Ice Bucket Challenge – A Social Media Movement!!

It all started a couple of weeks ago when we saw it on our Facebook pages,  friends dumping a bucket full of icy water on their heads and then nominating others to do it as well, all for a good cause – ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a campaign to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, with currently no cure.

However, the truth is that this phenomenon would not have been so successful had it not been for the social media.  The who’s who from the worlds of business, media, and sports have joined the fray, including Mark Zuckerberg, Kobe Bryant, Bill Gates, LeBron, Martha Stewart, and other prominent celebrities including the general public. The campaign got extra mileage when high profile celebrities got associated with it with their likes and comments.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been path breaking in its ability to garner both awareness and donations through social media. The campaign throws light on the true power of social media and how it can become a massive platform for an issue, turning social networks into ambassadors for the cause.

Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who suffers from ALS, put the challenge on the U.S. map and has advocated on behalf of ALS. He started posting about the challenge on Twitter a few weeks ago and since then every other Facebook page features videos of people dumping cold water on themselves.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is one such social media campaign that has managed to grip India as well. Celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Bipasha Basu, Daler Mehandi, Neha Dhupia, Sonakshi Sinha and Neha Dhupia, to name a few have chosen to get drenched.

The challenge saw such success maybe because it brought people together, connected them in an otherwise busy, and competitive environment. People had fun with the challenge, they came up with creative ways to make their videos stand out, in turn forging a personal connection to a seemingly distant cause. It directly called out to people so they felt obligated to accept it. As communicators, this is the ultimate goal—to connect people to an issue and a broader community in order to spread a distinct message.

A PR Opportunity? What do the industry leaders have to say!!

“The Ice Bucket Challenge is to me a mixed bag from the way it has been received and also the numerous criticisms coming  from different corners many of which are genuine. The positives are well known to all of us by now – awareness of ALS shot up across US and UK and donations to the cause soared as well peaking at US$10 million in one single day on August 21st I think. There has been mixed coverage as well – for example Daily Telegraphs’ William Foxton was highly critical of the challenge.

As much as Charlie Sheen and Bill Gates participated, Steve-O – an American TV personality questioned it, Pamela Anderson refused to take part etc. On the serious side there were also safety and health related questions with a number of participants sustaining injuries and a prominent Detroit Physician warning that it may lead to unconsciousness in people taking blood pressure medications. Also, the wastage of water when it is such a precious resource in the US particularly California which is going through a drought. The plus is the sustained hype and intense level of social media activity/chatter with no particular source driving it. Making the Ice Bucket Challenge to be another example of genuine viral campaign driven by no particular organization though it was for a cause. Personally was not too enthused by it and felt it was more gimmicky but what is good is the spontaneity and how it went viral. Don’t think it caught up that much in the Indian market or even among Indian social media users. As a communication professional feel it needs to be studied further and we should have more such campaigns coming out of India and Indian PR professionals.” —Mr. Xavier Prabhu, Founder & CEO, PRHUB

“The Ice Bucket Challenges unprecedented success in furthering the ALS cause can probably be attributed to its absolute simplicity, user generated content “quotient”, and the adventurous attitude it portrays in being willing to be “iced” – at the same time demonstrating that you care.” —Madhuri Sen, Managing Director – Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, India




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