Unless you were living under a rock during the the summer of 2014, you know exactly what I am talking about when I refer to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For the duration of the summer, Internet users from around the world were captivated by videos of people pouring buckets of ice water on themselves. The viral sensation enlisted Internet users–from the everyday individual to celebrities–to do their part in raising awareness for a disease that had received little public recognition prior to its explosion within the Internet. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing progressive paralysis.
The idea is simple: someone who wants to participate (or has been “challenged” via social media by a friend) films themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their head and then posts the evidence on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube to prove that they actually went through with it. The dunkee then challenges a friend to do the same in the name of ALS, within 24 hours, and/or donate to the cause.
When the campaign kicked off in late July 2014, the widespread media attention quickly made amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) into a household name. With ALS in the spotlight for the first time, the ALS Association was presented with the unique opportunity to significantly increase the number of people they can educate about the disease. Beyond improving awareness, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge encouraged everyone–from families to local community organizations to celebrities–to participate and involve themselves in the cause.
Last year, according to a press release by the ALS Association, more than 17 million ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos were posted to Facebook–and these videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times. In a time when the digital sphere is inundated with content, it is not easy to captivate—and retain—the attention of modern-day Internet users. However, the way that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge exploded across all media platforms exemplifies the influence and reach of experimental viral social media campaigns in recruiting mass participation.
Illustrating the infectious power of social media trends, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was instantaneously associated with wildly trending hashtags, including #icebucketchallenge, #alsicebucketchallenge and #strikeoutals. In rallying the support of family and friends to take part in the social media challenge, word-of-mouth undoubtedly helped transform the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge into a viral phenomenon. It cost the ALS Association no money to create the buzz that had 440 million eyeballs watching #icebucketchallenge videos.
As a result of the increased public awareness generated by the campaign, hundreds of thousands of new donors began donating to the cause. On August 25, the organization’s national office reported $78 million for Lou Gehrig’s disease research donated since July 29, compared to $2.5 million during the same period the previous year. The ALS Association noted that the donations came from existing donors in addition to 1.7 million new donors to the Association.
If fundraising and awareness were the main goals, then the ALS Association hit the jackpot: 17 million videos from 159 countries, including videos made by Martha Stewart, Will Smith, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg, generated 70 billion video views and raised $220 million.
Proving to be an example of viral marketing gold, the Ice Bucket Challenge inspired articles featuring the best ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos the Internet had to offer–from Mashable’s “The 60 Best Celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge Videos” to Time’s “Here Are the 27 Best Celebrity ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Videos.”
Through an interactive infographic published on The ALS Association website, users have the unique opportunity to learn how the $115 million raised from the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is being used to make a difference in the fight to find treatments and a cure for ALS. The money raised by #icebucketchallenge videos has enabled the ALS Association to further grow and develop research, care services, and public policy programs. Additionally, the ALS Association encourages website visitors to visit www.ALSA.org/progress to view in-depth details about the progress being made as a result of the increased funding from the #icebucketchallenge.
After taking the Internet by storm last year, it makes perfect sense why the ALS Association would try to regain the same momentum and attention the following summer. Pete Frates and Pat Quinn, founders of the Ice Bucket Challenge, aimed to reinvigorate the campaign for 2015 when giving a speech at Fenway Park in Boston at the end of July.
“First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last year,” Frates said. “Because of you, the needle was greatly moved in the battle against this disease. Please note that this year’s Ice Bucket Challenge is as important as last year. We would not ask you to dump cold water over your head again just for the fun of it.”
Encouraging people to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Association created a number of resources to help people interested in participating in the challenge, including a comical infographic and instructional how-to video.
Helping kick off the second year of the campaign, actor Hugh Jackman took to Twitter to show his support by posting a video pouring ice water on his head while dressed in a suit and bow-tie.
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) September 5, 2015
Providing a wealth of resources and information, the ALS Association created a handy microsite dedicated to all things #icebucketchallenge-related. Including everything from how-to guides and answers to frequently asked questions, the website goes above and beyond in terms of effectively taking advantage of the viral buzz surrounding ALS. The microsite also offers social media graphics, like Facebook profile pictures and cover photos, for people to download and share.
The introduction of the hashtag #EveryAugustUntilACure strongly suggests that the ALS Association is hoping for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to become a social media campaign we will see pop up on our timelines year after year. It will be a real test for the campaign team to find ways to extend the life of their viral creation.