For many companies, “going viral” can be a dream come true. A campaign that is so unique and exciting that users all over the world share it from person to person. While I don’t think virality is the ultimate measure of a campaign’s success nor should it be the only goal of a campaign, I think that certain viral campaigns can have a great impact on a brand’s reputation and do a great deal of good. However, I’ve also seen viral campaigns that can do a great deal of harm. In today’s post, I’ll be discussing two very popular campaigns that have taken place over the past year.
A Campaign for Good: The Ice Bucket Challenge
From July-August of last year, you couldn’t log on to Facebook without seeing videos of your friends dumping water all over themselves for charity’s sake. In case you aren’t familiar, the ice bucket challenge was started by the ALS Association. The campaign encourages users to nominate their friends to dump buckets of ice water on their heads, donate money, and raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Because of the ice bucket challenge and its participants, the ALS raised over $100 million over the course of only a few months.
The campaign was so successful that the ALS website added a new section to their site called ChallengeALS. This section aims to target users who participated in the ice bucket challenge last year.
Harmful Campaigns: The Belly Button Challenge
Earlier this week, I logged into my Pinterest account and saw the following image as I scrolled through my feed:
As a frequent Pinterester, I was curious as to why this photo was being displayed in my feed. Was it to spotlight her jeans? Her necklace? When I saw which category this photo had been categorized under, I was horrified: Health & Fitness.
After further investigation, I learned that this photo came from a new viral social media trend. This trend, called “The Belly Button Challenge” encouraged users to take photos of themselves reaching an arm around their back to see if they can touch their own belly button. If the subject of the photo can reach their belly button, they’ve completed the challenge.
The goal here is to glorify users with waists small enough to meet this challenge. This type of viral campaign can be so damaging. There are so many images that we are faced with on a daily basis that encourage users to take an unnecessarily critical look at their own bodies.
In addition to encouraging negative body image issues in men and women of all ages, this trend is completely unfounded in regards to health. For example, The Atlantic reports that the challenge is more a test of shoulder flexibility then actual health.
It’s very important to keep the momentum from viral campaigns going after the virality fades. As I mentioned earlier, going viral shouldn’t be a brand’s ultimate goal. Instead, it is important to constantly provide quality content to your users that reinforces your brand.
In addition, creators of viral campaigns have a responsibility to ensure that their campaign will do more good than harm for their followers. Similarly, users must understand the power of the “share”. Before sharing information with followers, individual users should consider how the content will affect others.
In this series called Social Media Observations, I’ll be blogging about social media observations for the purpose of encouraging discussion as well as fulfilling the requirements Topic 1 for MMIS 0644.