#IceBucketChallenge – A Triumph for healthcare social media?

Emmett Lego Ice Bucket ChallengeBlog post by Colin Hung

Over the past few weeks it’s been impossible to ignore the Ice Bucket Challenge (#IceBucketChallenge). Celebrities, friends and family have all been doused with freezing water in an effort to raise awareness and donations for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Thousands and thousands of ice bucket videos have been uploaded to Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Videos of people taking the challenge have even become a nightly news feature. One of my favourite “celebrity” videos is Bill Gates’ Ice Bucket Challenge. There’s a link to my challenge at the end of this post.

This week on #hcldr we are going to talk about the Ice Bucket Challenge – is it a good thing? What can we learn from it? What other healthcare issues/diseases could benefit from viral memes in the future?

#hcldr friend Dan Dunlop was the first person I am directly connected with who accepted the challenge. He posted his video waaaay back on August 8th (love the multiple camera angles Dan!). He also wrote an excellent post about the Ice Bucket Challenge and why he believes it’s a good thing. In his post Dan writes:

I was able to have fun and share the experience with my friends on Facebook. The promotion allowed me to be engaged without it being drudgery. Because of the participatory nature of this promotion, people got excited. My friend and colleagues got excited. They wanted to participate. And, in the end, it has raised a ton of money and awareness for ALS.

The ALS Association reports that as of August 24th, over $70 Million has been raised from the #IceBucketChallenge. That is an incredible amount when you consider that last year the Association raised $2.5 Million in the same time period. It’ll be fun to see what the tally is when this phenomenon finally subsides. [Note ALS Canada, which is where I made my donation, has raised $4.6 Million so far from the #IceBucketChallenge].

I agree with Dan Dunlop. This challenge has been a “good thing” – raising both awareness and funds for ALS. Yes, there are other diseases and causes that are just as worthy (some would argue MORE worthy), but the financial and social impact of the #IceBucketChallenge is almost without peer in the social media age.

In fact, I wonder if this idea would have worked in a world without social media. Could this challenge have spread through word-of-mouth, local news coverage and traditional media alone? I doubt it. Which makes this a phenomenon that is unique to social media.

The beauty and brilliance of the #IceBucketChallenge is in its simplicity. The challenge is short, doesn’t require a lot of explanation, simple to perform and has a built-in viral element when you get to challenge friends/family to do the same. In short, it is perfect for social media and is perhaps why it has spread so far and so quickly online. [Note: Some of the naysayers claims that it is the element of narcissism that is fueling participation in the challenge – that people love the chance to publically show themselves “doing good” – see this SBS article and this National Post article as examples]

It would have been fascinating to hear from the originator of the challenge, but like most things online these days, the true start of the #IceBucketChallenge is shrouded in mystery. I encourage you to read this fantastic investigative post by Josh Levin at the Slate.com. So unfortunately we’re going to have to guess whether the people who started this knew ahead of time what they were creating and whether this was a happy accident or a brilliant philanthropic/marketing moment.

Join us Tuesday August 26th 2014 at 8:30pm Eastern Time (for your local time click here) for the weekly #hcldr tweetchat where we will be discussing:

  • T1 Do you think the #IceBucketChallenge is a good thing for healthcare? For HC social media?
  • T2 What can healthcare leaders learn about social media & philanthropy from the #IceBucketChallenge?
  • T3 Sound off: what other diseases or healthcare issues do you hope will “get viral” on social media one day?
  • CT One thing you learned tonight that you can take back & use to help a patient or your organization tomorrow??

*Special Note to the #hcldr community. If you have done the #IceBucketChallenge, put the link to your video into a comment and we’ll add it to this post. Also if you tag your video with #prompt4ALS the good folks at Patient Prompt will donate additional funds to ALS research.

#hcldr #IceBucketChallenge Videos

Dan Dunlop – http://youtu.be/7pOK2p4iVLY

Colin Hung – http://youtu.be/ht2Wk1IU1IU


“Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Reach $70.2 Million”, ALS Association, August 24 2014, http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/ice-bucket-donations-082414.html, accessed August 24 2014

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a Good Thing”, Dan Dunlop, TheHealthcareMarketer.com, August 20 2014, http://thehealthcaremarketer.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-als-ice-bucket-challenge-is-a-good-thing/, accessed August 24 2014

“Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is Stupid? You’re Wrong”, Matthew Herper, Forbes, August 19 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2014/08/19/think-the-ice-bucket-challenge-is-stupid-youre-wrong/, accessed August 24 2014

“What Leaders Can Learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge”, Reuven Gorsht, Forbes, August 23 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/08/23/what-leaders-can-learn-from-the-ice-bucket-challenge/, accessed August 24 2014

“Who Invented the Ice Bucket Challenge?”, Josh Levin, Slate.com, August 22 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/08/who_invented_the_ice_bucket_challenge_a_slate_investigation.2.html, accessed August 24 2014

“Comment: The Cold, Hard Truth About The Ice Bucket Challenge”, William MacAskill, August 18 2014, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/08/18/comment-cold-hard-truth-about-ice-bucket-challenge, accessed August 24 2014

“How the ice bucket challenge when from philanthropic stunt to ‘narcissistic freakshow’”, Willar Foxton, National Post, August 22 2014, http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/08/22/willard-foxton-how-the-ice-bucket-challenge-went-from-philanthropic-stunt-to-narcissistic-freakshow/, accessed August 24 2014

Image Credit

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – Steve



  1. […] #hcldr Twitter chat is Tuesday at 7;30 p.m. central U.S. time. (You can read a prep post here.). Participants will discuss a number of topics. While I’m planning on participating on […]

  2. ctrappe · · Reply

    Looking forward to the chat. Some initial thought over at my blog at The Authentic Storytelling Project: http://authenticstorytelling.net/ice-bucket-challenge-answers-hcldr-chat-questions/

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