'Challenge' culture in Social Media: How can Organizations benefit?

As time passes, different trends pop up on social media that get the attention of users - as viewers, as well as participants.  Sometimes, those actions are in support of specific causes, and other times they are simply for entertainment.  I find myself wondering how (and why) some things get so popular, and find it interesting how some businesses and organizations will often join in on the fun.

In July and August of 2014, we saw a number videos across various social media platforms that showed users challenging eachother and sharing content in support of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  These videos went viral on Facebook and Youtube, and soon, nearly everyone, young and old, knew someone who participated.  Companies/organizations even joined in in support.  You could argue that companies got involved by way of humanizing their marketability across social media - but it also could have simply something fun to do.

Even earlier than this, we saw groups getting together to participate in creating videos that added to the Harlem Shake meme as early as February 2013.  Other fun examples include the Running Man Challenge (with players from the NBA contributing to the meme), and most recently, the Mannequin Challenge.

When organizations choose to get involved with 'challenge' and viral video culture, it ultimately gets their branding out to new audiences in the world of social media.  Arguably, they will want to align with a viral challenge that does will not harm their image - for example, the one-finger selfie challenge is likely not something that most organizations will want to participate in.  But, there certainly are benefits to organizations who can align their branding with current viral media.

An example of this would be Jimmy Kimmel's viral video on 'twerking' (which audiences didn't know was fabricated until after it went viral).  We could argue that viral videos (when positively received) are some of the most powerful mediums for promotion and advertising.  In the case of Kimmel's video, he likely gained additional viewership towards his comedy show because of the viral video.

For social media marketers working for organizations, it is important to keep up with what's current and trending in order align social media campaigns with interests that audiences are likely to engage with.  Balancing your branding with 'challenge' culture across social media  and the internet has it's challenges (ha!), but may create some of the most effective engagement in way of promoting your business.  Knowing how your organization can benefit from 'Challenge' culture and creating social media campaigns that have this in mind will likely create opportunities for gratis advertising, and has the potential to engage with audiences that traditionally would not see your organization/brand - which will ultimately grow your influence.