By: Kalyn Schieffer

Within the last month, chances are you have either dumped a bucket of ice water over your head or have been nominated to do so on Facebook, to raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Even though there are other charities who have used the “ice bucket challenge” to raise awareness in the past, it has made ALS a trending topic and within just a few short weeks, it has led to a record number of donations to ALS research. Despite its enormous success, many people have posed questions on just how effective a bunch of people dumping ice water on their head is for raising awareness and donations, and are also wondering what is so special about it to make this challenge spread like wildfire.

When videos started to pop up all over social media and the challenge was really starting to get some major attention and donations from celebrities and business leaders, the skeptics started to put in their two cents. I saw statuses on my newsfeed with people wondering if the challenge was doing as much good as we all thought it was, and criticizing the part of the challenge that read, “You have 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS research.” Yes there were a great number of people who just participated in the challenge and didn’t put in a donation, but as of today, August 18th, the ALS Association reports that they have received $15.6  million in donations since July 29th, when at this time last year they had only received about $1.7 million. Those numbers don’t lie. Even if you don’t donate some cash to the cause, if you accepted the nomination, went through the challenge, and finally passed it along to three other people, you are helping to spread the word about a lesser known disease that impacts around 30,000 Americans and their families.



So how did this challenge, that seemed to come out of nowhere, raise a staggering $13.3 million dollars just within these past few summer months? I came across a great article from David A. Frankel, on Inc. that explains why marketing and PR pros should take a look at this “campaign” and recognize a few key aspects that helped it take over social media:

1. Anyone Can Participate

Frankel shares how this campaign isn’t targeted at a niche audience, but at basically anyone with a video camera and a social media account of some kind. And even those who may not have one of those two things, (young children, social media avoiders etc) have someone who can post the video on their behalf and pass it along. It also isn’t costly or time consuming to participate. Just grab a bucket, bowl, and even just a few ice cubes from your freezer and you’re all set.

2. Simplicity

The basis of the challenge can basically be found within its name. You take some ice, put it in a bucket, get someone to film you, share a few words on who you nominate, dump the ice, shiver, and post! Here at the Caster office, we were able to get everyone involved and make a donation in a 15 minute gap between conference calls.

3. Urgency

When nominated, you have a short 24 hour window to participate or donate, which tends to light a fire under people and get them actively involved. When you leave a challenge open-ended, it gives people some wiggle room to “think about it” or even avoid it, but the ice-bucket challenge moves quickly and efficiently.

4. Right place, right time

Obviously this challenge would not have fared so well in the winter months. Even though it doesn’t creep up into the 90-100 degree temperature range too often here in New England, it is still nice to cool off on a hot summer day. Normally you wouldn’t necessarily pour a bucket of ice water over your head to do so, but the challenge couldn’t have come at a better time of year. The summer is also when a lot of people take time off and the kids are out of school, so people don’t have the “I’m too busy” excuse to avoid participating.

5. Clear message

The #IceBucketChallenge has been trending on Twitter for weeks now, and many people are using that and other related hashtags in their video posts. Everyone who does the challenge ends up knowing what it is benefitting (ALS) because the focus of the challenge has been clear from the beginning. This clear and simple message has made it easy to find other people participating in the challenge through the hashtags and raised overall awareness. There are most likely a good number of people who had no idea what ALS is, or what it does to the human body, before they accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge, but went and learned more about it after participating.

Last summer I was lucky enough to intern at the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, MA and help out with one of their largest fundraising events. When I would mention to where I was working, a good amount of people would have to ask me what ALS was or what those letters stood for. That is part of why I am so glad that this challenge took off and people everywhere are talking about ALS and donating to help find a cure. After meeting several people fighting ALS and hearing their stories last summer, I am happy that they are getting the attention and support they have always deserved. So yes, there are some great lessons we can learn from the campaign itself, and there will always be critics, but I think that Mr. Pete Frates, one of the original creators of the Ice Bucket Challenge shared the best reason to buy in: ““The story right now goes: You’ve got ALS, have it for a little while, a long while, but either way, the end is always the same. ALS always wins. So in order to rewrite the end of it, we need to raise awareness, money.”

Like I mentioned above, all of us here at Caster accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge and we passed it along to some of our clients! Have you taken the challenge? Tell me what you think about this viral phenomenon either here in the comments of feel free to chat with me on Twitter @CasterKalyn or @CasterComm. To learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit the ALS Association’s website at www.alsa.org 


Facebook Puts A Stop to ‘Like Gating’

By: Peter Girard

With PR and social media so closely intertwined, we feel it’s important to give our readers a heads-up when something big happens in the world of social media. And this week, for social media giant Facebook, it’s the death of the ‘like gate’.

The update comes to Facebook’s Platform Policy and will no longer allow Pages to require a user to ‘like’ a page in order to gain access to content, contests, apps, or rewards. If you currently have this tactic in place, you have 90 days (or until November 5) to deactivate the ‘like gate’ but if you don’t get rid of it by then, after November 5, any existing ‘like gate’ will be disabled.

Why the change? Here’s what Facebook had to say:

“You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.”

like gate

Prior to this update, “like gating’ was a pretty common fan-building tactic, but as of late, become less and less popular as marketers are beginning to concentrate on engaging with the fans they already have. Due to the diminishing organic reach of new page posts, the ‘value’ of each new fan has also reduced.

What does the future hold? Looks like Facebook will still allow the creation of incentives, just not any that resemble requiring a user to ‘like’ a page to gain access to content. If your Facebook page currently uses a ‘like gate’ tactic, it’s probably best just to deactivate it now so you don’t have to deal with the headache or any negative backlash of requiring users to like your page to access content after Facebook has said they’re killing that.

What do you think about ‘like gating’? Was it a tactic you used? Are you still using it? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Facebook policy change. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @CasterPete. Also, be sure to ‘like’ our Facebook page not because we’re forcing you to, but because we’re awesome.


“Forgiveness is more than sayin’ sorry”

By: Kalyn Schieffer

In my last blog post, I shared some examples of brands who found a way to make people laugh and in turn made themselves more likable through videos posted online. While we tend to remember the good examples, we also remember the really bad ones. Last week, I highlighted one of the biggest branded video flops where Mountain Dew managed to touch upon racial and domestic violence sensitivities in one misguided commercial. Obviously the commercial was pulled and a Pepsi Co spokesperson spoke out saying, “We understand how this video could be perceived by some as offensive, and we apologize to those who were offended.” Pepsi Co wasn’t the first brand who had to speak out and apologize after a controversial advertisement or message, and they certainly won’t be the last. With more and more brands incorporating social media into their outreach strategy, these apologies are now being issued via Twitter and Facebook. How far do these apologies actually go? And are they falling on deaf ears? Like Anna Faris’s character in the classic movie, Just Friends pointed out, “Forgiveness is more than sayin sorry.”

images Receiving criticism and negative feedback in bulk from customers is a risk brands take when they sign up for Twitter or Facebook. Customers now have a channel to vent their frustrations with something the brand has done either to them specifically or in general. On the other hand, Twitter provides a quick easy way for these brands to send out mass apologies to angry customers. However, many people, including PR and reputation experts have claimed that just saying sorry isn’t enough. These brands need to actually show their customers that they are taking action to right the wrong, and then tell them what action has taken place, aka following up after saying sorry. In fact, lack of follow up is listed as the number 1 mistake made during corporate apologies on social media from a study conducted by Ruth Page in the Journal of Pragmatics. Just making an offer to correct the mistake isn’t always enough to repair a reputation in a customer’s eyes. However, if the brand ensures the customer that their issue is being dealt with and provides concrete evidence or information rather than just sending a generic apology and, “we’ll deal with it” message, they can better satisfy the unhappy customer.

Another key takeaway from the Ruth Page study was, “When it comes to issuing next-steps, keep the company accountable for actions.” Yes, many companies are willing to publicly apologize, but aren’t often willing to say what exactly they are apologizing for and restate the issue in order to avoid further damage to their reputation. Those generic apologies make customers feel that the brand is sweeping their complaint under the rug and trying to placate them enough to make the issue go away, rather than admit fault. When dealing with a complaint on Twitter or Facebook, always make sure to keep your brand accountable. Avoid blaming factors like the weather, vague company policies, and other factors outside company control, unless you really want to make people angrier.

Delta-apology-questioned-copyWith all these “We’re sorry for the inconvenience” messages flying around, it’s hard to see if they actually have any effect on angry customers. Rick Liebling, head of global marketing at social media analytics company Unmetric shares, “Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction to make the apology can make the issue larger than it needed to be.” Rather than throw out a quick, less than heartfelt apology on social media, it can be more effective with small complaints to just quickly deal with the problem. Brands can often get overwhelmed with all of the complaints that come in via Twitter and throwing out quick apologies to all of them opens up the door to get more and more people involved and complaining which makes the situation worse. Small problems can quickly be made worse when a brand apology catches other customer’s attention. I personally think that Jill Sherman, Director of social and content strategy at DigitasLBi said it best, “Not only does the fake apology eat up most of your 140 characters, it doesn’t feel authentic.”

Have you ever had to reach out and apologize to an unhappy customer via social media? Let me know what happened and how your apology went over, I’d love to read about it in the comments or on Twitter @CasterKalyn or @CasterComm.  forgiveness