THE BLOG
08/27/2014 06:19 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - The 5 Keys to Its Huge Viral Results

Have you been challenged yet?

While it may seem as if "everyone" has already done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (or has been challenge to do it, and declined to join the fun), the viral sensation is still charging full-steam ahead, and may even be just getting started.

According to the official ALS website, donations have nearly quadrupled in just the past week alone, from $22.6 million on August 19th to a staggering $88.5 million as of August 26th (bringing the total amount of money raised during this campaign to more than 34 times the amount raised during the same less-than-one-month period last year).

I was challenged last week by my friend Dr. David Phelps, and I happily accepted the challenge to both dump ice water onto my own head and make my donation to the ALS Association (more on that later).

Before I went through the not-at-all-dignified-nor-comfortable act of dumping a bucket of ice water onto my own head, I took the opportunity to promote and challenge three of the most stubborn "renegades" I know, who have made their "I-refuse-to-follow-the-crowd" position perfectly and publicly clear for decades, while also championing the cause of helping find a cure for ALS:

*And yes, I even took the time, trouble and expense to burn a copy of the video onto a DVD and FedEx it to Dan Kennedy. As of today, no response yet (not that I was expecting one)...

Whether or not any of the three people I challenged ever joins the fun, I still feel that my participation was a success, because I spread "awareness" and also helped the cause financially.

One note on this concept of an "awareness campaign"...

A friend of mine, Kim Walsh-Phillips, wrote a book that she titled, Awareness Campaigns Are Stupid. She is 100 percent right on the money.

Sure, it's great that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has no doubt raised "awareness" of this terrible disease by a significant factor, but if that were the only stated purpose of this campaign, that would have been a horrendous mistake that so many other charities - and businesses of all kinds - make.

I've taught effective viral marketing strategies to hundreds of entrepreneurs, small business owners and sales professionals. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign is an excellent case study in the power of many of the viral strategies and tactics I teach.

With that in mind, here are the five keys to the huge viral results of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign.

1. "Show Me The Money!"

The biggest key to the massive financial success of this campaign is that it makes actually donating money a central part of the challenge. I cringe every time I see a video of someone challenging someone else to either dump water on their head or donate to the cause. I personally promote (and practiced) doing both, of course.

As the late, great Zig Ziglar said, "Timid salespeople have skinny kids." If you sincerely believe that your product or service will help your prospect (HINT: If you don't, you are an unethical flim-flammer, and I hope you click away from reading this immediately and never come back), you should ALWAYS confidently ask for the sale (or in the case of a charity, the donation).

2. "I Double-Dare You!"

Another key to this campaign's phenomenal success is that it is based on a challenge. High achievers and leaders love contests and challenges, so this was a big part of getting the ball rolling in the very early stages of the campaign, where such leaders are needed to help spread the word and set an example for others to follow. (*NOTE: As I suggested above, I believe this campaign is still in its infancy, so if you consider yourself a leader, your participation is still very much welcomed to push the results to even greater heights.)

While there is considerable conjecture and disagreement as to exactly when and where the general "cold water challenge for charity" concept originated, the specific credit for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the start of its viral explosion is generally attributed to Pete Frates, a sufferer of the disease who had been Captain of the Boston College baseball team.

On July 31st, Frates posted a video on Facebook, challenging current NFL and former Boston College Quarterback Matt Ryan, among others. Ryan accepted the challenge four days later, thus giving the campaign a huge boost of momentum. And the rest is history...

*NOTE: In that same video, Frates also challenged New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has yet to accept that challenge - from Frates and multiple others as well (although he did participate in the Patriots' team self-dousing on August 12th). It's very likely that just the mere mention of the two-time Super Bowl MVP in that video helped motivate others to get involved.

3. "It's Better To Give Than Receive"

It is certainly a winning strategy to tie your business to a charity. You and your clients both feel great because you're helping a worthy cause, and you benefit financially because you attract more clients.

Without the charity element, it's almost impossible to imagine over a million participants and more than $88 million changing hands in less than a month from any kind of challenge.

4. "Don't You Know Who I Am?"

Using celebrities in your marketing is one of the best ways to get free publicity for your business. If you have a connection (or the ability to get a connection) with a celebrity, this can practically guarantee you'll get the attention of the media.

A star NFL quarterback helped get the ball rolling with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and since then hundreds of additional athletes and celebrities have joined the cause, including George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake, LeBron James and many, many more.

So many celebrities have been shown on television dumping ice on their heads, in fact, that cries of "If I see one more of these videos, I'm going to punch my TV set" have been posted by haters and trolls all over various social media websites.

Such "negative" publicity is a fantastic problem to have for a marketing campaign.

5. "It's Called SOCIAL Media For A Reason"

Social media has the never-before-seen power to spread ideas and news faster and wider than ever before.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge continues to leverage the tremendous power of social media by having participants share their videos on popular websites like YouTube and Facebook, and asking people to use hashtags such as #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS (the latter a reference to the disease's nickname, "Lou Gehrig's Disease," named after its most famous victim, the Hall-of-Fame New York Yankees slugger) to help spread the word.

So far, over a million individual ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos have been posted online, and several "compilation" videos have even amassed hundreds of thousands of YouTube views of their own.

Is there any question that this campaign wouldn't possibly be anywhere near as successful, as quickly, without the considerable rocket fuel of social media?

Okay, so we all know that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been and continues to be a massive, record-setting success.

Now the question is...

How will YOU put these concepts to use to put your own viral marketing campaign into action for YOUR business or cause?