What optometry can learn from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

September 22, 2014

August 2014 saw a public awareness campaign show the world the power of social media. This unprecedented viral video initiative is something that optometry hopefully can learn from and replicate for its own public awareness campaigns. Let’s take a look at the how this all happened and see if we can come up with a similar social sensation.

 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Over $100 million donated; a staggering 259,505 new donors to the ALS Association; millions and millions of people posting on social media.1 The groundswell of support has been tremendous. One can only hope that the cure will come about with these research dollars raised.

August 2014 saw a public awareness campaign show the world the power of social media. This unprecedented viral video initiative is something that optometry hopefully can learn from and replicate for its own public awareness campaigns. Let’s take a look at the how this all happened and see if we can come up with a similar social sensation.

Why has Demodex gone viral?

Going viral

For a solid period of at least two weeks beginning in mid-August, if your Facebook newsfeed looked anything like mine, you were bombarded with people pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, raising funds and awareness for ALS. Traditional fundraising and public awareness campaigns have had limited impact. In fact, the same 30-day period last year yielded only less than $3 million. The difference this year was that the movement was utilizing new technology. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are ideal environments for the ALS IBC to be posted, liked, shared, commented on, and retweeted. The best part is that the content is user driven. With so many mobile devices out there, nearly everyone can be a content producer using their smartphones video camera and posting via an app. The timing and technology was just right for this movement to occur.

How did this movement start? Pete Frates is a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball star who is suffering with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He initiated the challenge to his friends. But thanks to the power of social media, the challenge spread across the Internet. The premise of the challenge is simple: somebody nominates you, and you have 24 hours to donate $10 to the ALS Association and dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate $100 to the ALS Association. If you accept the challenge and dump the ice bucket on your head, you get to nominate a new set of people. The cascade soon reached and raised millions.

Optometry has many noble causes and worthy charities that are in need of a little attention. We have eye diseases and conditions that could great benefit from a boost in public awareness. Optometry is in need of an Ice Bucket Challenge. To create our own IBC, lets break down the characteristics of the ALS IBC.

 

1. It was a challenge. You were being called out by name by a friend. When a friend challenges you, you feel a strong sense of urgency to accept the challenge. This helped to ensure the challenge’s longevity.

2. It was self-perpetuating. By design, it was viral. Part of the challenge is passing it on by nominating new people to take it.

3. It was for charity. Doing something for a good cause helps to motivate people. People often are on the lookout for a worthy cause to be involved with. It also makes people feel good to help. Letting everyone know you are a do-gooder via social media serves to amplify this physiological reward.

4. It was simple. A bucket, some ice water, and you’re there. Camera phones and social media apps are ubiquitous. Keeping the effort low ensures the action remains high.

5. It was scalable. Many groups and organizations did it together. In fact, one whole town even turned out to do the challenge!

6. The timing was right. Catch us longing for a way to cool down during the dog days of summer, and you’re onto something. The ALS IBC hit just at the peak of summer for many of us. Taking an icy plunge sounded pretty refreshing.

7. It was fun. The freezing rush experienced looked like a lot of fun. People wanted to do it.

How to handle a bad online review

8. It was safe. A few Internet challenges have had some serious consequences and have an inherent danger built in. The ALS IBC is for the most part safe. There were a few accidents along the way, but nobody was in danger of dying from doing the challenge as originally designed.

9. Celeb endorsement. Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Bill Gates got in on the action. It really helped build awareness because those videos were viewed by millions.

10. It was exciting to watch. There were some really entertaining videos! This greatly added to the level of virality. These popular videos were shared and passed onto others via  social networks.

11. You could get creative. There isn’t just one way to do it. There were literally hundreds of clever variations.

12. It was quick and easy. The time commitment to engage in the challenge was minimal. There was a very low barrier to participate.

13. It was outrageous. People love doing things that are considered a little outside the norm. Delivering a shivering shock fits just such a bill.

Optometry can replicate the success of the ALS IBC. So the challenge posed to our profession is to come up with a challenge that meets or exceeds these dozen plus characteristics. Let’s see those creative optometric minds in action! What ideas for a challenge do you have? Let us know, and let’s make a difference.

Reference

1. ALS Association. Ice Bucket Challenge Inspires Unprecedented Giving to ALS. Available at: http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/ice-bucket-challenge-inspires.html. Accessed 09/15/2014.