How virality is helping activism

This week’s lecture consisted on activism both online and offline. As a class, we had a discussion about the positives and negatives of both, and what attributed to the successes of both methods. We focused in on online activism and arrived at the conclusion that online activism is largely successful because of the possibility of virality.

What is Virality?

Cohen (2013) defines going viral as the sharing of content from one person to another or multiple persons in their social network through the use of the internet and/or mobile technology. Going viral is the modern age word of mouth. It gets people talking, spreading a message about your brand. Helm (2000 cited Woerndl et al. 2008) identified virality as“The internet word of mouth communication” that is a much more capable and effective medium than traditional word of mouth communication.

If you’re curious as to why a video, in particular, goes viral, check out the talk below.

The ability to go viral is of the utmost importance for activist organisations especially ones that may not immediately be on the public’s radar.

Viral is hugely popular because of its cost effective nature and quick dissemination of content. Balter and Butman (2006 cited in Cohen 2013) recognises virality as a cheap, quick and effective method of spreading a message which combines the power of word of mouth marketing and mass communication.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This challenge encouraged users to pour a bucket of ice cold water over their head, then nominate three more people to copy. People all over the world participated in this challenge. The aim of the ice bucket challenge was to raise awareness for ALS  and for participants to donate to the organisation.

Pouring water over your head is in no way connected to what ALS but it worked. Why did it work? Because people felt they were making a change at minimal effort. Forbes state “Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story”. I feel that watching people’s reactions to freezing buckets of water poured on them contributed to the success and virality of the campaign also.

As Forbes said people want to help and the easier it is to do, the more likely it’ll happen. Over 100 million in donations in a single month for ALS because of the ice bucket challenge.



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