With the success of the ALS Association’s #icebucket challenge going $94.3million strong (and counting), we had a hard time picking just one viral video this week. We could focus on the celebrities like Amanda Palmer who lost family members to ALS or we could discuss the horrible ads or the awesome ads that have sprung up. We could focus on Seattle tech scene participants such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Or, we could maybe even laugh at the irony of lawmakers who voted against funding this research with federal money chipping in $100 through this challenge. Even a former president, George W. Bush, got involved, though I like local Seattle game designer James Ernst’s version of the “buck stops here” #icebucket challenge much better.
Instead, let’s look at how other causes can threadjack this success to reach a new audience and possibly gain new supporters. Nonprofits have been copying the success of other nonprofits since the Beginning. Everyone has been invited to a nonprofit party with an auction, received a petition in the mail or been invited to volunteer or protest. In the digital landscape, the copycats can join the party overnight. Not a month into the #icebucket challenge and there are already a variety of causes creating spin-offs of this challenge for their own use. Many of these spin-offs still ask people to donate to the ALS Association and then to learn more about their cause. We have a small curated list for you here:
- Droughts in California
- Clean drinking water projects (one uses toilet water for their #icebucket challenge)
- Animal testing
- Peace in Gaza
- Register people to vote
- Civil rights in Ferguson
- Legalize marijuana
- Access to abortions in America
While changing an Internet topic like this is termed threadjacking, are they really changing the topic, or is this a natural evolution to human discussion? When IRL discussions happen, people discussing something they are passionate about often leads to others discussing their passions. This time the discussion just happens to live on social media and involve buckets of various types.
One thing’s for sure: The ALS Association does not like the distraction, and it is now trying to patent the #icebucket challenge to possibly curb these conversational tangents through legal ends. One popular lawyer blogger calls the move shameful. Do you agree?