Catching Lightning in an…Ice Bucket #ALSIceBucketChallenge

You’d have to be living under a rock to have not seen the thousands of videos for the #ALSIceBucketChallenge, which began in late July but went viral over the last two weeks.

The challenge started a few months ago, and those who opted out were required to give $100 to their charity of choice. However, it was Pete Frates, diagnosed with ALS in 2012, who is responsible for launching the viral challenge.

Frates posted his own video (note: because those with ALS have a hard time sensing hot and cold, he did not actually do the ice bucket challenge, but played “Ice, Ice Baby” instead), and challenged others to pour a bucket of ice water on their heads within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS. Word spread, millions joined in, and a movement began.

So I am nominating myself for the #icebucketchallenge cuz I can…ice water and ALS are a bad mix, so I got my friend Rob Van Winkle to help me out… Julie Frates Nicole Benson Connolly Blair Casey Will MB John Henry Feitelberg Sarah and Matt Ryan, Julian Edelman Tom Brady Toucher & Rich The Howard Stern Show you have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice over your heads!!#StrikeOutALS #Quinnforthewin

Posted by Pete Frates on Thursday, July 31, 2014

As with anything that goes viral, there are going to be people who support the endeavor and people who condemn it. It’s not hard to imagine the endorsements; it’s an entertaining way to bring awareness to a terrible disease while raising money for research.

Many critics claimed that because very few videos “contain any substantive information about the disease,” it feels “like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.”

I disagree. As Frates so perfectly puts it, “When the ice hits you, even the toughest guy becomes a puddle.” His point is that this challenge shows, if only for a few seconds, how difficult ALS is to live with even for the strongest among us.

Other critics predicted that this wouldn’t have a significant impact on donations. Well, the proof is in the pudding. The ALS Association has reported that between July 29 and August 12, they had raised $4 million (from 70,000 new donors). Guess how much they raised in the SAME time period last year? $1.12 million.

Why go looking for negatives when there are so many positives to be found? In fact, as I see it, there are over 4 million positives to be found, and that doesn’t even count the value of heightened awareness.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that we have access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other conversation starters that have the ability to raise awareness for an issue of this magnitude this quickly, is outstanding.

But that raises a question: why did the challenge catch on this time and not months ago when it was started? I think the reasons are threefold:

1 Emotion & Specificity: Frates pulled at our heartstrings when he personalized the ice bucket challenge to ALS, the disease from which he suffers. And that specific connection to ALS, rather than the initial challenge that allowed participants to choose their charity, takes away the ambiguity and allows the participants to all work towards one greater goal — raising money and awareness specifically for ALS.

2 The 24-hour Time Constraint is crucial as it pushes the challenge viral, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to participate and raise awareness.

3 Using videos on social media and tagging friends who are challenged holds them accountable for participating in the challenge, within the time constraint, which furthers the chance for the challenge to go viral.

So, what can we learn about social media through this viral challenge? People are looking to do good in this world, and why not create as much awareness as we can with the sources we have right at our fingertips? Social media is one of the easiest ways to reach the largest amount of people we have, so let’s use this as a lesson and continue to use it for good.

My question to you: how do you think the ALS Association and its chapters can capitalize on this increased attention and awareness once excitement around the challenge dies down? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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