Every so often another challenge or trend appears on social media. A little like the old concept of “chain letters”, the idea is to participate yourself then nominate others to do likewise. These trends include posting cryptic words or taking specific photos or sharing memories from a particular era. However, 2014 saw things move up a gear with the advent of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

The Ice Bucket Challenge demanded that the participant be filmed whilst having a bucket of ice cold water poured over them, then nominating others to do likewise. The whole idea behind this was to raise awareness of – and money for – the disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Symptoms of this disease include muscle weakness, twitching, difficulty swallowing or breathing, impaired use of the arms and legs, difficulty in projecting the voice. One of the most well-known sufferers of the disease is Professor Stephen Hawking.

The Ice Bucket Challenge proved to be an ingenious use of social media marketing that truly went viral. It raised over $100 million within the first month of being posted on social media. It crossed the boundaries of all the major social media sites: according to The New York Times, people shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and August 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter between July 29 and August 17. Even today a Youtube search of “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” shows almost 5 million results! Over 1,000 celebrities also participated by either accepting the challenge or donating money to ALS.

Why was this social marketing campaign so successful? Coming back to the chain letter concept, the challenge worked predominantly because every person completing the Ice Bucket Challenge then tagged at least 3 to 4 others in the process. This meant that their video would then be seen not just by their friends, but by friends of the tagged friends, and friends of those friends . . . . and so it goes on!

Overall, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has shown that by skilful use of social media marketing, a well-timed simple yet effective marketing campaign can go viral and achieve way above its original expectations. Think about the implications of this for your business or organisation! Could it be your creative marketing campaign that becomes the most talked-about social media phenomenon of 2015?!