The Ice Bucket Challenge and the power of social media.

FedEx Ice Bucket Challenge

Many of my friends called on me to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. I have yet to take them up on it and decided to give a donation and forgo the ice cold shower at least for the moment.

It’s hard to find many who are not aware of the Ice Bucket Challenge…the charitable cause that has people all over the United States, and now even abroad, dumping buckets of cold ice and water on their heads to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Association.

Everywhere in the press and all over social media the ALS challenge has captured the attention of millions of people. This is one of the most powerful examples yet of an idea that has exploded on social media and gone viral. I think however what hasn’t gone viral enough is the reason for braving the cold. And that is the disease.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brains and spinal cord. The brain loses its ability to control muscles and it is progressive and ultimately fatal. In the US, ALS is well known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the great New York Yankees baseball player, who died in 1941 at the age of 36 after being struck by the disease two years earlier.

What is amazing is the number of people who have seen the ravages of this disease first-hand, who have spoken up defending and endorsing the challenge against some pundits and critics and others who think it’s frivolous.


The bottom line, a lot of good has come from this viral phenomenon.

The New York Times reported that the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations in just one month. That’s more than double what was raised in the full year of 2013.

The average donation has been $46.25 and the single largest donation was $100,000.

This is exactly why using social media to raise awareness and then making sure that the social “buzz” is tied to real action.

The action needed isn’t always clear on these videos.

Facebook has tallied more than 2.4 million unique videos of Ice Bucket Challenges have been uploaded.

A whopping 28 million people have posted, commented or liked these videos. I’m sure that many people have also given money but imagine if all of the 28 million people had just contributed one dollar. There’s 28 million dollars right there. More than half what’s been raised.

I believe that some people, so swept up by the fun of it, have forgotten to even mention where donations should be made, or even that they should be made.

The entertainment value of this campaign is proof that a good idea, and a great story, engages people. That’s marketing 101. But at the end of the day, there is no substitute for the pure emotion that helps to motivate behavior. The real push is for dollars that can be used to cure this incredibly insidious disease.

So take the challenge, post them, like or share the videos. Get involved. Get wet but make sure that after you click, you take action by making a donation.