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What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Teaches us About Social Media

August 26, 2014 Bradford Group Administrator


ALS Ice Bucket

Yes, that’s me. Yes, that water is cold.

Judging by the sheer number of posts represented on my Facebook news feed, it was only a matter of time before I would empty out my freezer and grab a bucket.

And if your news feed looks anything like mine, you already know what I’m talking about.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become a viral, philanthropic phenomenon the social media world has never before seen.

As of August 26, the ALS Association has received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year. Not to mention, with more than a million new donors, the awareness of ALS is spreading like wildfire. Even celebrities including George W. Bush, Tim McGraw and Gwenyth Paltrow have embraced the movement like good sports.

Love it or hate it on your own feed, the campaign is obviously a landslide social media victory, and not surprisingly, it teaches us marketers a thing or two on how to stir up a successful social media campaign.

Here’s my social media takeaway from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:


  • Be visual. You just can’t ignore the epic quality of some of these videos showing macho men and their high decibel screams following a nice waterfall of ice. If the video isn’t great enough, try pressing pause mid-ice dump. You won’t regret it. Visuals are essential to capturing attention online. With the rising popularity of Instagram and video compatibility for almost all social platforms, you’ll gain a lot more traction if you give your followers something entertaining to watch and share.


  • Use hashtags. Boiling down your campaign and your brand into a single, succinct, hashtag-able phrase is key to creating consistency within your message. Both #ALSIceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS point to the campaign and its purpose. Consistent hashtags also allow you to easily track your buzz and reciprocate the response.


  • Include a call to action. Social media is a two-way street – I think that’s why the world is so taken by it. We all have a chance to participate, so get people involved. Ask for comments, posts, shares – even challenges or donations – and see what happens.


  • Get personal. The most compelling ALS Ice Bucket Challenges are those that tell a story. We identify with posts that are humanizing, endearing and a little self-deprecating – and there’s a lot to be found when a movement supports a great cause and initiates some pretty hilarious reactions. Likewise, social media is our premiere outlet to share our brand’s stories in a way that resonates with the emotions of our target audience. Take advantage of that.


  • Seize the moment. When a social media campaign goes as viral as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, jump on board and show your brand’s creativity (and in this case, your generosity, too). Brands like Samsung, Chili’s and McDonalds have already joined the movement.


  • Know its power. Social media connects millions of people across the globe. Hitting the right chord with a campaign can return large dividends, as the ALS Association is quickly learning. So don’t underestimate the power of social media. Embrace it and think about how you can connect your brand’s audience. Perhaps you could start the next viral campaign.


Want to know more about how to leverage the power of social media platforms for your brand? Click on the button below and you’ll receive a free ebook on how to leverage Facebook for business.

And if I must…

Here is my own ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. My husband and I decided to make a donation in lieu of this embarrassment, but my mom (AKA “the challenger”) really just wanted to see ice on my head. She won. (No surprise there.)

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