Have you ever heard of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? Chances are if you were one of 1.2 billion active Facebook uses, scrolling down your newsfeed in August 2014, you probably have.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and has been at the centre of an enormous social media campaign known as the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’. The concept is simple: donate $100 to the ALS Association and avoid the bucket; or donate a smaller amount ($10 is recommended) and dump a bucket of ice water over your head, then nominate three friends to do the same.
According to The New York Times, between 29 July and 17 August 2014, 1.2 million ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ videos have been watched on YouTube and more than 2.2 million mentions have been tracked on Twitter.
The ALS Associated has raised $94.3 million from over 2.1 million new donors. The previous year the organisation had only raised $2.5 million. In the one month that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge marketing campaign had been viral, the ALS Association collected more than forty times what it made over the entire course of 2013.
The campaign originated in the U.S but really took off once celebrities became involved and nominated other celebrities. From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Stone and Cristiano Ronaldo, the challenge united and engaged millions around the world who posted videos on various social media platforms.
When you think about it, it’s not really The ALS Association challenging you to film yourself pouring ice water on your head, it’s your friends. They’re the ones who nominate you and they’re the ones who are going to watch your video, hoping not to get tagged. The ALS Association capitalised on these existing friendships to go viral and raise awareness.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is not only a way to raise money, but it is a way to raise awareness. Through the use of social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, users can connect to hundreds, thousands and even millions with this message, by liking it, retweeting it, commenting on it and sharing it. With the millions of shares, views and likes, the viral videos have taken over our newsfeeds, giving ALS the essential focus fundraisers have always sought after.