Matt Kucharski, Executive Vice President, PadillaCRT

At PadillaCRT we’ve had numerous clients and prospects – both in the for-profit and not-for-profit world – ask us about the magic that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. More specifically, they want to know how they can make their cause “go viral” in the same manner.

The short (and glib) answer is “you can’t.”

I mean, let’s be real. When has there EVER been a social media phenomenon that has generated participation from as wide a segment of the population as this one? Whether it’s Bill Gates accepting the challenge from Mark Zuckerberg, Neil Patrick Harris accepting the challenge from Ben Affleck, or me accepting the challenge from a colleague, this campaign has raised money – and more importantly raised awareness – like no other, and I really don’t see any organization being successful if they try to directly replicate it.

Now for the silver lining. Organizations can and will continue to be successful building their reputations and brands and expanding their network of advocates in social media, and they can learn some very important lessons from the ALS phenomenon.

In a previous guest post I wrote for Duets last year, I outlined the 3 reasons people refer brands in social media – Helping Others, Validation and Perks. Those three certainly apply to referring causes like ALS as well. Here’s a quick recap:

– Helping Others: While there are certainly diseases that have taken more lives, there are few as nasty as ALS. Research toward a cure is under-funded, and it’s a worthy cause.

– Validation: This one cuts two ways. People who are called out in the challenge are called out publicly. If they fulfill the challenge without actually posting the evidence online, there is no validation they did it. In addition, they want others to know that they did a good (and somewhat silly) thing because, well, it makes it just a little bit less silly.

– Perks: In this sense, it’s not free stuff, but instead it’s entertainment. It forces us not to take ourselves too seriously, it makes people smile, and nobody gets hurt in the process.

And let’s face it – isn’t there someone that YOU would like to see get a bucket of ice water dumped on their head?