Unless you have been on the planet Mars recently, you will have become very familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge. Endorsed by celebrities and associated with the raising of awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the activity has gone viral on social media and has evolved into the pop culture phenomenon of 2014.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has succeeded in collecting around $88.5 million dollars from existing donors and adding 1.9 million new donors (as of August 26, 2014). With such a huge degree of public participation and media focus, criticism has inevitably followed, with detractors pointing out that only a small percentage of the money raised goes towards finding a cure for the disease. As the activity entails either pouring iced water over one’s head or making a donation to the ALS Foundation, others have pointed out that celebrities who decide to undertake the challenge and film themselves doing so are merely engaging in self-promotion in this narcissistic age of the ‘selfie’ without actually having to put their hands in their pockets.
However, there is no denying the strength of the phenomenon. According to Facebook, over 28 million people have joined the conversation about the Ice Bucket Challenge, with their engagements including posting their own challenges and liking and commenting on other people’s efforts. An incredible 2.4 million videos related to the challenge were been shared on the social network between June 1 and August 17, 2014.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has once again demonstrated the power of social media to connect with people in a meaningful and inclusive way. I believe that as PR professionals, we should look on it as an important lesson on the potential for interacting with our audiences. Cold water might be being poured on the Ice Bucket Challenge, but as a messenger, the social media platform is showing us just what it can achieve.