures prevailed), the appeal of making a fun video and nominating friends, and the social impact that celebrities brought to the table made the Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire. While not every noteworthy effort is going to warrant an entry on Wikipedia, (yes the Ice Bucket Challenge has officially earned an online listing), that doesn’t mean that you need to throw in the towel. From a business perspective, a social media marketing campaign must include a descriptive hashtag, individuals challenging others on social media to complete the call-to-action, and realistic expectations. Be sure to collect data throughout the course of your social media marketing campaign as a basis for measuring the effectiveness of your efforts.

How Do You Measure Success?
Remember those goals you set during the planning stages of your campaign? Analytical data is a great way to measure the success of your efforts and determine whether you have realized a return on your investment (ROI). The success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is undeniable. People all over the world are donating to help find a cure for a debilitating disease, children and parents are engaging in meaningful conversations about ALS and the impact it has on families, and the ALSA is gaining an invaluable list of supporters in their fight against this terrible disease. While most businesses are never going to match the ROI of the Ice Bucket Challenge, (an amazing spike in donations, a growing awareness about the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis disease, and practically no initial investment), success must be measured specific to the goals set in each campaign you initiate.

Who Benefits From the Campaign?
As is the case with many modern day social media efforts, it is important to clearly identify the intended beneficiaries of your campaign. According to the ALSA, donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge are slated for medical research, education, administrative costs, and providing much-needed support for ALS patients and their families. The wide-spread nature of this challenge has also resulted in some unanticipated beneficiaries, namely ice companies who are racing to keep up with recent inventory demands. Luckily, some are paying it forward, as is the case with the Brookline Ice Company who recently announced that they were donating 50 bags of ice to individuals participating in the challenge. Make sure to use current market research when identifying the beneficiaries for your campaign and don’t be afraid to ask for input from friends and co-workers. Your target audience is more inclined to participate if they feel a personal, even emotional, connection with the intended recipient of the campaign proceeds.

Key Takeaways for Modern Day Social Media Lesson:S.J.Hemley Marketing

  1. Set your goals and identify your intended results prior to beginning any campaign
  2. Ensure that your call-to-action includes simple, easy-to-achieve steps
  3. Be sure to incorporate social media in your plans to encourage others to join in your effort
  4. Collect analytical data in order to measure your success and determine ROI
  5. Clearly identify the intended beneficiaries for your campaign to allow your audience to connect on a personal level

About S.J.Hemley Marketing
S.J.Hemley Marketing is a marketing and sales consulting firm focused on driving tangible results for professional services firms. Brand matters, but not without ROI. With over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within staffing and recruiting, we have helped to drive successful branding, sales training, lead generation activities as well as defining marketing strategy for top organizations.