Going Viral: The Role Social Media, Advanced Technology & the Internet Play

Today’s advanced technology, the Internet and social media all play an imperative role in how fast information goes viral. Think about the days when you heard your news through the newspaper or radio. Sometimes it took days before you learned of breaking news stories. Today, news goes viral with a few strokes of a keyboard and a click of a mouse. Simple, fast, and effective.

More than likely, your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram newsfeed has been flooded with people dousing themselves with buckets of ice. This viral trend, known as the ice bucket challenge, has blown up social media in the recent weeks.

The purpose of the ice bucket challenge is to raise money for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Simply, if you get challenged by a friend, coworker or family member, you have to dump a bucket of ice on yourself, film it, post to social media and then challenge someone else. You can opt out of the challenge by donating money to ALS but many people have even donated after pouring ice buckets on their heads. Scott Hamilton, CEO of our sister company InKnowVision, got really creative with his challenge.

While some critics may think the idea of the challenge is “stupid,” it has definitely caught on. More than 2.4 million people across the United States have posted ice bucket challenge videos on Facebook. The hashtag #icebucketchallenge was trending on Twitter with 1,887 tweets per minute in one day and had over 4.2 million tweets between July 29 and August 18. In this same time frame, the ALS Association has raised over $15.6 million in donations, compared with $1.8 million during the same period in 2013.

The ice bucket challenge is just one example of how social media has made such a viral impact on giving back. UNICEF designed the “Tap Project” – a project that challenged smartphone users to go without their phone in order to help people around the world gain access to clean water. In order to participate, people would download UNICEF’s app to their smartphone and go without touching their phone for as long as possible. UNICEF donated the funding equivalent of one day of water for a child in need for every 10 minutes a phone would go untouched.

Today’s technology, including social media, the Internet and mobile applications, have made an incredible impact on the effectiveness, speed and reach for information going viral. Without social media and video recording smartphones, the ALS Association would likely not have raised almost 15 times the donations from last year. And while social media users may find the ice bucket challenge videos to be bothersome and repetitive, the viral trend was successful in both raising money for the charity and raising awareness about this debilitating disease.

(image source: nbcnews.com)

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