The #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge phenomena this year raised huge amounts of money for charity. But have they inadvertently made the charity social media environment much, much tougher?
Such was the success of both trends that charities everywhere are investing time and effort into spotting the next big thing, or alternatively, trying to come up with their own. Expectations have been set so high that what would once have been considered successful may now be considered a flop if it doesn’t ‘go viral’.
The thing is, however, can the perfect storm that existed to make #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge such amazing successes ever be replicated? Are charities now expecting too much?
They’re questions that have been on my mind for a while, and that I put to the panel at a PRCA event last night devised to discuss how social media for charities is evolving.
Back in March, Cancer Research UK acted very fast and rode the wave of the selfie trend superbly to raise over £8 million in the space of a couple of weeks. What it did so well, as Charlotte Beaty-Pownall, Senior Social Media Officer at Cancer Research, outlined was to harness the principles of real-time marketing and react quickly to adapt its approach and communications to leverage the news agenda.
This last point is important. At the time there was lots of talk about feminism in the media, and the #nomakeupselfie trend had started organically as a result. Not to take anything away from Cancer Research, but the public was already primed for something to happen, and when the trend went viral the charity link resonated superbly.
Fast forward four months, and the Ice Bucket Challenge took off for different reasons. Devised by American charity ALS, the idea was seeded initially through celebrity ambassadors. And the quirky nature of tipping a bucket of iced water over your head together with our obsession with celebs proved the perfect combination for the next viral craze. Kudos to ALS.
Both initiatives had three vital factors in common.
- First, the mainstream media got behind a social media trend: both generated interest that undoubtedly contributed significantly to their success.
- Second, both were highly shareable and easy to replicate and become involved in.
- And third, both appealed somewhat to vanity; our desire to appear clever or funny or attractive.
To my original question: will or can these ‘perfect storms’ exist again?
The opinions of the panel last night was a resounding ‘yes’.
The Guardian journalist Hannah Fearn made it very clear that the media still has the appetite to cover things like this, not so much due to the charity angle but because readers, and therefore journalists, are interested in whatever happens virally online. She did also point out that the ‘organic’ nature of this is important; using paid media to seed an activity is not the same as something taking off on its own merits.
Former Twitter technologist Richard Barley stated that good content always spreads like wildfire, so it’s clear that the public still has the appetite for viral crazes. He did counter this, however, by clarifying that it is very, very rare for things like this to ‘go viral’.
Which just leaves the vanity angle. And that’s perhaps were my opinion differs slightly from the panel. I personally am sceptical as to whether or not ‘we’ still have the appetite to actually get involved in yet another activity.
Maybe it’s more in hope than expectation but I struggle to believe we’re THAT vain. But I may be very wrong on that count.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Will or can there be another #nomakeupselfie or #icebucketchallenge, or has it now ‘been done’ and are charities better focusing their time and efforts elsewhere? Let me know in the comments.
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Posted by Paul Sutton