What Can the Hospitality Industry Learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge?


Let’s take a deeper look into the Ice Bucket challenge and see what kinds of viral elements it has that can help you (marketers or hotel staff) apply some simple rules to run a successful viral social media campaign, engage your guests and drive more attention to your hotel.

According to studies from Content Marketing Institutes, most marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget this year. But it’s not enough to just create content anymore; success lies in creating content that engages your audience and motivates them to spread the word.

The more your audience share, the more your brand will have awareness for free!

One recent success story is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. A fundraiser and awareness campaign for the ALS Association that has taken social media by storm since it popped off on July 29. The rules of the challenge are simple: once challenged, a participant has 24 hours to either dump a bucket of ice water over their head or donate $100 to the ALS charity of their choice. To enhance the outreach and spread awareness further, every participant must then nominate three more people to either take the challenge or pay up.

We all know that this is not the first time a concept has become viral in social media and, in fact, a vast majority of marketers already know why this happens. But even the best ones have a hard time getting it right!

Now with a deeper look into the Ice Bucket challenge, we can see what kinds of viral elements it includes and how it could be applied for marketers in the hospitality industry to run a successful viral social media campaign:

  • Unique and simple: People tend to follow unique and simple ideas.
  • Free and strong calls-to-action: You need to set up clear goals and define calls-to-action considering those goals. Otherwise, your audience might not even understand what they are supposed to do. In all Ice Bucket Challenge videos, you can see people explaining what their challenged friends need to do.
  • Having fun: New generations are always seeking fun elements in what they do. What a great idea to pour iced water on your own head and share your reaction with others. Hoteliers, for example, need to understand that being always serious in Social Media isn’t going to make them look good. It will only make their audience get bored.
  • The feeling to be a part of the bigger group: The more the Ice Bucket Challenge goes viral, the more people who accepted the challenge feel better about themselves. For travelers, loyalty programs might simulate the same feeling in a minor scale.
  • Urgency and motivations: Those who are challenged only have 24 hours to respond. This urgency (deadline) makes people take actions more seriously!
  • Share on different social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other social media platforms have their own audience.
  • Social Proofing: Social validation is when friends tag their friends on social media. This is now a must for a content to grab the attention of its audience.


[fa icon="check-square-o"] But how can you actually use these elements for your own business?

Let’s say that you are a marketer working for a small hotel and you want to run a social media campaign using these 7 elements. A very simple idea could be to locate a large board (following your hotel interior design) in the hotel lobby and create a funny game for your guests to play and then challenge each other. It could be a very simple game such as “Text Expanding”, “Tic Tac Toe” or “Scrabble” with some twisted rules or you can be creative and make your own game. But remember to make it fun and simple.

The winners can write their names on the board and for each winner you should have a post on your social media mentioning their names. Also, for each game played you can donate a reasonable amount of money to a related cause and then let your guests know what an important role they had in that cause.

More importantly, you need to come up with a strategy to keep a record of your guests all the time and encourage them to come back and accept new challenges.

This was only an example to show how you can engage your guests using a simple game while taking advantage of social media in order to encourage them to spread the word.