Putting ALS on Ice
It’s this summer’s social media sensation, and it’s for a good cause.
The #IceBucketChallenge went viral earlier this year, helping to raise donations and awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. The fatal neurological disorder is better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, named in memory of the famous baseball player who fell victim to it in 1941.
The chilly challenge actually started late in 2013 in support of cancer research, but didn’t go viral until midsummer 2014 when it was picked up by Pete Frates, a 27 year old suffering from ALS. The Boston College baseball player issued challenges to friends and supporters in his social network, and the challenge circulated swiftly through social media. Since then the Ice Bucket challenge has spread far beyond the twitterverse, and has even been picked up by traditional media. It’s a sterling example of how online social networking can create tremendous earned media and have a profound, positive impact on our world.
If you’re not familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the concept is simple; participants are challenged to post a video of themselves having a bucket of ice-water poured over their heads to raise awareness about ALS, or buy their way out of the soaking with a $100 donation to an ALS Association. Many participants choose to do both, and those who suffer through the icy incident can then challenge others to suffer the same frozen fate. The list of challenge acceptors has grown impressively long, including hockey pro Paul Bisonnette, tech guru Elon Musk, and Canadian sci-fi icon William Shatner.
It’s not hard to understand why the Ice Bucket Challenge became an internet phenomenon. It’s great fun for everyone (except maybe the one getting doused), supports a good cause, and gives people the opportunity to do some good. It’s the kind of spontaneous outgrowth that is almost impossible to choreograph–nothing about it feels orchestrated or fake, and the natural development of the movement is likely part of the challenge’s appeal. But once ALS associations realized what was happening, they were quick to harness the power of social media to turn this fun, interactive challenge into a record-breaking year for fundraising.
It’s a clear demonstration of the impressive power of social media to make a positive impact on the world. #IceBucketChallenge has produced incredible results for ALS charities, with over 2.1 million mentions on Twitter that have translated into an astonishing 28-fold jump in donations and over $70 million (USD) for ALS support and research across North America.
Photo credit: University of Central Arkansas