If you have a Facebook account, or don’t live under a large boulder, it’s quite likely that you have encountered “Photo Doggies for Anthony” somewhere on your Facebook timeline or in the news this week, which has taken off much like the ubiquitous Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014.
Well-wishers from across the globe are submitting candid photos of their dogs (and occasional cats and a few chickens) to 16 year-old Anthony Lyons who is being treated for cancer in Phoenix Children’s Hospital. While Anthony loves his visits from the comfort dogs at the hospital, on the days he can’t get a visit he can browse the nearly 800,000 images that have been sent through from friends and strangers alike.
A family friend started the Facebook event as a way to have close friends and family submit photos of dogs for Anthony to look at during chemo days. It did not take long for the event to go viral, for local news to cover the outpouring of kindness and for an Instagram account to be created. The original Facebook event was so inundated and possibly hacked (the real sign that you have made something viral) that it was eventually taken down only for two new pages to take its place.
So, what happened? How did a Facebook event sent to a few thousands followers eventually climb into the millions? While it’s impossible to predict the life of anything online, let’s take a closer look at Photo Doggies for Anthony.
The ask – the ask of this event was much easier than other online contests and charitable campaigns, even simpler than the Ice Bucket Challenge. There is no video to film, no app to download. All you have to do is to post a picture of your dog and say where he or she is from. As a mutt owner myself, the number of dog photos I have on my phone is numerous: the only challenge was choosing the right one to share.
The cause – Anthony is suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia for which he is undergoing chemotherapy treatments. While there are numerous good causes to donate too, childhood cancer is particularly touching and compelling.
The timing – A family friend of Anthony’s created the event a bit before Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s no surprise that donations to charities go up during the holidays and Anthony’s ask was no exception.
The platform – Here is where things get really interesting. When originally created, Photo Doggies for Anthony was a Facebook event, not a group or a page, and still the submissions poured in. No slick PR/Marketing moves here: just a genuine ask.
The takeaway – Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, Photo Doggies for Anthony has an easy ask and a good cause but most importantly, it feels fresh and genuine. The event creators and Anthony himself constantly respond and thank submitters for sharing. Dog photos from as far away as Australia not only allow senders to feel a bond with Anthony, but lets them promote social good across social networks, oceans, and country boarders. This is a testament to how simple and targeted asks can beget huge responses. We will continue to monitor Photo Doggies for Anthony, wish him a speedy recovery and will be interested to see how brands and social marketers will leverage this unparalleled outpouring of support for other great causes.