If we look back at recent viral campaigns, one in particular will be remembered by most: the ice bucket challenge. In the summer of 2014, your Facebook feed was undoubtedly plastered with videos of people heaving cold buckets of water onto other people. This got tiresome pretty quickly, as there are only so many ways to dump water on someone’s head.
And the challenge received a ton of flak at the time; journalists everywhere denounced it as “slacktivism,” since it didn’t really seem to be advancing ALS research, i.e. what the challenge was created to promote. However, the ice bucket challenge turned out to be incredibly successful: in the USA alone, the challenge “involved more than 3 million donors and raised 110.1 million dollars,” which was “35 times more than the fund raised in the same period in 2013” (Gualano et al., 2016). Sounds like some wildly productive slackers.
Now, the use of social media by nonprofit organizations doesn’t always work out like this (Kony 2012, I’m looking at you), but when charities utilize online platforms just right, the results can be staggering. Social media tends to lend itself well to promoting nonprofit causes. The fact that nonprofits don’t have to spend a lot of money promoting their cause is a big advantage; in the case of the ice bucket challenge, social media users promoted it themselves. One person completes the challenge, then nominates another person, who nominates another, and so on. If a nonprofit can find a way to get individual users involved in their cause and share it with their friends, the message keeps spreading and a lot of money and awareness can be raised towards a good cause.
Gualano, M.R., Bert, F., Gili, R., Andriolo, V., Scaioli, R., & Siliquini, R. (2016). New ways to promote public health: lessons from the international ice bucket challenge. Science Direct. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2016.05.026